Reporting from Canterbury – Part 3

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.

  1. Translating: from Babel to Babel** – ancient and modern
  2. What translation is (and is not all about) – source and target; facilitating communication
  3. Translation: ways and means – methods and strategies
  4. Translation and equivalence
  5. Translation: an art, a craft or a “science”?
  6. Language and translation: general vs technical
  7. Law and translation: a natural or forced partnership?
  8. The specificity of legal texts
  9. Translating legal texts, translation problems
  10. The translator is a sorcerer’s apprentice
  11. Translation’s semper fi, but the translator is always confronted with novel textual conditions
  12. Translation is governed by cultures
  13. Linguistic vs legal equivalence
  14. Translation is not a matter of words
  15. The length of the translated text
  16. Sense-giving and sense-reading
  17. It is always possible to say the same thing… differently
  18. French and English: two (linguistic) solitudes
  19. The good, the bad, and… the worse
  20. The quest for the grail: in search of the best translation method
  21. 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.

One thought on “Reporting from Canterbury – Part 3

  1. Pingback: Weekly favorites (Sep 17-23) | Adventures in Freelance Translation

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