Christopher Da-Silva (Essex University) and Anna Johnston (Durham University)
We were very generously awarded £800 by UCML in support of the organisation of a student conference on the theme of: “Translation: above and beyond wor(l)ds” with, as subthemes:
- Translation in the sense of how one translates (in its broadest meaning) the experience of a foreign culture to their own understanding;
- how one can verbalize or draw meaning from a language experience;
- how worldviews translate or shift across different cultures.
The conference was open to learners of the French and had the following objectives:
For students and learners:
- To promote languages in a geographical area where language take-up is at an
- all-time lowTo highlight the relevance of languages in negotiating various cultures at a time
- of withdrawal from the continent;
- To create opportunities for student-led and student-centred research;To experience, study and reflect on language through new fields and perspectives
- (for language students);
- To explore new fields related to languages that also resonate with the students’ own area of studies and interests, and to widen the research carried out in their respective fields to that of languages (for non-specialists);
- To develop partnerships with students from other degrees, specialisms and levels;
- To highlight the pivotal role of the study of languages in today’s world;
- To gain transferable skills and increase student employability.
At institutional level:
- To send a strong message on the importance of languages at a time of closures of Schools of Languages in the area (ex. Sunderland, Hull, Salford);
- To foster new interdisciplinary collaborations at student-level by breaking down the compartmentalisation of research in language vs. content on the one side, and by breaking down the compartmentalisation of specialist vs. non-specialist students on the other side;
- To enhance the study of languages in today’s world, where political tensions are constantly questioning the future of languages; and thus, to defend language(s) as a whole;
- To develop new methodologies for integrating linguistic and other thematic interests;
- To reinforce universities’ research-led and research-based teaching and learning strategies;
- To set the stepping stone for further collaboration between schools of languages and Institution-Wide Language Programmes (IWLP), and between IWLP themselves.
The conference had originally been scheduled to take place in AY 2020-2021 but was put on hold because of the pandemic with the grant kindly differed to AY 2021-2022.
The pandemic proved a great pedagogical opportunity for us to rethink the delivery of the conference: what would have been a face-to-face conference was turned into an online conference. The benefits of the switch were several-fold:
- Concretely speaking, it enabled us to redirect some of the funds originally allocated to the immediate running of the conference (catering, print-outs, etc) for a more meaningful use in the form of grants, prizes and an external speaker.
- It enabled us to open the conference to a wider audience, thus maximising reach and impact. Indeed, the conference was run in conjunction with Essex, Newcastle and York Universities.
- This also translated into links and partnerships with colleagues from partner universities, which will open new doors for future collaborations.
The conference took place online on Saturday 5th March. It kicked off with a roundtable discussion with award-winning translator Tina Kover and was followed by a series of papers and roundtable discussions with a mix of student presenters (UG, MA, PhD) (See appendix 3). A range of languages – Arabic, French, German, Italian – and approaches – languages and institutions; translating poetry, verbalising concepts – were covered fully encapsulating the breadth and scope the organisers had intended for the conference to take.
There were 85 registrations for the conference, consisting of a mix of UG, MA, PhD candidates as well as teachers from the four participating universities. Recordings of the presentations can be found at this address: Student Conference 2021-22 – YouTube . Students were also given the opportunity to write follow-up blogs and to provide subtitles to the recordings into their target language, thus giving a further dimension to the theme of ‘translation’.
The aforementioned recordings and blogs will soon be found at this address: Dynamics of Languages in Society (2022) – Scholarship in language education (wordpress.com)