A new space for integrating language and culture; and for integrating teaching and research: A student conference on the theme of “Translation: above and beyond wor(l)ds” (Saturday 5th March 2022)
Christopher Da-Silva (Essex University) and Anna Johnston (Durham University)

At the inception of the project is the realisation that language learning remains very compartmentalised with splits between culture and language; degree programme and IWLP; and teaching and research. The project thus aimed to do away with those dichotomies by creating a space beyond those immediate constraints to enable students to meaningfully engage with language learning and research.
With the collaboration of Dr Isabelle Ruegg Alter (Newcastle University) and Dr Thomas Jochum-Critchley (University of York) and with the support of Laura Lewis (Durham University), we organised a student conference open to all language learners in the four participating universities (Durham, Essex, Newcastle and York) at UG, MA and PhD levels. The conference also aimed to celebrate language learning at a time of language department closures and decline in language take up, and aimed to celebrate the diversity of languages and of formats and approaches language learning can take.
The conference’s theme was “Translation: above and beyond wor(l)ds” with ‘translation’ taken in all its meanings: from the literal act of translating language to that of translating culture(s) and the experience of becoming acquainted with those. The conference thus drew on key themes of intercultural awareness as well as the act of positioning oneself in relation to others.

Call for papers

The conference took place on Saturday 5th March 2022 and started with a roundtable discussion with award-winning translator Tina Kover. In line with the conference’s themes, Tina discussed her experience of translating, making sense of texts and language, and of encountering and dealing with the unknown. To do so, Tina drew not only on her experience as a translator but also on her experience as a language learner and as someone who has lived in three different countries.

Tina Kover

The conference itself saw papers and a roundtable discussion on topics as varied as Language policies in Morocco and Tunisia: Translating language knowledge into socioeconomic inequalities (Giacomo Iazzetta, Essex University), Translating institutions: when linguistic and cultural mediators facilitate migrants’ understanding of the institutional context (Daniele Urlotti, York University), Mallarmé’s ‘Le vierge, le vivace et le bel aujourd’hui’ through the lens of Walter Benjamin’s theory of translation (Conor Donoher, Durham University), Exhibited translations: when translating becomes spectacular (the translator role in poetic translations) (Roberta Passaghe, Durham University) and Native speaker’s perception of a foreign voice and verbalisation of L1 concepts (Marcella Ventura, Essex University).

The funding received from UCML supported the award of grants and prizes to participants.

The conference was well attended by students and teachers from the four participating universities.

Building on the success of this conference and to maximise impact, we are now planning to organise another conference in the next academic year open to all language learners across all British universities as well as IB/A Level learners.

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