English Evaluative Concepts in Translated Religious and Devotional Texts

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Modern Languages


This project will explore how certain evaluative concepts unique for the English language and culture are mediated through religious and devotional texts translated in various linguistic and cultural settings. By investigating the culture-specific character of supposedly universal evaluative terms (e.g. commitment, decency, fairness, humility, integrity, justice, etc.) which often lack precise equivalents in other languages, this research will help address the problem of cultural and ethnic stereotypes and clichés.

Combining a keen local focus with a broad transcultural perspective, this research will be carried out within an international network of scholars working in various languages (English, French, German, Italian, Polish, and Spanish) across a range of disciplines, in markedly different regions of Europe (Northern Ireland, Italy, Poland and Spain). It will build upon and enhance existing research collaboration inaugurated through an international symposium on the conceptual and cultural impact of the King James Bible, held at Queen's University Belfast in October 2011. The network will proceed through a series of four thematic conferences held at different locations and addressing the various aspects of the theme. The strictly academic dimension of the networking activities will be complemented by a programme of round table discussions and community events involving representatives of various linguistic, cultural and religious backgrounds in order to promote a constructive discussion of systems of values and evaluative concepts operating in multicultural societies. Towards the end of the project, workshops will be held for translators and interpreters in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to promote research findings and apply them to actual cross-linguistic and cross-cultural encounters and contexts.

The network will consider the following questions:
- How did certain evaluative concepts (such as e.g. decent, fair, right, straight, upright, wrog; commitment, humility, integrity, justice, etc.) become established in the English linguistic and cultural tradition and what role did translated religious and devotional texts play in this process?
- How are certain values - shaped by translated religious and devotional texts and thus tied to a particular worldview - currently redefined, contested and negotiated in today's multicultural societies?
- How are specifically English values and evaluative concepts translated into different cultural and linguistic contexts (with special focus on religious and devotional texts)?
- How do other languages and cultures engage with key evaluative concepts specific to English, despite often lacking precise equivalents for them?

This research has enormous relevance in the social, political and cultural sphere in the era of mass migration, unprecedented cultural exchange as well as multilingual and multi-ethnic societies. Recent controversies surrounding multiculturalism have revealed the pressing need to understand multiple systems of values and creatively address the incommensurability of evaluative concepts. Broadly based, collaborative investigation into these areas will significantly enhance the mutual recognition of similarities and differences in culture and worldview, both within and between societies.

The network will benefit from the oversight of an international advisory group including eminent scholars and representatives of community organizations and will rely on existing support mechanisms operating in all involved institutions. Its research findings will be disseminated though a dedicated project website, the publication of an edited collection of articles, papers submitted to leading international journals as well as through workshops for practicing translators and interpreters, and community round tables.

Planned Impact

1. Translation Quality
The project aims to identify the evaluative processes involved in translation in relation to perspective, values and worldview. It is intended to have an impact on the practice and quality of translations, especially those undertaken on culturally sensitive issues and in contested situations.

2. Round Table Sessions for Translators
With that in mind, during the project period, we plan to organise round table sessions with translators to discuss the practicalities of such approaches on the translation process. These would be the prelude to establishing ongoing networks of translators, who would maintain contact, often by electronic means.

3. Translator Networks
These networks of translators would, in particular, enable translators of culturally sensitive texts to co-operate. The use of multimedia Internet technologies, as social media (Facebook, LinkedIn), would be central. These networks would enable translators to share translation data, translation corpora and engage in joint projects. The project website would be a unique resource for these activities. The experience of the Co-Investigator in running the Centre for Multimedia Language Learning at the University of Ulster will be invaluable in this regard.

The focus of the networks will be international, moving beyond purely English translation into multicultural and multilingual partnerships. They would interact with the students on the MAs run by both UK universities, enabling students to be mentored, and to gain crucial professional experience. These networks would have the aim of increasing the professionalization of translation in NI and further afield.

4. Training Workshops
Once the findings of the network have been collated, we envisage running a series of workshops, in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland for practising translators and interpreters to enable them to apply our findings in their everyday work. It is expected that these workshops will be self-funding and will commence after the final conference in autumn 2014.

5. Community Round Tables
Our experience as institutions in the formulation of the Northern Ireland Languages Strategy 'Languages for the Future' (in press) has focused on the key areas of multilingualism and multiculturalism in the province. We are conscious of the relatively rapid transformation of Northern Ireland into a multicultural and multilingual society. These changes need to be understood alongside the ongoing traditional divisions in our society.
Linking with the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities and other community and cross-cultural organisations, we plan to organise several cross-cultural events to highlight the theme of Translating Cultures and its impact on community life. They would involve representatives of various linguistic, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Three events are envisaged to take place in the spring of 2013: in Belfast, Derry/Londonderry and Dungannon.
Their aim would be to promote mutual understanding, respect and meaningful communication through raising awareness of the process of cultural translation and the inherent difficulties associated with it. These events would seek to identify shared value systems and evaluative concepts in multicultural societies. It is hoped that they would make a small contribution towards dealing with the aftermath of the Troubles and sectarianism in general and serve as a template for other such events in other countries.

6. Translation and Public Policy
Finally, building on our experience of interacting with government through the Northern Ireland Languages Strategy and in particular in the section on Languages for Understanding, which considered the question of indigenous and ethnic languages, we would seek to use the outcomes of the project to influence government translation and interpreting policy in Northern Ireland initially, and then, through our partners, in the European Union.


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Description The specific findings of the network have been published as "Translating Values. Evaluative Concepts in Translation" (London and New York 2016: Palgrave Macmillan), edited by Piotr Blumczynski and John Gillespie.

Overall, the research has demonstrated a strong correlation between certain conceptual constructs typical of the English language and specific cultural and religious attitudes. In partiuclar, the strong influence of the English evaluative concepts (such as e.g. clarity, integrity, chastity, simplicity) in religions and devotional discourse in other linguistic and cultural contexts has been observed.
Exploitation Route We believe that public officers (e.g. judges, barristers and solicitors, policemen, teachers, etc.) as well as policy makers should be more aware of the culture-specific nature of certain evaluative concepts in dealing with representatives of non-English linguistic and cultural groups in order to ensure fair treatment, equality of access and administration of justice, unprejudiced by Anglocentric conceptual and cultural assumptions.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy

URL http://www.palgrave.com/uk/book/9781137549709
Description The PI and CI, in partnership with the local NGO CraicNI (http://www.craicni.com/), organised three consultation seminars across Northern Ireland (Belfast, February 2015; Cookstown, February 2015, Londonderry, April 2015) with representatives of ethic minority groups in order to share the findings on key evaluative concepts and their role in negotiating linguistic and cultural diversity. The following is the description from the website of CRAICNI who helped to organise the workshops (http://www.craicni.com/2015/05/from-belfast-to-derry/): "Fifty people in total attended three workshops in Belfast, Cookstown and Derry from February to April 2015 facilitated by CRAIC NI. Two facilitators from CRAIC NI organised the workshops, attendance, venues and administration to support the research from Queen's and Ulster Universities into 'Translating Values.' "Translating Values" is an international research project directed by two academics based in Northern Ireland: Dr Piotr Blumczynski from Queen's University and Professor John Gillespie from Ulster University. In their interaction with various ethnic, cultural and linguistic groups, CRAIC NI delivered three workshops in Belfast, Derry and Cooktown to explore the following questions: - Do various cultures and religions value different things? How do they speak about them? - When we communicate in English rather than our native language, do we feel this affects our message - not just in terms of how we say it, but also what we say? - How important is our language to who we are and what we hold dear? - Can people and their values be translated? We invited people to share their thoughts, feelings and opinions about these questions in a relaxed atmosphere, over a cup of tea or coffee to inform us what they think and felt mattered to us. BELFAST, COOKSTOWN and DERRY Good craic at Common Grounds kicked off in Belfast at our first session with this lively bunch of people of various backgrounds aged 20 to 50 from students, class assistants, community workers, professionals and business people representing across 10 language communities. Getting acquainted was a great introduction as they spoke of family connections, others talked of landmark events around the time of birth and through this exercise there was a great understanding that our names hold values from its language. In Cookstown at the Hub the group included Portuguese, Eastern European and Cant languages supported by the Coordinator of the CWSAN of which we are grateful for Ola Sobieraj's support in assisting in finding a suitable venue, refreshments and encouraging participants to take part. There was a consensus amongst this group of an understanding to barriers for communication and the group wished to address these in their future activities and work. On moving to the Playhouse in Derry in April, the mix of the participants present was very interesting covering the obscure languages of Guyanese and Masai. It also had a balance of Polish, Mandarin, Korean and professional linguists present. North West Migrants Forum felt the workshop was of higher value to their work than expected and will be relaying the importance of the research back to their group. The group suggested that this research would be important to young people and welcomed a follow up. We thank Lilian Sennoi Coordinator at North West Migrants Forum and her group for participating. All in all at CRAIC NI we enjoyed facilitating the sessions for QUB and UU and thank Queens, University of Ulster and the participants for their valuable input. We will keep you posted of the results of the research and what happens next. "Language is part of our own culture and not speaking it does not diminish who we are as individuals.'" - Participant, Translating Values workshop, Belfast Here is a selection of comments from the participants about the Translating Values workshops: "Fascinating. Insightful to delve deeper into these issues and see that most people with 2 languages have a similar experiences" "We have to be more open and talk more about our values; there are a lots of things which influence our daily lives and communication that we don't have the opportunity to touch upon, this was a useful way to reflect the impact of translating values on our daily lives." "Very interesting" "Valuable and good craic" "Fascinating discussion" "Very interesting workshop, especially the conversations, plus the exchange with others. More time needed!!"
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

Description Translating Values: Insights from Multilingual and Multiethnic Focus Groups in Northern Ireland (Knowledge Exchange Seminar Series at Northern Ireland Assembly - 15 June 2016)
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact This presentation reported on the collaborative research project "Translating values" (funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council) whose findings were consulted broadly with a range of multi-ethnic and multilingual communities across Northern Ireland (Belfast, Cookstown, Londonderry) through a series of focus groups held in 2015. It provided insights into the complex interactions between linguistic, cultural and religious communities by exploring shared and conflicting systems of values and evaluative concepts, with a view to improving translation and interpreting practice and informing cross-community relations as well as relevant elements of public policy.
URL http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/globalassets/documents/raise/knowledge_exchange/briefing_papers/series5...
Description Nida School of Translation Studies 
Organisation American Bible Society
Department Nida School of Translation Studies
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution PI was invited to join the faculty of Nida School of Translation Studies (26 May - 6 June 2014) in Misano Adriatico, Italy, and to present a lecture reporting on the findings of the research.
Collaborator Contribution The participants of the 2014 Nida School of Translation Studies provided response and feedback to the research in progress presented by PI.
Impact The edited collection (currently being developed) is expected to include contributions from several faculty members of the Nida School of Translation Studies. The range of disciplines informing the contributions will include: philosophy, theology, linguistics, literature and media studies.
Start Year 2014
Description Translating Alterity - November 2014 
Organisation American Bible Society
Department Nida Institute
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The PI has been invited to act as a (remote) panellist at a special session devoted to alterity and process in translation Translating Alterity. 24 November 2014 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM Room: Indigo Ballroom A (Level 2 (Indigo)) - Hilton Bayfront (HB)
Collaborator Contribution Philip Towner and James Maxey of the Nida Institute have participated in two symposia organized under the research networking grant 'English evaluative concepts in translated religious and devotional' (MIsano Adriatico, May 2013; Belfast, November 2014).
Impact An edited collection is currently being collated.
Start Year 2013
Description Consultation session - Krakow 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact This two-day intensive consultation session brough together a small group of researchers from Northern Ireland, Poland and France. The progress of the project was assessed and future directions were discussed. The session resulted in a decision to broaden the scope of the final research symposium (namely, to include on various texts, not only religious and devotional ones), foster links with the Lublin School of Ethnolinguistics at the University of Marie Curie Sklodowska (Poland), and inviting Professor James W. Underhill (Rouen, France) to deliver a keynote lecture at the final research symposium in Belfast in November 2014.

As a result of broadening the scope of the texts analyzed, there was a much higher proportion of international presenters at the final symposium in Belfast in November 2014, with speakers coming from Poland, France, Scotland, England, Spain, and the United States.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://translatingvalues.org/conferences/krakow/
Description Invited talk (University of Glasgow, 13 November 2013) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Talk sparked a lively discussion afterwards, followed by subsequent email exchanges.

Several email exchanges with interested participants, in which I was able to signpost them to relevant research in the area.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://translatingvalues.org/glasgow-2013/