Member Profile: Ève-Marie Gendron-Pontbriand

1. Why did you choose Translation Studies?

Like many people, I discovered translation studies in an indirect manner. Though I’ve always liked languages, I originally planned to go into science. I started off doing a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology and Immunology at McGill University. Because I was in the Honours program, I had the opportunity to join a lab and do applied research, with test tubes, pipettes, lab mice—the whole works! But even back then, it was science writing that interested me most. I started pretty much by accident, revising articles written by several close colleagues. Seeing that I had a knack for writing, my director at the time almost invariably called on me to revise the lab’s written material, and she asked me to help her write review papers. At the same time, I had a friend in the Major in Translation at McGill, and he often talked about the courses he was taking. After many stimulating discussions, I decided to add a Minor in Translation to my studies. It became clear to me by the end that I was more at home in the world of language than in a science lab. When I finished my undergraduate degree, I enrolled in the graduate diploma in translation at the Université de Montréal, which had courses in medical and scientific translation that obviously appealed to me. That was where I met Sylvie Vandaele, who had also come to translation from a science background, and she became my research director. First at the master’s level then in the PhD, following her research program, I have been able to combine my two main areas of interest: science and language.

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

My research is on the French translations of Darwin’s ground-breaking work On the Origin of Species, in which he outlined his theory of evolution. I am examining the conceptual metaphors—as defined by Lakoff and Johnson—found therein. This means I follow the experientialist epistomology that underlies cognitive semantics. In terms of methodology, I favour corpus approaches, which allow me to trace a quantitative portrait of the factors being examined while leaving space for qualitative analysis. More broadly, I am interested in the key scientific texts and their dynamics of translation and retranslation.

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

Two musical highlights come to mind: first, the album “Damn” by Kendrick Lamar, with its powerful rhymes and uplifting melodies; second, the work of soprano Montserrat Caballé, whom I’ve just discovered. You can’t help crying when you hear her sing.

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

At university, perfectionism is so often rewarded that you’d think it’s a quality. But nothing could be farther from the truth. That’s what I discovered during my graduate studies. The quest for perfection feeds imposter syndrome, leads to procrastination and undermines self-esteem. It makes it impossible to achieve improvement or fulfilment. Letting go of that goal is no easy task—in fact, it’s an ongoing struggle, but it’s one that’s worth fighting.