Jeremy Munday is Professor of Translation Studies at the University of Leeds, UK. He is author of numerous translation textbooks such as Introducing Translation Studies, Evaluation in Translation, Style and Ideology in Translation: Latin American writing in English and co-author, with Basil Hatim, of Translation: An advanced resource book.
His research interests include applied translation theory and shift analysis, systemic functional linguistics and ideology in the translation of literary and political works with special reference to Spain and Latin America and the application of corpus-based tools to the contrastive analysis of language.
Currently, he collaborates in teaching and research with the Centre for Translation Studies at the University of Leeds and co-supervises students working on translation into Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Thai and Malay. He is also series editor of the Continuum Advances in Translation series. Jeremy is a qualified and experienced translator from Spanish and French into English.
Philadelphus: You’ve said that you find translation a fascinating discipline. Can you tell us what makes it such an interesting area of knowledge, practice and research for you?
Jeremy Munday: Translation is more or less everywhere, in so many guises. Permeates knowledge transfer historically, culturally, in religion, politics, science, literature… But what most interests me are the traces that the translators leave: in idiosyncratic linguistic features or in conscious lexical choices, in the different versions of texts and in their correspondence. Investigating these brings us closer to the translator.
P : You have been engaged in translator training for many years. A good number of theoretical topics are covered during this formation professionnelle, some of which may not seem to these aspiring translators directly relevant to their future profession. Which theoretical or research concerns that are explored during training seem to you to have a significant effect on the translator’s professional practice later on?
JM: Students on practical translation programs tend to respond most positively to concepts which they can see are directly relevant to their practice, such as Skopostheorie, equivalence, translation procedures for specific problems (e.g. culture specific items) and so on. More complex questions of discourse and text analysis are probably best appreciated when students have had more experience, but even then there will be always a tension between description and prescription and a blurring of theory and practice. This is particularly prevalent in the way that new technologies have revolutionized both: learning to use CAT tools necessarily involves taking some interest in corpus linguistics. Finally, theoretical concepts around ethics have become more important in translator training.
P: Which avenues of research in Translation Studies do you think we’ll still be talking about, if not hotly debating, five years from now?
JM: Hopefully a lot!! I think we will. But I think that the most hotly debated questions will concern the relation between human and machine translation and between professional and non-professional translators.
P: Translation Studies used to focus quite heavily on linguistic analysis, but has steadily broadened its scope of inquiry to include concepts such as context and discourse and ideology. How present is the threat that Translation Studies as an academic discipline will become so engaged with such “macro-level” concerns that it will neglect the “micro-level”? How will we know when we’ve wandered too far?
JM: I think this question identifies one of the key questions expansion of translation studies in recent decades. We now have a strong discipline in which the scope of research is far broader than before. One consequence is that different areas of study often do not communicate or are working using radically different methodologies. The representatives of the strongly linguistic approach can now be found in research into machine translation, corpus linguistics, etc. but, at the same time, the phenomenon of new technologies is being researched in other areas which have more in common with cultural studies, identity studies, etc.
P: Which skills and competences and do you think that a professional translator should master, apart from proficiency in target and source language systems?
JM: Minute attention to detail, the quick and efficient production, comparison and evaluation of ST and TT units, a good general and cross-cultural knowledge, yet comprehensive domain-specific knowledge and expertise, the ability to research terminology reliably and to know how to find answers to questions and unknown terms, easy manipulation of language, familiarity with software, reliability in meeting deadlines… and I’m sure I’ve missed some obvious ones.
P: In your work, you often place translators—and their ideology—at the core, lifting their identity from that of an invisible mediator and transforming them to a key stakeholder in the communication process. This is a fascinating idea. How is this transformation evident in the translator’s texts?
JM: At its most obvious it can be seen in the distortion of lexical items and in drastic rewriting of texts. Also by omission of detail. But there are some subtle ways in which the translator intervenes, in transitivity choices, in the manipulation of modality and evaluative words, where the micro-level linguistic choices affect the higher level text and discourse functions. Of course, these pass unnoticed to most readers, who do not compare source and target texts.