Interview with María Isabel Fijo León

María Isabel Fijo LeónWhat first attracted you to the field of Terminology?

The year I started my thesis I was also teaching English for Specific Purposes in the Escuela Universitaria de Enfermería “Virgen del Rocío” in Sevilla. My thesis director, Antonio Garnica PhD, suggested that I investigated this kind of specialised language. I could use either a pure linguistic approach (as is used in English for Specific Purposes) or work from a terminological perspective. I chose the latter. I was attracted, as I still am, above all, to the interdisciplinary and the transdisciplinary character of terminology and its vital contribution to ordering, representing and communicating specific knowledge.

What is your opinion on the progress that has been made in the field of Spanish terminology? Do you think Spanish terminology has enough recognition in Spain and in Europe? What do you think the future holds?

The progress that has been made in the field of Spanish terminology is unquestionable. From the pioneer works of Amelia de Irazazábal up to the present day, terminological research in Spain has progressively increased in volume and improved in quality, and yes, I think it is well recognised in Spain as well as in Europe. A sign of the ‘good health’ of Spanish terminology is the number of researchers engaged in the field and the scientific quality of the contributions that have been made, and number of participants in the AETER and the RITerm congresses.

Do you think that enough effort is put into the field of Terminology or is there still a long way to go?

Although the evolution and development in Terminology in the last years was spectacular, there is still a lot to do, both on the theoretical level and on the applied level, and of course, on the academic one. Regarding this last aspect, and particularly in Spain, I believe that there should be more postgraduate courses specifically directed at terminological.

What is your greatest concern regarding the field of terminology right now?

In my opinion, it’s the same issue that all other disciplines face; an excessive “technologisation” that can cause us to forget the theoretical and methodological basis of terminology and concentrate exclusively on the technical aspects of terminological tools and applications. I think that this should be avoided. All the applied subjects (and the products that are created thanks to them) need to be based on strong theoretical and methodological bases which cannot be forgotten.

What do you think is the importance of terminology for translators?

Nowadays, it is impossible to imagine specialised translation without the help of terminological tools. However, it’s important that the translator not only uses these tools, but is also familiar with the basic principles of terminology and applies them to translation work. This is precisely the reason for including the subject “Terminology” in graduate and postgraduate degrees in Translation and Interpretation at Spanish universities.

I imagine that you are familiar with the IATE database, what do you think of it? Do you have any suggestions? Do you use it?

IATE is a big step forward compared to previous databases as Eurodicautom, essentially because it was designed based on terminological criteria. Of course, its value lies in the fact that it is a public tool, which is not only an advantage for language professionals but also reinforces the idea that knowledge, besides being stored, must, above all, be shared. I often use IATE for teaching purposes: IATE is a good example for teaching my students on the Degree in Translation and Interpretation what terminological databases are like, how they are structured, and how they can help with translation. My suggestion is more of a request: to keep IATE accessible and growing.

What do you think about proposals to standardise the use and the creation of databases? Do you think this is feasible and adequate?

I think yes, it is probably feasible, from both an exclusively technical point of view and from the point of view of user demand. And yes, adequate, provided that this standardisation does not neglect diversity in its broader sense: minor languages, culturally marked areas of expertise, diversity regarding objectives (commercial, educational), standardisation and users.

You were one of the researchers that worked on the Ictioterm project, could you tell us what this project is about? How did it come about? Would you consider it as one of your biggest achievements?

This project came about when the doctors Alberto Arias, CSIC biologist, and Mercedes de la Torre, from the University Pablo de Olavide, a professor of Spanish and expert in “ictionimia”, came in contact. They had both noticed, in their respective areas of specialisation, a high number of vernacular names used to designate the fish species that are commercialised in Andalucia. Ictioterm’s objetive is to compile, order and update the vernacular names used in the professional fishing sector off the Andalusian coast, as well as assign these names to the correct binomial scientific name-vernacular name. During the initial research phases we worked on the project from a terminological point of view, from there my participation which was for the most part limited to the design of the database. The existence of a multidisciplinary team of researchers made the final result (the ictioterm.es website) available for use by biologists, linguists and terminologists. No doubt this is one of the most interesting projects I have ever participated in.

Are there plans to launch the Ictioterm database at a national level and to include species which can be found off all Spanish coasts, not just of Andalusia?

This is our intention and we really want to, but, unfortunately, we have to consider the severe budget cuts in research funding in Spain. We hope that this situation will improve in the near future and that we can proceed with this project.

To conclude, could you give some advice to the new generation of students interested in wants to do terminology?

I would advise them to be conscious of the contribution terminology can make to society and to be aware of its needs and demands; to keep studying; to read a lot and reflect on terminology even more because, as I have said before, it does not seem possible to me to create quality terminological management applications without a deep knowledge of this discipline’s foundations and principles.


Lucia-Mesa-Socas-150x150Interviewer: Lucía Candelara Mesa Socas

Lucía was born in Spain in 1983. She graduated in English, Linguistics and Literature, then qualified as a primary school teacher specialising in foreign languages at the University of La Laguna in Tenerife. After that, Lucía moved to Brussels to pursue her passion for translation and teaching, currently studying Translation and New Technologies at the University Menendez Pelayo in collaboration with the ISTRAD. She is also studying Teaching of Spanish as a Second Language at the University of La Rioja. She speaks Spanish, English and French.

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