Jonathan Goldberg (himself a professional translator) interviews Freeda Wilson, a French professor at Okanagan College, in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. In addition to evaluating software platforms for second language learning (French), her research focuses on interdisciplinary approaches to translation theory. She is currently working on computer modelling of translation and the expansion of her model of translation (of metaphors in proverbs) to encompass additional languages. She is also interested in Shakespeare’s linguistic-versus-cultural portrayal of characters and is co-developer of EssayPro, a program assisting in the marking of English essays. Her volunteer work spans many areas in her community, from Special Needs support to Lyme awareness to the local film festival. Her favourite pastimes are horseback riding, scuba and snowboarding.
A condensed version of her model of translation is available in English and French (http://accurapid.com/journal/54proverbs_en.htm, http://accurapid.com/journal/54proverbs_fr.htm). The original English version of this article is available at LACUS (Linguistic Association of Canada and the United States) Forum 36 (soon to be available at http://www.lacus.org/volumes), and the thesis upon which it is based can be found at the University of British Columbia (http://hdl.handle.net/2429/12923). Freeda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at email@example.com on Facebook.
Jonathan: Has your recent work on modeling translation proved popular? Can you briefly describe your model?
Professor Wilson: Basically, my model of translation describes the processes which comprise the overall act of translating, and provides a visual representation of translation. Translation is complex and consists of many angles: how does the translator go about translating, what transpires as the text transitions from one language to another, can translation be viewed as a set of components which map between languages? … In my work, I set out to answer these questions while remaining both comprehensive and comprehensible. At the moment, my model is attracting a noticeable amount of attention globally. My online papers and thesis in particular are experiencing many views and downloads. In fact, my original thesis at the University of British Columbia is the most viewed and downloaded thesis at UBC at the moment.
Jonathan: To what do you attribute this popularity of your current work?
Professor Wilson: I would say that there are three main reasons. First and foremost would be the lack of contemporary theory on translation, especially in terms of modeling such a complex process of the mind. Much of the research that does exist appears to reiterate seminal work. New and fresh views are what propel most disciplines forward, and translation is especially needy in this regard. Also, in my in-depth exploration of metaphors, proverbs, translation and modeling [my original thesis on translating metaphors in proverbs, (HYPERLINK "https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/12923"https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/12923)], I explore the subject of translation from as many angles as possible. I do not believe that a model of translation can ever be complete unless all potential dimensions of translation are identified and accounted for. Therefore, I am hoping to set the example that translation has to be viewed from different angles simultaneously. Finally, the language level of my work is inclusionary rather than exclusionary – my goal is always to ensure that everyone, regardless of academic level, finds the material a reasonably easy read. For me, it is important that my writing is clear and cohesive to as many readers as possible.
Jonathan: Are you surprised by the response?
Professor Wilson: No, not at all. Translation is a complex activity; and consequently, as a general rule, the teaching, learning and performing of translation can often be somewhat difficult. In every walk of life, aids which facilitate difficult situations or tasks are always welcomed. The field of translation is no exception.
Jonathan: Can you elaborate on why you think that translation is so important, not only for you but for everyone?
Professor Wilson: Language is an important component of culture, and a unique feature of humanness. It is also a function of thinking and conceptualizing. Consequently, translation is a possible tool in bridging language groups, and thus cultural groups, as well as in comprehending different groups in terms of thinking and conceptualizing. Without this bridge, language groups could either become isolated in an increasingly globalized world or they could merge with or be replaced by the language with the largest speaking base. For any group, communication is one of the most important aspects of today’s civilization. Easier transportation and communication modes have contributed to a greater need to function in terms of multicultural and multi-lingual megacities. On the other hand, language is an important aspect of identity. Translation is the link between maintaining language and remaining in the global communication.
Jonathan: Do you believe that translation is truly appreciated or is it under-valued?
Professor Wilson: I strongly believe that language is severely under-valued, which is quite unfortunate, as this is likely the reason that there is so little focus on research. Miscommunication often creates misbeliefs, confusion, dislikes, wars...... Translation has the potential to reduce these. Why is translation underrated? In part, the problem is that this particular cognitive activity is not fully credited as to its complexity. To speak or to read two languages does not necessarily mean that one can properly translate from one language to another, a myth which continues to instil in the general public that translation does not rate as an academic discipline.
Jonathan: Do you believe that translation has a deserving place at the level of communication? Why?
Professor Wilson: Absolutely. The value of translation as it pertains to literature and culture has always been quite evident. With today’s technology however, and the ensuing globalization, communication between groups, whether religious, language, cultural, or geographical groups, requires closer attention as to how trans-communication can be facilitated, and the value of this trans-communication needs to be discovered and promoted. That is, it is becoming increasingly important that groups can communicate with each other while maintaining their own language.
Jonathan: Do you have other translation projects underway?
Professor Wilson: I have just finished a paper expanding the model to include German, Italian and Spanish and am currently working on a database system which will house and analyze data in terms of my model.
Jonathan: What aspects of translation are of personal interest to you?
Professor Wilson: I am mainly interested in what translation reveals about differences and similarities in the conceptual thinking of various language groups. Conceptual thinking develops under the confines of one’s culture, one’s physical environment, and the boundaries imposed by the embodied nature of the human body.
Jonathan: Do you feel that your paper could have an impact on the way translation is viewed?
Professor Wilson : New ways of looking at translation are needed and I am hoping that my work will encourage closer inspection of the complexities of translation. I believe the desire exists; the problem is that translation is truly interdisciplinary, making comprehensive research difficult and time consuming to conduct.