METM22 panel

Language inherited and inhabited: multilingualism, selves and worlds

Aleksandra Chlon, Edinburgh, Scotland; Kate Sotejeff-Wilson, Jyväskylä, Finland; Theresa Truax-Gischler, Leiden, Netherlands; Linda Jayne Turner, Prague, Czech Republic. Moderator: Wendy Baldwin, Donostia/San Sebastián, Spain

Language shapes our sense of self and connects us with others and the world. In her new book, Memory Speaks: On Losing and Reclaiming Language and Self, linguist Julie Sedivy explores the affective dimension of being multilingual. She looks at the personal, psychological, social and political aspects of learning, using, forgetting and reclaiming a language. These issues are fundamental to our work as translators and editors, yet we rarely explore them in professional settings.

This panel will discuss how the issues Sedivy raises resonate with our personal multilingual backgrounds and professional practice:
  • How does our language heritage/development shape our professional interactions?
  • How do we deal with real or perceived deficits in our language(s), whether through "insufficient" learning or attrition?
  • How does an understanding of a language’s heritage help us better serve clients and texts from or for minority/lesser spoken languages such as Basque, Czech, Finnish, Polish and Turkish?
  • How can the linguistic research that Sedivy provides in her book help us take better care of our clients and their texts?
  • How do our languages fit into our professional interactions and how do considerations of multilingualism, a language’s minority status, or speakers’ heritage come into play?
Following discussion by the panellists and moderator, the audience will be invited to join and share their insights.

Most METM attendees live and work in highly multilingual contexts, but even if you are a monolingual editor for “native” English-speaking clients, you and they have linguistic heritages that influence your work. This panel will increase our awareness of how the languages we learn, use and forget shape our identity. By letting our memories and our multilingualism speak, we can reclaim language for ourselves and our clients.
[Read a member’s review of the presentation.]

About the panellists

Wendy Baldwin was captivated by Spanish as a teenager in Los Angeles and followed it (and linguistics/other languages) across continents until she landed in the Basque Country. An authors’ editor and Spanish-English translator specializing in the social sciences, she also trains developing scholar-writers and runs writing retreats for academics.

Aleksandra Chlon had a multicultural upbringing in a number of European countries including Poland, Finland, Belgium, Estonia and Scotland, resulting in a patchwork accent, an identity crisis and a yearning for roots. She translates from French, Polish and Russian into English, and works in the medical and marketing fields.

Kate Sotejeff-Wilson enjoys midwifing people’s texts into being. She translates from Finnish, German and Polish, edits for multilingual authors writing in English, and runs writing retreats. Born in Wales, she did her history PhD research in London, Berlin, Poznań and Warsaw and is now also a Finn.

Theresa Truax-Gischler is a multilingual book editor in the narrative social sciences and humanities. Only by teaching her daughter, who has a multiple communication disability, how to "speak" with signs and speech-generating devices did she come to understand the central role language plays in mediating between the self and the world.

Linda Jayne Turner is an academic editor working mainly in the social sciences. Originally from Yorkshire in the UK, she has been based in Prague since 2004 and has recently obtained Czech citizenship. She studied in Scotland and has previously lived and worked in Germany, France and Russia.