We eavesdrop on police interrogations, wire-tapping and
immigration interviews, and sneak on a Keolis bus (on board
entertainment: The Interpreter) to explore the complex processes of
translation and interpreting in high stakes contexts. Joining us
are a forensic linguist, an expert in asylum seeking procedures and
a researcher on multimodal translation, who illustrate the
pervasive impact of translators as important decision-makers that
may affect the future, safety and prosperity of people and
This episode opens with one of the guests, Krzysztof Kredens,
talking about the machine metaphor for translating and
interpreting, which still dominates the non-linguistic
understanding of those professions. It can be linked to the famous
Shannon-Weaver model of communication: first proposed by
mathematician and engineer Claude Shannon in 1948 (and later
popularised by fellow mathematician Warren Weaver), it conceives of
communication as involving a sender or encoder, a message and a
receiver or decoder. Message transmission can be affected by
channel and noise.
Because human communication does not follow the rules of
mathematics, this model has often been criticised as inappropriate
and even distorting. Erika calls it a destructive metaphor,
Stibbe, A. (2015). Ecolinguistics: Language, Ecology and the
Stories We Live By. London: Routledge.
Our discussion of equivalence in translation draws on the
following two works:
Baker, M. (2011). In Other Words: A coursebook on translation.
Koller, W. (1995). The concept of equivalence and the object
of translation studies. Target: International Journal of
Translation Studies, 7(2), 191-222.
Listeners of a certain age may remember, if not Nikita
Khrushchev’s wrongly interpreted words from an address at the
Polish embassy in Moscow (1956), then perhaps Sting citing them in
his song Russians (1985).
When discussing pragmatic equivalence, we give an example of a
direct vs. indirect speech act: in the former, a directive is used
to make a request (‘Sit down’) while in the latter, the speaker
uses a rogative form to realise the request function (‘Would you
like sitting down?’).
Bernard reels off a whole list of films involving translators
and interpreters; the excerpt from The Interpreter (2005) that we
enact can be found at 1:40. If you would like to watch films with a
language and linguistics angle, follow @LinguistsMovies on Twitter
for updates on their virtual watchalong nights.
Our main interview guest for the episode is Katrijn Maryns,
whose relevant publications include:
Jacobs, M., & Maryns, K. (2021). Managing narratives,
managing identities: Language and credibility in legal
consultations with asylum seekers. Language in Society, 1-28.
Maryns, K. (2014). The Asylum Speaker: Language in the Belgian
asylum procedure. London: Routledge.
Maryns, K. (2017). The use of English as ad hoc institutional
standard in the Belgian asylum interview. Applied Linguistics,
In the final part of the analysis, Victoria Nydegger Schrøder
analyses the values statement of the headquarters and local
subsidiaries of global transport operator Keolis. You can see the
screenshots on our blog: http://wordsandactions.blog
Victoria kindly mentions two publications by Erika and
Veronika (we did not tell her to!):
Darics, E., & Koller, V. (2018). Language in Business,
Language at Work. London: Palgrave.
Darics, E., & Koller, V. (2019). Social actors “to go”: An
analytical toolkit to explore agency in business discourse and
communication. Business and Professional Communication Quarterly,
In her analysis, Victoria, among other things, comments on the
use of ‘we’ and how it can refer to different groups of people
throughout a text and often stay ambiguous. This feature of
corporate discourse has also been observed by Veronika:
Koller, V. (2009). Corporate self-presentation and
self-centredness: A case for cognitive critical discourse analysis.
In: Pishwa, H. (ed.) Language and Social Cognition: Expression of
the social mind. Berlin: de Gruyter, pp. 267-287.
In our next episode, we will discuss machine translation and
other applications in language technology - see you then!