Made at KCL/ENS: A new collaborative translation project

The Glossa’s German and French Editors, Caroline Borowski and Sarah Jones, report from a joint translation project between King’s College and the École Normale Supérieure Lyon over the past year, and which is set to continue next year.

TLHub The project

Last Thursday saw the closure of what is set to become a regular feature in the King’s French department: a joint translation project between King’s College London and the École Normale Supérieure (ENS) Lyon, France. Kicking off with a cross-Channel video conference in January, the project gave participants the opportunity to translate texts in a genre (essays, poetry, fiction) and subject area (literature, philosophy, media studies, gender studies) of their choice. The fact that none of these texts had been translated before, meaning that all translations would be original, undoubtedly raised the stakes: translations would have to be pushed to the best possible quality, especially so as several of them were to be considered for publication in specialist journals. For all those interested in translation professionally, this was a unique opportunity to showcase and develop their translation skills in the company of like-minded literary linguists.

What makes this project stand out is the fact that the translators – including MA students, PhD candidates and lecturers – were paired up to make bilingual binômes of one Anglophone and one Francophone participant. Anglophones would translate a French text into English, and their Francophone counterpart an English text into French, then both would review each other’s work and discuss possible solutions. Acting in turn as translators, editors, negotiators and advisers, participants discovered the different stages of the translation process at the same time as learning to appreciate the cultural idiosyncrasies that inevitably need to be navigated: how do you convey the idea of a Victorian “gin palace” in French? Or the quintessentially French phenomenon of the literary rentrée?

“Collaborative translation also challenges the traditional idea that a translation can only be done by one person who gives the text a unique voice and interpretation,” explains Dr Soizick Solman, project leader on the British side. “Having several voices that become one is a challenge that we give students the opportunity to take on.” The result is a text that draws on its particular translator’s linguistic experience and stylistic preferences yet pools the skills and cultural expression of two minds: “a work they can both call their own,” Solman says.

Beyond translation techniques, cultural awareness and teamwork skills, participants also stood to make good use of technology. Via Google Hangout and Skype, they were able to maintain face-to-face contact with their partners when discussing their translations, while TLHub, a specially designed “social network for translation” that shares many features with other professional CAT (Computer-Assisted Translation) tools, was the main work platform. It allows translators to work collaboratively on joint documents in real time, stores consecutive editions of a translation and features a comment section where particular sections can be discussed. This year’s project wrapped up with forum de traduction and talk by Barbara Cassin, philosopher and translator, at the Institut français on June 25 (see below). It stands in context with other translation projects in French Department, including joint programmes with Paris X Nanterre and Henri IV or a fourth-year BA performance of Maréchal’s Le jugement dernier des rois in translation in June, and is expected to continue next year.

If you would be interested in participating in next year’s project, contact Soizick Solman at


If you would like to report on a project at King’s, get in contact with The Glossa’s Editor Steph at


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