PUBlic Professor Series | Dr. Alain Takam

Translating in a context of official bilingualism: What happens to the minority language?

Dr. Alain Takam, Department of Modern Languages & Linguistics

Most teachers and educators, translators and interpreters look at interference as a serious language mistake. Interferences are traces of one language in another language. For example, it is observed that Canadian French is heavily influenced by the majority language, English. On the other hand, Cameroon English is heavily influenced, in much the same way, by French, which is the majority language in that country. In both contexts, is this influence avoidable? Is it always a problem?

Whatever the case, translators and educators are normally enjoined to guard against such misuses that threaten the integrity of a specific language and its culture. This prescriptive point of view, which stems from de Saussure’s structural approach to language, does not seem to be tenable in a situation of social and official bilingualism. The objective of this presentation is thus to show that interference, as criticized as it might be from language purists and educators, can still be a good solution to translation and communication in a situation of official or State bilingualism. Canada and Cameroon, the two countries that apply the official policy of English and French bilingualism, will provide ample illustrations during this presentation.

Alain Flaubert Takam, a former Killam Scholar from Dalhousie University, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, University of Lethbridge where he teaches French and Linguistics. His current research focuses on language in education planning (acquisition planning), that is, language planning as it relates to the teaching and learning of minority languages in a bilingual or multilingual context. He also carries out research in the fields of endangered language revitalization, contact linguistics, language variation, the sociolinguistics of translation and socio-pragmatics. His most recent publications include:

  • (2020) The Influence of (post-)colonial language policies on local Cameroon languages: an acquisition planning perspective.” The Journal of African Policy Studies, 31 – 67;
  • (2020) (With Steven Gillis) « Ça n’a rien à voir ni avec ma vie ni avec mon avenir, donc pourquoi continuer ? » Explorer les raisons auto-déclarées du peu d’engouement au FLS dans des écoles secondaires en Alberta. Linguistica Atlantica 38(1), 1–22;
  • (2020) (With Innocent Fassé) English and French Bilingual Education and language policy in Cameroon: the bottom-up approach or the policy of no policy? Language Policy (LPOL) Journal 19(1);
  • (2019) Revitalisation of minority languages through the media: The Cameroon experience. In Kamtchueng, L., Tabe, C. & Nkemleke, D. (eds.), Language, Media and Technologies: Usages, Forms and Functions (pp. 6-41). Munich: LINCOM;
  • (2018) (With Innocent Fassé). Language policy in education: second official language in (technical) education in Canada and Cameroon. Journal of Education and Learning 7(4), 20–31;
  • (2017) Revitalisation des langues minoritaires par les médias : étude de quelques stratégies de promotion des langues autochtones au Canada. Linguistica Atlantica 36 (2), 111–139.;
  • (2016) Système de l’adresse et travail des faces au Cameroun : vers une stratégie d’évitement des anthroponymes. In Bernard Mulo Farenkia (ed.), Im/politesse et rituels interactionnels en contextes plurilingues et multiculturels (pp. 121–152). Frankfurt am Main : Peter Lang ;
  • (2016) Revitalisation of indigenous languages in the Canadian school system: An analysis of some strategies and approaches.” In A. Healey, R. Napoleão de Souza, P. Pešková & M. Allen (eds). Proceedings of the 11th High Desert Linguistics Society (HDLS 11) Conference 11, (pp. 346–372). Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA.

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