I will regularly bring you “News from the world of Transitionese”, highlighting work being done on translations of resources and support material around the world, followed by a “Word of the month” and by a longer reflection.
We hope to spark conversations on the many different ways words and language shape our collective culture. Language used by readers and writers, speakers and listeners, is something alive and ever changing: please join the conversation to share your stories of being lost (or found) in translation, help shape our definitions, and step up to lend a hand coordinating translation efforts!
Get in touch in comments by email
Transition Network was contacted by a professor of editorial translation in the Université de Lille III to offer a collaboration: her students would translate Transition-related material as part of their studies. This could help get material translated, free of charge, while also getting students in touch with the ideas and stories connected to Transition. Could other nodes and Hubs create connections and partner up with Universities or language schools for this task?
What documents are being translated within the Transition movement? A lot of work is going into translations of the Essential Guide, which has been translated from English into French, Spanish, Russian and Italian with more languages coming soon, and the Health check activity, soon to be released in 16 languages.
Word of the month: Hub. A group of people working in service to, and as a resource centre for, local Transition initiatives in a specific area or territory.
Sometimes translated in French as sous-réseau (literally: sub-network); also in Spanish as red nacional de Transición (lit: national Transition network), although a Hub is not always identified with the borders of a Nation. A challenging word to translate: what works for you?
Lets talk about the words we are using
Once upon a time, I did a magic trick, turning currency into poultry. Here is my story: I was asked to be an interpreter at a peace studies conference in Assisi, Central Italy; it was a volunteer, last-minute thing, and I was in my first year at University. The fact that I am a native speaker of both English and Italian, available, and willing to work for free, was deemed more than enough to qualify me. In the first part of the day, working into Italian for an Israeli professor, I’d say I did all right. In the second, when translating the long and painful story of a Palestinian farmer’s experience at a checkpoint, I heard the word “shekel” and, instead of translating the name of the Israeli currency, decided it meant “chicken”. “I also suffered economic damage”, explained the man, in my translation, “In fact, we can say by being stopped that day I lost the equivalent of 500 chicken”. That got me a lot of embarrassed laughter and a cautionary tale about translations.
Flashforward to a few years later, once more I have taken a position as volunteer translator, same two languages. This time, I was Rob Hopkins’ interpreter at a talk he gave during the Hubs’ Gathering in Santorso, Italy. Despite Rob’s Italian being really good, the presentation was in English, with me doing the interpreting into Italian, consecutively (that is, Rob would stop every few sentences for me to speak, as opposed to simultaneous, which is what you do when you have a hefty budget and fancy earphones). But in Rob’s talk, there was a third language involved, one I’ve been speaking for years, one which we can call… Transitionese.
Like every group, movement or organisation, Transition has constructed a culture, and this culture includes a language which is partly a jargon, that is, a language of technical words only known to people in the same field. “We” define who “we” are also by using words that only “we” understand. This is part of creating “our” identity — we might for example be hubsters who’ve done a thrive training, while facilitating a local initiating group. “My steering group is right in the middle of storming” “Have you done a healthcheck? Are you risking burnout? And by the way, are you going to the regional Reconomy unleashing? I hear they’ll be holding a LEF!”
If all (or any) of that make sense to you… congratulations, you speak fluent Transitionese! And for those of you who do not, here is a rough translation: we might for example be members of a group supporting the Transition process in a national or regional area, who’ve done a training on how to collaborate and organise in a group of people who are working together for a long time, while assisting the development of a small group of locals trying to start a Transition process in their community. “The group I am part of, which is coordinating a series of projects around the area we live in is right in the middle of arguing a lot among ourselves” “Have you organised a meeting to review how the group is doing, using a tool created by Transition Network which contains questions to help participants focus on what is going well and what needs improvement? Are you risking exhaustion from overwork and taking on too many tasks and burdens? And by the way, are you going to the party to celebrate the start of a project for helping kick-off local businesses? I hear they’ll be presenting new business ideas from local people who want to start doing something new and need some support from the community in order to set their business up”.
Ok, that was hard. So, if you are writing blog posts or articles and would like them to be inclusive and accessible, limit the jargon. But also, look how long that paragraph becomes without jargon (and, incidentally, I didn’t even attempt to define “Transition” in there!). So jargon can help or hinder, depending on context and public: it’s a matter of awareness. How can we raise our awareness of the language we use, make it accessible without losing precision or poetry, co-create a language resilient enough to speak to the whole world, flowing and changing as it meets different cultures, adapting without losing its meaning?
Transitionese is a project started in 2016 to encourage and support linguistic diversity in the network. One of the ambitions is that this network become, more and more, a “learning network”, “una rete che apprende”, “una red de aprendizaje”, “uma rede de aprendizagem”, “een leernetwerk”, “Et læringsnetværk”, “Ett lärande nätverk”, “Egy tanulási hálózat”, reshet lomedetרשת לומדת, “mreža za učenje”, “o retea educationala”…
With Transition spread in over 50 Countries around the world, the movement is constantly faced with the complexity of being multi-lingual. We recognize the efficiency and usefulness of English as a working language. We also wish to honour, celebrate and empower the diversity of voices, dialects, alphabets and words which make up the Transition chorus.
How can we contribute to facilitating the bridging of language to language, which is also the bridging of culture to culture? And how can we support the work of translators around the world who are trying to wrap their heads around the difference between “steering group” and “initiating group”, or how to translate “healthcheck”?
I will be blogging regularly about languages and Transition. My dream is to contribute to spreading a culture of linguistic diversity and inclusion in the network, as well as to be of service as a “Transition Translator” to and from Italian and English.
I’ll include some movies, articles or books that honour the complexity of the translation process. That list that is definitely going to start with Arrival, the only movie I can think of in which a linguist is a superheroine… any other ideas?