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Review of  Handbook of Translation Studies

Reviewer: Marcin Walczynski
Book Title: Handbook of Translation Studies
Book Author: Yves Gambier Luc van Doorslaer
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Translation
Issue Number: 25.1385

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The third volume of the ‘Handbook of Translation Studies’ is reviewed here as part of a large-scale project rather than as a book only.

The third volume of the ‘Handbook of Translation Studies’ provides readers with a series of up-to-date entries (in the form of overview articles) on selected issues in translation and interpreting. The thematic scope of the entries is very diversified and ranges from rather basic and theoretical issues of translation studies through more practice-oriented aspects to very up-to-date issues which evoke much debate among translation and interpreting specialists. Among the issues presented in the volume are bilingualism, translation theories, the connections between translation studies and other realms of language-related sciences (e.g. sociolinguistics, text linguistics), teaching translation, court/legal interpreting, interpreting quality, translation criticism, translation psychology or translation rights.

The full list of topics discussed in the volume is as follows: bilingualism and translation; common grounds in translation and interpreting (studies); court/legal interpreting; cultural translation; development and translation; editorial policy and translation; equivalence; Eurocentrism; general translation theory; ideology and translation; information, communication, and translation; institutionalization of translation studies; interdisciplinarity in translation studies; language philosophy and translation; media accessibility; migration and translation; models in translation studies’ music and translation; national and cultural images; postmodernism; quality in interpreting; relay translation; representation of translators and interpreters; rhetoric and translation; sociolinguistics and translation; teaching translation/training translators; testing and assessment in translation and interpreting studies; text linguistics and translation; translation criticism; translation psychology; translation rights.

Being the third volume of the ‘Handbook of Translation Studies’, the book is part of a large-scale project which has a very interesting and novel approach – it is published in two versions: paper and online. Moreover, the editors make it clear that the entries of the handbook are continually updated and revised. The entries in the electronic version are additionally translated into Arabic and the editors are considering translating them into other languages.

The reviewed book aims at providing as wide an audience as possible (from translation and interpreting scholars and experts through M.A. and Ph.D. students of translation and/or interpreting to practising translators and interpreters) through an overview of a variety of issues. Having such an aim, the book is written in clear, understandable English and the majority of concepts introduced in the entries are first defined so that even inexperienced readers (i.e. students) could digest the contents.

For the purpose of the summary, all chapters have been arbitrarily grouped in the three above-mentioned categories: basic and theoretical issues, practice-oriented issues and up-to-date issues which raise different controversies.

The first group consists of the following entries: “Bilingualism and translation” (by Gregory M. Shreve), “Common grounds in Translation and Interpreting (Studies)” (by Nadja Grbić and Michaela Wolf), “Cultural translation” (by Kyle Conway), “Equivalence” (by Alice Leal), “General translation theory” (by Dilek Dizdar), “Ideology and translation” (by Stefan Baumgarten), “Information, communication, translation” (by Roberto Valdeón), “Institutionalization of Translation Studies” (by Daniel Gile) , “Interdisciplinarity in Translation Studies” (by José Lambert), “Language philosophy and translation” (by Kristen Malmkjær), “Models in Translation Studies” (by Anrew Chesterman), “National and cultural images” (by Luc van Doorslaer), “Postmodernism” (by Ning Wang), “Rhetoric and translation” (by Ubaldo Stecconi), “Sociolinguistics and translation” (by Sara Ramos Pinto), “Text linguistics and translation” (by Juliane House) and “Translation criticism” (by Outi Paloposki). The articles in this group deal with various fundamental issues of translation and interpreting studies. Some of them explore the already classic terms and phenomena inextricably intertwined with translation studies (e.g. equivalence, bilingualism or ideology in translation) or present approaches to translation from other angles (e.g. philosophy, rhetoric, sociolinguistics or text linguistics), trying to show how other fields influence and contribute to translation studies. Others focus on translation studies as an institutionalized and interdisciplinary academic field (with journals and translation scholars’ associations), in which translation scholars have worked out some theories and models or have offered criticism thereof. Generally speaking, this set of entries provides a significant contribution to the understanding of the foundations of translation and interpreting studies. Some of these basic concepts are used in other entries in the volume presenting more practice-oriented or more up-to-date aspects of translation and interpreting.

The second group of papers included in the reviewed volume consists of entries presenting more practice-oriented issues. These are: “Court/Legal interpreting” (by Debra Russell), “Editorial policy and translation” (by Gisèle Sapiro), “Migration and translation” (by Loredana Polezzi), “Quality in interpreting” (by Sylvia Kalina), “Relay interpreting” (Martin Ringmar), “Representation of translators and interpreters” (by Klaus Kaindl), “Teaching translation /Training translators” (by Yves Gambier) as well as “Testing and assessment in Translation and Interpreting Studies” (by Claudia Angelelli). Many of these entries focus on different aspects of interpreting (e.g. interpreting in the court setting or interpreting quality and its assessment). This is particularly important as the body of literature on interpreting is rather meagre in comparison to literature on translation. From these overview articles on interpreting, the reader can realise that this is an extremely vital social service which facilitates intercultural communication and which is much more than merely a purely linguistic process. Other articles in this set touch upon a variety of translation-related issues such as the translation and book market, educating future translators or the connections and interdependencies between translation and migration processes (i.e. people’s mobility across geographic and linguistic regions). One paper on the manners in which the motifs of translators and interpreters are involved in literary plots (“Representation of translators and interpreters”) shows that these two activities have gained wider and wider recognition both in literature and in real life. On the whole, the papers grouped under the heading of more practice-oriented issues clearly indicate that the awareness of the importance of translation and interpreting and the intricacies of the translation/interpreting process among communities in the world is continually growing and that translation/interpreting comes to the fore in facilitating intercultural communication.

The third set of entries includes: “Development and translation” (by Kobus Marais), “Eurocentrism” (by Luc van Doorslaer), “Media accessibility” (by Aline Remael), “Music and translation” (by Marta Mateo), “Translation psychology” (by Riitta Jääskeläinen) and “Translation rights” (by Salah Basalamah). These entries could be classified as belonging to one of the two previously discussed groups but because they present relatively new aspects of translation studies which have not yet been fully covered in scholarly literature, they constitute a third, separate group of entries. The topics of these papers concern, among others issues, the interdependencies between translation studies and development studies, with the latter being understood as “(…) an interdiscipline in which economics, political science and sociology combine to study the phenomenon of development” (pp. 26-27). One can see that there are at least three major areas in which the two disciplines interact. Another issue covered in the entries is Eurocentrism in translation or – in other words – an approach to translation issues from the European or Western perspective. However, many scholars view this approach as introducing certain kinds of limitations to translation studies. Other topics discussed in the entries of the third group are about media, music and audiovisual translation (in particular, audio-description and audio-subtitling), and access to them, which is becoming more and more of an important issue in translation studies. The remaining two entries are related to translation psychology (which deals with a whole array of psychological aspects of the translator’s attitude, personality, education, etc.) and translation rights (mostly related to copyright of translated material). In conclusion, the issues covered in those papers relate to very new and up-to-date aspects of translation and are rooted in the newest trends in translation practices.


As mentioned above, the reviewed volume is a carefully chosen collection of overview articles about different aspects of translation and interpreting. Out of those many entries, from the reviewer’s point of view, of paramount importance are the following: “Common grounds in Translation and Interpreting (Studies)” (by Nadja Grbić and Michaela Wolf), “Institutionalization of Translation Studies” (by Daniel Gile), as well as “Translation rights” (by Salah Basalamah). The first of the three, in a systematic way, links translation with interpreting, even though they are quite frequently regarded as two separate activities. This is evident in the discussion of the terms and definitions which the authors of the entry provide. Grbić and Wolf neatly show that translation and interpreting overlap in many respects, especially in terms of their research methodologies and studied topics.

The second paper “Institutionalization of Translation Studies”, by Gile, shows the importance of the institutionalisation of translation studies in the form of various professional associations, scholarly journals, schools and research centres. This overview article sketches the development of translation studies as a scholarly discipline through its academic representations (e.g. universities, university centres), forums for exchanging views and opinions (e.g. journals “The Translator”, “Interpreting”) or societies (e.g. European Society for Translation Studies, Canadian Association for Translation Studies). Of course, the presentation of major developments within institutions of translation studies is made with reference to the history of the world because events such as the establishment of the European Union, the opening of borders, and the increased flow of information have indeed contributed to the foundation of many institutions of translation studies, which is what is sometimes neglected in the treatment of translation history. This paper succinctly presents what the institutional world of translation studies looks like, making readers aware of the existence of so many professional institutions which engage in studies on translation and interpreting.

The third entry which the reviewer found particularly interesting is “Translation rights”, by Basalamah. The author shows the links between translation and copyright, saying that “(…) international copyright law resulted from the issue of translation” (p. 198). What is especially commendable is the discussion of translation rights in the context of copyright, which involves references to concepts such as intertextuality or translator (in)visibility (i.e. the status of the translator).

Just the three above-presented entries should suffice to make the claim that the volume is definitely a rich source of information and ideas that might be further developed within translation studies.

As has already been stressed, the third volume of the ‘Handbook of Translation Studies’ has a number of merits. First of all, the selection of themes is praiseworthy. In the reviewed volume, the readers can find overviews of topics which are already well established within translation and interpreting studies (e.g. bilingualism, equivalence or text linguistics and its relevance to translation studies) as well as new concepts which have recently emerged within this discipline (e.g. translation rights or translation and interpreting testing and assessment). All of them are presented without any theoretical bias, which is evidenced by the diversification of themes and approaches to them. Such a selection is thus consistent with the editors’ aim of reaching as wide a target audience as possible.

Another asset of the volume is its topicality and the fact that its electronic version is regularly updated and revised. In the era of the Internet and computer technology, when science and scholarship become more and more available, the electronic version of the Handbook, which allows searching for entries by means of cross-references (marked by asterisks in the printed version), among other ways, constitutes a perfect solution for all scholars, students and practitioners who need an updated source of information on different aspects of translation and interpreting studies in English as well as in other languages, to which the project will also extend its resources (e.g. Arabic, Chinese, French, German). One might hope that the project grows in size so that it eventually becomes one of the most important places on the Internet for translation and interpreting scholars. As far as the written version is concerned, it includes a rich subject index which lists all entries from all three volumes; the ones that are included in the reviewed volume are bolded. This is of great help for readers of the written version, as they can easily find cross-references and their location in one of the three volumes.

Thirdly, the ‘Handbook of Translation Studies’ may become one of the fundamental sources for anyone interested in translation and interpreting thanks to the engagement and participation of nine prominent scholars (Cecilia Alvstad, Claudia V. Angelelli, Dirk Delabastita, Edwin Gentzler, Jacobus A. Naudé, Robin Setton, Robert A. Valedón, Judy Wakabayashi, Michaela Wolf) who make up the International Advisory Board of the Handbook, as well as to the support obtained from leading universities (Bloemfontein University, Graz University, University of Leuven, Oslo University, Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel, Oviedo University).
Fourthly, the editors are open to comments and feedback from readers, which is clearly stated in the “Introduction”. Such openness might help the editors enrich the next volumes and improve the entries from the already published volumes in the electronic version of the project.

Being so commendable in so many aspects, this volume, along with other volumes of the ‘Handbook of Translation Studies’, is a perfect reference and textbook for different university courses in translation theory and history. Not only does it present various problems of translation and interpreting in a coherent and succinct manner, but it also provides references to more detailed studies of particular translation and interpreting issues.

Generally speaking, the variety of the topics discussed, the functionality of the ‘Handbook of Translation Studies’ as a printed and online project, as well as the involvement of so many translation and interpreting scholars in providing entries for the project are all praiseworthy. Without a doubt, this Handbook has a chance of becoming one of the most important sources of information on a variety of topics from translation and interpreting studies, and therefore, I happily recommend it to anyone interested in translation and interpreting, regardless of their experience and expertise in this field, as a way of familiarising him/herself with this project. It is certainly a must-read volume for all students and beginning translation and interpreting scholars looking for an explanation of key terms in translation studies or for ideas for their own further research.
Assistant professor in the Department of Translation Studies of the Institute of English Studies, Wroclaw University, Poland and lecturer in the Section of Business English of the Institute of Modern Language of the University of Applied Sciences in Nysa, Poland. Current research interests include: specialised languages and their teaching, specialised (business and legal) translation and interpreting, intercultural communication, pidgins and creoles.