Following two previous posts in late August (part 1 & part 2), today I would like to end my report on the Canterbury conference “Comparative Law: Engaging Translation” with a summary of Professor Gémar’s keynote talk.
Prof. Jean-Claude Gémar, Universities of Montreal & Geneva
Law’s labours: Lost or gained in translation? Language, law and translation.
The highly eminent Professor Gémar treated* us to “21 ways to look at translation” (both general and legal). It was a whistle-stop tour of more or less every important issue for translators and translation. These are the main points only – the full paper will be published in the conference proceedings.
- Translating: from Babel to Babel** – ancient and modern
- What translation is (and is not all about) – source and target; facilitating communication
- Translation: ways and means – methods and strategies
- Translation and equivalence
- Translation: an art, a craft or a “science”?
- Language and translation: general vs technical
- Law and translation: a natural or forced partnership?
- The specificity of legal texts
- Translating legal texts, translation problems
- The translator is a sorcerer’s apprentice
- Translation’s semper fi, but the translator is always confronted with novel textual conditions
- Translation is governed by cultures
- Linguistic vs legal equivalence
- Translation is not a matter of words
- The length of the translated text
- Sense-giving and sense-reading
- It is always possible to say the same thing… differently
- French and English: two (linguistic) solitudes
- The good, the bad, and… the worse
- The quest for the grail: in search of the best translation method
- The translator: interpres ut orator?
Professor Gémar concluded with some enlightening statements and citations: “to translate is to seek truth without the expectation of resolution”. “Language signs [are...] far more mysterious than atoms and stars”. “A translation, particularly a legal one, is but an approximation, if not a compromise”. “This quest for equivalence is [...] for the translator, a herculean effort and task”. “How can we translate into French or Spanish (or whatever language) Mary Poppins’ supercalifragilisticexpialidocious? We shouldn’t even try!”
*and it was a real treat – if you have the opportunity to hear him speak in person, don’t miss the chance.
** The translation journal Babel
You might also be interested to listen to a recording of Professor Gémar speaking (in French) at the University of Montreal in their conférences midi series, entitled “Traduire le droit: de la traduction juridique à la jurilinguistique - Texte(s), culture(s) et équivalence”. Click to access the video.