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Review of  Crossing Barriers and Bridging Cultures

Reviewer: Mekki B. Elbadri
Book Title: Crossing Barriers and Bridging Cultures
Book Author: Arturo Tosi
Publisher: Multilingual Matters
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Issue Number: 14.1094

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Date: Sun, 13 Apr 2003 07:43:40 +0000
From: Mekki Elbadri
Subject: Crossing Barriers and Bridging Cultures: The Challenges of
Multilingual Translation for the European Union

Tosi, Arturo, ed. (2002) Crossing Barriers and Bridging Cultures:
The Challenges of Multilingual Translation for the European Union.
Multilingual Matters Ltd.

Mekki Elbadri, Vienna, Austria


This book is a collection of articles edited by Arturo Tosi. It consists of
contributions written by people who are closely involved with the work of
translation in the European Union/European Parliament. These contributions
are mainly based on the proceedings of a conference held within the
Translation Service of the European Parliament in November 1998. The book
contains fourteen chapters of varying length and depth. It is divided into
three main parts: Overviews of Languages and Cultures in Contact, the Making
of a Single European Voice, and the Debate Between Insiders and Outsiders.

In his introduction to the book, Arturo Tosi puts the different
contributions in context. After a description of the structure of the book
and how the papers were presented in the conference itself, he reviews
succinctly each contribution as it relates to the objective of the book
which is "mapping out and discussing the most relevant theoretical and
pragmatic issues about multilingual translation" (p. ix).

In Chapter 1, "The Translation Service in the European Parliament", Barry
Wilson traces the historical development and outlines the legal and
political aspects of translation in this European framework. His discussion
focuses mainly on practical dimensions of multilingualism, to translators as
well as to Members of the European Parliament. He touches as well the
budgetary questions and the prospect of enlarging the European Union to 22
Member States and 22 languages.

In Chapter 2, John Trim starts his article, "Multilingualism and the
Interpretation of Languages in Contact", by drawing a distinction between
"'societal multilingualism', the existence of more than one language
community in a society and 'individual plurilingualism', the ability of the
individual to communicate through more than one language, which builds
bridges between them" (p. 8). Then he proceeds to placing translation in a
general frame of language activities. He classifies translation as an act of
mediation, as opposed to production, reception and interaction. He further
draws lines between translation and interpretation as distinct activities of
mediation. As a vivid example of multilingualism, the author traces the
development of English, its contacts with different languages and their
influence on the language, with the implications of this development on the
translator's work. He concludes by confirming that it is inevitable for
cultures and languages to influence each other and that translators are in a
privileged position to see this process in action.

Christopher Rollason discusses in Chapter 3 "The Use of Anglicism in
Contemporary French". Following a short reference to the historical
'cross-contamination' between English and French, he tackles the current
American influence as a major source of Anglicism in modern French. He gives
examples of this phenomenon in different fields, with emphasis on computer
(mainly the internet) and trade. He attributes this to different reasons
ranging from terminological rigor to unconscious pro-American reflexes, and,
paradoxically, ironic anti-Americanism. The author moves then to the
situation in the European Parliament. France being the dominant Member State
at the time of creation of the European institutions, French was dominant as
a lingua franca. Its influence is still present in many terms of the
European institutions language (eurolect). However, in recent texts,
Anglicism has started to appear in French texts, again starting with the
computer field. The author calls for more rigor in such multilingual
institutions in order to preserve their 'linguistic diversity' and
consequently their 'cultural diversity'.

In Chapter 4, "Translation of EU Legal Texts", Renato Correia outlines the
complexities of translating legal texts within the European Union context.
Translation is essential for drafting legislation in 11 official
languages. However, translators in this institutional multilingual setting
are faced with a complicated situation where they have to understand and
take decisions in dealing with such problems as the originals' lack of
clarity and 'deliberate obscurity'.

Arturo Tosi's paper, "European Affairs: The writer, the Translator and the
Reader" is one of the major contributions to this work. The author
introduces his paper by an overview of the evolution of translation
according to different approaches. He tackles questions such as: the impact
of machine translation, multidisciplinarity, language policy and translation
service, the translator as mediator, language standardization and national
attitudes, emphasis on good communication. Given the remarks made about the
difficulty of understanding the language of the eurolect, He emphasizes the
importance of clarity and innovation in translation. The author refers to
Newmark (1976) to provide 'rules of thumb of good cultural translation'

In Chapter 6, Freddie De Corte discusses "the Contribution of Freelance
Translators". He maintains that freelance translators serve as a bridge
between the institutions and the general public. Living in their own
countries with direct contact with the living language, free lancers are
expected to impart "new life into the 'eurolect'" (p.70).

In Chapter 7, Anne Tucker discusses "Translation and Computerization in the
EU Parliament". She traces the different developmental stages in the use of
computer aids to the service of translation. She presents the different
tools that are used either for automating the translation of certain types
of texts: e.g. repetitive and evaluative texts, as well as the applications
that help translators concentrate on the translation activity per se and
relieving them of efforts such as typing or formatting final production. The
importance of applications such as translation memory software, voice
recognition and workflow applications has been stressed.

In Chapter 8, Luca Tomasi discusses "Translating Transparency in the EU
Commission". He takes over from Anne Tucker's contribution and touches the
influence of the electronic media in the approach to translation in the EU
institutions. He gives a few examples of machine translations done by
different systems and points out the necessity of post-editing to such

The question of clarity is taken again in Chapter 9 by Christopher Cook in
his article "Helping the Journalist to Translate to the Reader". He compares
and contrasts the roles of translators and journalists and their views of
each other. He presents the concept of the "empty chair" referring to the
importance of taking in consideration the audience to whom the text is

In Chapter 10, "Linguistic Interpretation or Cultural Contamination", Helen
Swallow reviews the proceedings of Workshop 1 on linguistic aspects of
multilingualism, with special reference to lexical contacts and borrowings
across languages.

Nichole Buchin and Edward Seymour summarize in Chapter 11, "Equivalence or
Divergence in Legal Translation", the proceedings of Workshop 3 which dealt
with the principle that translation cannot be regarded as a straightforward,
neutral process.

Workshop 3 is reviewed by Christopher Rollason in Chapter 12, "Opaque or
User-Friendly Language". This workshop was concentrated on the accessibility
and comprehensibitly of Parliament's documents to the general public and the
role of translators in facilitating the quest for this goal.

In Chapter 13, Sylvia Ball reviews the proceedings of the "Round Table on
Multilingualism: Barrier or Bridge?". In that round table, participants
reacted to each other's contributions and heard the impressions of other
members of the round table.

In Chapter 14, "Conclusions", Arturo Tosi emphasizes the importance
rethinking the role of translators in the largest translation agency in the
world and to help in spreading "a new translation culture in support of
multilingualism in Europe" (p. 131).


The book contains a variety of articles pertaining to different aspects of
the major theme which is translation in a political, multilingual and
multicultural context. The contributions are of varying quality. Some
articles are real in-depth research papers, while others are mere personal
accounts or reflections of individual experience. However, the whole inputs
highlight the subject matter from different, complementary angles. The book
contains a wealth of information for researchers and translation students
who are interested in the development, complexities and procedural aspects
of translation in an institutional context such as the European
Union/European Parliament. It poses, and attempts to answer, different
questions related to languages in contact, the role of translators as
mediators, facilitators and decision makers in a complex communicative

One of the major issues recurring in a number of articles is the question
of dominance of certain languages over others leading to linguistic
'contamination' and 'impoverishment'. Nevertheless, most of the articles are
mainly concerned with the 'big' languages, namely English, French, and to
some extent Italian. Little or no reference is made of most of the current
11 languages or the future 22 languages. Since the book consists of a
collection of articles presented at a conference, it is not easy extract and
discuss an overall methodological approach guiding the entire work. The
editor managed, yet, to group the articles and present them in a logical and
smooth order of transition. This work opens further the door for more
discussion of translation methods, approaches and procedures in similar
multilingual settings. It might be taken as an example for studying and
analysing translation activities in other institutions, at the international
or regional levels, with more linguistic diversity, less cultural homogeneity
and more political variations. For further discussion of the topic, see Pym


Newmark, P. (1976) The theory and Craft of Translation. Language Teaching
and Linguistics: Abstracts (Jan.). Reprinted in V. Kinsella (ed.) (1978)
Language Teaching and Linguistics: Surveys (pp. 79-100). Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.

Pym, A. (2001) Translation and International Institutions. Explaining the
Diversity Paradox. Paper presented to the workshop "Translation and
Institutions" at the conference 'Language Study in Europe at the Turn of the
Millenium', Societas Linguistica Europea, Katholieka Universiteit Leuven,
28-31 August 2001. Reproduced in the site:

ABOUT THE REVIEWER Mekki Elbadri is a translator and researcher with interest in translation studies, terminology and discourse analysis, and is currently conducting doctoral research in Critical Discourse Analysis.