Epistemology and history
Every historical period produces and reconfigures knowledge, depending on which of its elements are valued or repressed, in ways that can often seem arbitrary. What are the reasons behind choosing specific texts and authors, and how are these texts translated? How is the way we conceptualize and grasp the world transmitted from one culture to the next, from one generation to the next? How does translation contribute to paradigm shifts in various sciences and technologies? Does it contribute to scientific revolutions (Kuhn)? What distinguishes the different historical contexts that have facilitated or blocked the importation or exportation of scientific or technical texts? Lastly, to what extent is translation intertwined with the history of science and ideas?
Discourse and terminology
Scientific and technical knowledge is not homogenous, nor are writing practices. Hence, editing standards and the value attributed to certain discursive forms vary from one domain to the next: one does not publish and write the same way in physics, biomedicine or computer science. Furthermore, the type of scientific discourse and the target readership impose functional restrictions: how does translation deal with these? What role does it play in the transmission of technoscientific codes originating from dominant language-cultures? Is there a resistance? Does translation have an influence on writing conventions? As concerns terminology, the last 20 years have brought to light its dynamic aspects and its various influences. There are in fact economic advantages linked to mastering scientific terminology and lexicons, but questions of identity can also be at stake. What are the consequences of linguistic interference? Can translation still pass on knowledge to different social strata when scientific and technical training is given in a language other than the vernacular?
Following the victory of positivism at the beginning of the 20th century, the universality of scientific knowledge and its truth value came under close scrutiny, kindling a major debate. Between Lyotard (The Postmodern Condition) and Sokal (Intellectual Impostures), where do we stand now? What legitimacy should be given to scientific discourse? And to its translation? Do we translate objective accounts of scientific facts or merely hypotheses considered to be true by the scientific or even non-scientific community? Which rhetorical and discursive devices are used not only by scientists but also, and especially, by those who exploit science for their own ends? How does translation contribute to the strategies used in the supposedly neutral and objective texts that it disseminates?
Lastly, the social role of translators as well as their relationship with different social actors have sparked strong interest these last few years. Who sponsors the translation of scientific books and technical texts? For whom do translation firms and freelance translators work and what are their standards? What are the working conditions in various contexts where translation is practised? Through which structures are texts published and circulated? To what extent does translation contribute to the scientific establishment and to the popularization of science?
Pedagogy and teaching of scientific and technical translation
Must one be a scientist or an engineer to translate scientific or technical texts? How does one become a specialized translator? Though these questions are classic, they can be revisited in original ways. What role is played by Internet—part blessing, part curse—in helping learners? Are there new ways of teaching? And last but not least, how can the old dichotomy between practice and theory find a fruitful outcome in order to better equip the entire profession and help its members to promote their expertise?
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