Member Profile: Isabelle Collombat

Why did you choose Translation Studies?

Actually, I first chose to be a translator, then I became a translation studies scholar.

As a translator, I am motivated by the same things that motivate me as a translation studies scholar: the opportunity to satisfy my curiosity through a wide range of themes, subjects and approaches. Translation studies is a multi-faceted discipline that allows for fascinating incursions into many other more or less related fields like sociology, anthropology, the arts, ethnology, philosophy, didactics and language sciences. And like any discipline centred on a profession, translation studies offers a chance to go inside the “black box” of the practitioner to elucidate the processes at work and seek out and understand the issues and how they evolve.

What are you working on at the moment? What are your areas of research?

My research interests revolve around four main areas: the didactics of translation; metatranslational themes; diatopic variation in literary and pragmatic translation; and the translation of metaphor.

The didactics of translation, in my opinion, represents a central pillar of translation studies in that it values translation practice and practitioners. What I call metatranslational themes refers to themes and objects that revolve fairly directly around translation and the act of translating and that expand the boundaries of the paradigm: pseudo-translation, retranslation, and considerations linked to professional attitudes like self-confidence, negotiation, etc. Diatopic variation is something that I do not consider only from a linguistic perspective: it’s an essential component of my identity as a Franco-Canadian translator and translation studies scholar. Lastly, the translation of metaphor is, for me, indicative of the scope of the translator’s decision-making.
Looking back, I realize that over the course of my research and publications, especially those that focus on professional practice and didactics, I’ve increasingly come to favour a humanist approach to translation. Today, I apply that approach in a much more deliberate manner in my teaching. For example, in the coming years, I’d like to explore the gap that seems to be emerging between what I experience as humanist necessity and the arrival of automatic translation.

And, of course, I’d like to have more time to simply translate.

What book/film/band has made the biggest impression on you recently?

We’re living in a time of such cultural and information overload that it’s becoming difficult to choose one book or film, or even decide which has had the most impact on us. On the other hand, in the case of music I find that very abundance to be stimulating: music streaming platforms have more than enough variety to satisfy my curiosity and my natural tendency towards eclecticism.

If you had one piece of advice to give to new Translation Studies students, what would it be?

Try to find a balance between reason and passion. Choose a research subject that you like and that suits you, and don’t be afraid to step off the beaten path. But know how to limit your topic and objectives so you are able to carry out your research in a reasonable length of time and with means appropriate to the purpose. Don’t forget that the best master’s or doctoral thesis is the one that’s finished!

Try to bring together creativity and discipline. You can investigate everything, but not any which way. Take advantage of the many methodologies that can be applied to translation studies–empirical, qualitative, ethnographic, corpus studies–to best serve your research.

Be committed without losing a sense of detachment. Translation studies can be played out on all fronts: research itself (master’s or doctoral thesis, publications, papers), but also teaching and professional practice. Don’t neglect any of these three poles, as each contributes to your professional CV. At the same time, know when you need to take a step back: take a break in your research if it’s not going anywhere, take the time to make careful choices, change direction when necessary.