Senez 1 (1984)

  • Date of publication: december 1984
  • ISSN: 84-7086-115-8
  • L.D.: S.S. 686-84
  • 152 pp.

All the articles in this issue have been published in Basque



Translation: Juan Mari Mendizabal

Before saying by whom, how and to what end this magazine is published, in this foreword of the first issue of the magazine, an initiative to which we wish a long life, let us say a couple of words on translation  even on Basque translation.

When we ask what is the use of this translation and terminology magazine, we have to ask what is the use of translation and terminology. What's the use of Basque translation, what's the use of terminology-making? Having answered this question, the rest of them will make sense: Who? How? When?

Translating is a human activity arising from the very instant two languages get close to each other. Also terminology-making has no doubt existed since humankind has felt the need to name new things. Moreover, it could be said, since there are many reasons for it, that the smaller the country, the fewer speakers it has, the more often the need to translate from other languages arises. It's a known fact that countries with the highest number of bilingual persons or even multilingual persons are usually small countries, and that the smaller the country is, the more multilingual they are (they say that, amongst native tribes in the Amazon, some people normally speak 4 or 5 languages  they are capable of speaking them and making themselves understood in them  which would seem incredible to developed and very advanced Europeans).

Translation also dates back some time in the Basque Country. It's at least conceivable that the Basque Country has always been connected with people from other countries, with foreigners, and they had to understand each other. Just think that, long ago, the road to Santiago must have created the need to translate, before Aymerich Picaud felt the need to undertake his dictionary. Terminology-making too comes from a long way back, at least if we consider loanwords one way of producing terminology.

Since that time many attempts have been made in translation, in translation theory and in terminology. As regards translation, about half of the books published until this century were translations. Short essays on translation theory have also been written, starting from Leizarraga himself, Larramendi or Kardaberaz, up to the current ones. Also bearing in mind that many texts published as if they were originals have been revealed to be translations, i.e., bad translations.

With Larramendi, Kardaberaz and the others gone long ago, translation has not decreased in the Basque Country, neither in absolute nor in relative terms. On the contrary, it could be said that nowadays much more is translated from other languages into Basque, which is no mystery. The reasons for this are twofold.

To begin with, in present society much more information is used than in the past. All sorts of information. As human life progresses, human beings use increasingly more time in communicating. We don't know about the quality of this communication. That would require other research.

We could say that information used in the Basque Country, information on the Basque Country coming from abroad, as far as the information is considered important, as far as there is a demand for it, could be obtained in two ways:

a) By learning the language that the information is written in.
b) By means of translation.

Some pieces of information are limited to giving an account of events. Other types of information give an account of events which can change our ways of life, as is the case with scientific information. But in the sci-tech fields there is constant renewal and new developments are happening at great speed. And as a result scientists or technicians working in these fields have everywhere learned the languages in which these developments are presented, above all when information is not to be conveyed to the public at large. In such cases, a few languages are used, and scientists and technicians have communicated with each other in them.

We could say that these languages are now English and German, and increasingly Russian. But this tendency is not a special heritage small languages have; also in languages with many speakers this tendency is evident.

If the information wanted is more general, of interest for more people (mostly for their work), when information has a broader public, more consumers, that is, then translation is usually the chosen way. Because translation is indeed a special activity aimed at responding to an interest in or fulfilling the need for information.

But who decides what information is of a public interest and what is not? Because, in the past, the information was in the hands of a few; what was called knowledge, the property of a few wise men, has now become general information. History is full of examples and evidence of this. School encyclopaedias are full of things that originally very few people knew. Because of this, in all languages, big and small, with many or few speakers, or in languages whose societies still have some energy left to take care of themselves we consider our language such a one, tools are being implemented in order to get as much information as possible by means of translation. Just see how societies speaking languages with the highest number of speakers are normally those having the lowest proportions of bilingual persons or multilingual persons.

If we also bear in mind that most of the information being internationally exchanged belongs to the fields of science and their diffusion, it's obvious that there's a lot to do in terminology-making, for this is a multiple source of information. And the work to do is no less when we consider the precision demanded by scientific language of terminology banks for the control of the meaning of words.

This does not mean that translation is only justified when there are many people interested. The interest in knowing the information as precisely as possible often makes translation necessary. Indeed, you can't always ask both the message sender and the receiver in a communicative situation to know the same language in an adequate way, but even so it could happen that both wanted to know and control the precise information in all its nuances; also in such cases translation is needed. Think of contracts, for instance, or in the work of authorised translators; in these cases, prompted by the need for precision and control, the work of translators acquires a public and even institutional status, when a certain text attains legal value.

In a normal language situation these are the two kinds of translation generally used. And the abundance of information given in that way demands transmission speed and the test of reliability  and the need for fast transmission demands an easy and comfortable exchangeability between languages or language shift.

But to achieve that, either the languages would have to become more similar, almost a dialect of each other, almost making simultaneous and automatic literal translation possible (but in such a simple theory mankind and language practice are abstracted, and therefore it is absurd); or we would have to get deeper into translation theory and the knowledge and specific description of languages in which the theory is expressed. Along these lines, we could even propose automatic machine translation, for instance, in those fields where it can prove useful.

What happens, though, is that things are often put forward as if this communication by translation, in itself, would leave languages unchanged, without receiving each other's influence; that is, as if translation were a means of communication and a shut filter for interferences between the two. Perfect translation should be so, apparently. For the knowledge that contrastive linguistics provides about the two languages put face to face should result in an optimal transformation mechanism. But as it happens, this is never the case. One of the topics in this issue is Sergei Goncharenko's approach regarding the influence translation had in Russian literature.

In our case, the influence a language might have on another and the number of interferences it can create in the latter are even more evident. This is mostly due to the linguistic situation in this country. We can see that most citizens are capable of speaking non-Basque languages (Spanish or French) with normal proficiency, and some of them can also speak Basque (since there are almost no Basque monolingual persons left).

Things being so, a great deal of the information translated into Basque is created within our country. And consequently translation is a mode of activity for inner communication. But if the goal is that all Basques learn the language, in schools where this mode of communication is taught the task cannot be only to translate, but we'll have to bear in mind that one of the first goals is to erase the need to translate, that is, to make the environment Basque-speaking. In this sense, translation is absolutely linked to learning Basque, and is therefore closely related to language standardisation in this country.

But not only in the sense we mentioned above. Basque, due to the repression and exclusion it suffered, has been marginalized for many years, and left out of international channels during a century when information has spread incredibly. Therefore, it has not had the chance of updating regularly, and is lagging behind; at this moment, we can really say that our language doesn't meet today's needs.

Our misfortunes don't end there, though: on the contrary, since most Basque speakers are also Spanish/French speakers and are regarded as good in this regard, and since they more often use Spanish/French for communicative purposes, one should think that the more often one uses Spanish/French, the greater the chances are that, in one's Basque, numerous interferences from Spanish/French appear, and that the Basque language pattern, its inner logic, follows the Spanish/French structure - that is, that Spanish/French becomes the measure for Basque. And the Basque they speak appears also to be quite limited in structure. This might have to do with the fact that the Basque spoken on both sides of the border have less and less similarity.

If the language tendency described above is present amongst a big proportion of Basque speakers, as it is amongst specific age and social groups, we might conclude that the knowledge of Basque is reduced, even in the case of those who say they speak it. So, there's a notable Spanish/French interference in the speech of many who speak Basque  and, besides, even though the information they work with is most of the times created here, it sounds like the original was Spanish/French.

Therefore, virtually all Basque speakers, theory-driven or not, are somehow translators, compelled into being it due to the use and situation of our language.

Translation theory is important for the diffusion of Basque, for updating and shaping the language needed for the Basquisation of the Basque Country. To that end, translators and theorists will have to work hand in hand, in close coordination with agencies and people having an influence on this process.

Anyway, although translation theory and terminology, and even contrastive linguistics, are general concerns for all those working in the use of language in the above sense of half-translating, some are more affected than others. Certain institutions and people have a more direct interest in all things relative to translation and terminology-making.

Let us focus on these: where is most translation done in the Basque Country? Where is the greatest need for new terminology? The answer is: in Administration (city councils, regional governments, Basque Government, Basque Parliament), in text production (Basque Schools Federation, the Teachers' Association, Elhuyar, UZEI), in medium and high level studies (Basque University, Open University), in the media (radio, newspapers, magazines, Basque Television), in publishing houses, in language teaching. So the reflections we want to put forward by means of this translation and terminology magazine are directed to those working in these areas. That is, indeed, the aim of this magazine; that is exactly what we want to achieve. In the Basque Country there are people  more people than one might think at first sight  who, having to deal with translation and terminology, meet many problems. However, we don't know about each other, as we don't have a meeting place where we can think together about our work and go into depth about our criteria. Therefore, the first goal of this magazine is to be a meeting place for those of us who are interested in the field.

The idea is that we all make the magazine; it's open to anyone with something to say, something to ask or something to discuss. So it's not what some do for some others, but something we do all together for all of us.

Our second goal, since we are not alone in this world, is to inform about all that can be taken from theories abroad that could be valuable for us  that is, to be a means of communication between translators and terminology-makers from the Basque Country and those from abroad. Sometimes there will be references, or abstracts, also translations once in a while. Summing up, at first sight these would be the most appropriate topics for the magazine:

a) Theoretical:

1. Topics on translation theory
2. Topics on linguistics
3. History of translation
4. Literature and translation
5. Pragmatic translation
6. Terminology-making

b) News:

1. Reviews
2. Current news
3. Criticism

c) Professional situation:

1. Organising work
2. Working conditions

We think that a four-monthly issue will be enough for now. But if a need is felt for publishing special or monographic issues or any other initiative within these realms, there would be no problem doing this.

In order to fulfil this, the three existing associations doing some theory work on translation and terminology have joined forces: the Translators' School in Martutene, UZEI and Elhuyar. We have an editorial team, with an office at the Translators' School, who are in charge of the drawing up of the magazine and of any links that might arise in connection with the publication.

In short, this magazine involves a way of organisation and communication which could be used for those having an interest in the field. We think it is necessary to have a place where the fields of translation and terminology, which have so much to say in the advance of the Basque language, and also those pertaining to contrastive linguistics, can be discussed.

So welcome to you all, may this meeting place for all of us have a long life.

The editorial team.