Member Profile: Brian Mossop

1. Why did you choose Translation Studies?

I came to TS by chance. First, I became a translator, also by chance. One day in the early 1970s, when I was a grad student of linguistics studying the syntax of Ojibwa, the Indigenous language spoken in the Toronto area, I happened to see a newspaper ad for positions as federal government translators. After a few years at the Translation Bureau, I was invited to teach at the new Translation School at York University in 1980. I continued to work full-time at the Bureau for 40 years, with side interests in teaching translation and writing about it. Since retiring from translation, I’ve continued with the teaching and writing. In short, I’ve been what Daniel Gile called, many years ago, a practisearcher.

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

I’m currently elaborating a new translation metaphor: the act of translating is like walking through a certain kind of maze. I’ve been fascinated by mazes since I was a boy: I made paths with choice points and dead ends in the snow in our back yard. As for fields of research, I’ve always been a bit of a butterfly, flitting from one topic to another. I’ve published on translation and scifi, translation and music, translation and math, translation technology, translation pedagogy, translators’ workplace procedures, translation institutions, intersemiotic and intralingual translation, and revision.

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

As a gay man, I adore the way Cree artist Kent Monkman incorporates gay content into his paintings about Indigenous/settler relations. Bookwise, The End of Everything by physicist Katie Mack goes over the various ways it’s thought the universe will end. One possibility, it seems, is that the whole thing could at any time be replaced by a different universe (with different particles, forces and laws). We and our planet would vanish in an instant!

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

Don’t imagine that you’re going to create an all-encompassing theory of translation; 400 years after Galileo, the physicists still haven’t figured out how all the particles and forces fit together. In TS, there still isn’t any agreement on what the object of study is. When you’re starting, stick with very small topics; wider perspectives may pop into your mind later. Also, don’t be afraid to tackle old issues: there’s no need to create new topics for investigation; it’s not as if the old questions about translation have already been answered.