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Translation Day Seminar
2007-10-22

Subverting the West? Engaging language practice as African interpretation.

With the above-mentioned title in mind, about 30 people gathered at the Main Campus of the University of the Free State (FS) in Bloemfontein for a Translation Day Seminar. The day was attended by academics, language practitioners, government departments, students, and other stakeholders in language practice.

Prof. Jackie Naudé, the Programme Director for the Programme in Language Practice at the UFS, gave a short historical overview of developments in research and training in language practice of the past decade. He argued in favour of a socio-constructivist approach to teaching and research in language practice. His point was that students need to be given the opportunity to engage with the complexities of real-life problems, specifically the complexities of the African context.

Dr Kobus Marais, Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies at the UFS, gave an overview of the state of the art of translation research. This meant that language practitioners are agents in communication, not mere conduits of meaning. He argued that translators’ agency implied that they have to make informed choices, the most important of which is whether to indigenise or foreignise when translating. He developed wisdom as a notion in translation, indicating that translators need to be wise to interpret their context and translate in such a way that (Western) ideology does not ride piggy-back on their translations into the African target culture.

Prof. Joan Connoly, Associate Professor in the Centre for Higher Education Development at Durban University of Technology (DUT), took the audience on a breathtaking journey on the topic of oral knowledge. Her presentation showed examples, both European and African oral knowledge and had a clear message for language practitioners: What can Africans learn from the Western mind? Her answer: "Africans can learn how easy it is to loose one’s oral knowledge base. Africans can look at the West and see what the consequences are when a culture loses its oral-based knowledge. Language practitioners have it in their power to consider this possible loss and do something about it."

Lastly, Ms Lolie Makhubu, Head of the Department of Language and Translation at DUT, spoke about enticement in interpreting to use loan words to impress either the audience or peers or clients. Her argument boils down to the interpreter’s attitude towards African culture and language. If Western culture is regarded as higher than African culture, interpreters will be tempted to boast their knowledge of Western culture by means of their choice of words. However, if interpreters are “Proudly South African”, as she put it, they have not need for showing off by using loan words.


 

Dr Kobus Marais (Senior Lecturer in Translation Studies at the UFS) during the seminar.
Photo (supplied)

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