Interview with Christiane Limbach


Ms Limbach has been a lecturer at the Department of Philology and Translation of the University Pablo de Olavide in Seville (UPO) (Spain) since 2013. She studied Anglistics and Hispanistics at the University of Cologne (Germany) and took an undergraduate degree. Received a Bachelor’s degree in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Granada (UGR) (Spain) and a Master’s degree in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Granada (Spain). The object of her PhD thesis was neutrality and audio description of audio-visual texts from a translatological point of view. She is specialist in accessible translation and her research interests lie also in interculturality and interpreting. Ms Limbach was a member of the research group TRACCE, coordinated by Catalina JimĂ©nez, at the UGR for 9 years and worked on a series of accessibility projects and projects of innovation such as DESAM. Since 2017, she has been a member of the research group TraducciĂłn Especializada y ComunicaciĂłn MultilingĂĽe coordinated by Ana Medina at the UPO, where she also participated in and coordinated projects of innovation. The main results of herresearch have been published as book chapters in prestigious editorials such as Peter Lang or De Gruyter Mouton as well as in high-impact journals.

1. At what stage in your professional journey, did translation start to intrigue you?

To be honest, I’ve been interested in translation all my life but, professionally speaking, it became intriguing when I started to study Translation and Interpreting in Spain. After finishing the undergraduate degree in Hispanistic Studies and Anglistic Studies at the University of Cologne (Germany), I moved to Spain. I studied Translation and Interpretation at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria for one year. After that I finished my degree at the University of Granada where I also completed a master’s degree and PhD in the same field. I am also a sworn translator for German and Spanish. Since then, translation and interpreting has become a very important part of my life. Living abroad and teaching translation and interpreting at the University Pablo de Olavide enables me to translate/interpret on a daily basis. Also, in my free time, when reading a book or watching a movie or series I think about translation and what the source text might have been or how something could be translated into another language.

2. In this new era of technology, how do you perceive the role of translators when dealing with new methodologies, for instance machine translation or software localization?

The fact, that in this new era of technology, translators are able both to work more efficiently and improve the quality of their work are, in my opinion, all thanks to these new tools. I see technology not so much a threat for the translator as it is often said but a chance to change the way we work and the fields we work in. Translators should work hand in hand with computer specialists in order to improve the data bases needed for machine translation and software localization. They can make use of machine translations (MT) or could translate with computer assistance (CAT) in order to save time, handle great volumes of texts and improve quality. Besides, other professions like software localizers, subtitlers, audio describers, etc. also increase. With the new methodologies new job opportunities arise and the fields translators can work in will become broader every time. For example, translators can also work in the field of accessibility and translate our environment for people with different needs. The jobs our students will get later in life are not even invented!

3. In what interesting projects have you recently been involved in? Could you elaborate on these?

Making our environment accessible is a project I have been working on for more or less ten years now. I started to investigate the field of audio description of films or audiovisual texts for the visually impaired, or blind people and subtitles for the deaf or hard of hearing. To be precise, this kind of translation (accessible translation) is a semiotic translation, where visual or audio information is translated into linguistic information, whether oral or written. Since then, I have widened the scope and participated, for instance, in a wonderful project called DESAM which was configured as a pilot scheme. In this project, our investigation group created a multimodal guide for parts of the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting (Facultad de Traducción e Interpretación) and for the Higher Technical School of Information Technology and Telecommunications Engineering (Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenerías Informática y de Telecomunicación) of the University of Granada, which can be used by different kinds of visitors (academic, touristic) with different needs. The guide, which works with the visitor’s own mobile phone and QR codes which were integrated at certain points in the building, offers information through audio description, sign language, subtitles or in different languages ( This way public buildings could be made more accessible for different types of users.
At the moment, our investigation group has at hand some new interesting projects in the field of accessibility and I am very excited to start working on them.

4. Assuming that you are familiar with IATE, do you find it helpful and is it part of your academic activity? Have you checked the new IATE?

In fact, IATE forms part of many translators’ activities as well as mine and it also forms part of my academic activity. In class, students come across terminology while translating and they need to inform themselves on it. That means, they have to understand the term in question, find translations for it and pay attention to the source of their information in order to know how reliable the translation they found is. Students also have to take into consideration the context the term appears in, as the meaning could change from one context to another. In order to correctly use the term in the target language, which in our class is the foreign language (German), it is also a good thing to see an example of the sentence in which the term is used.
So, the new IATE is a wonderful tool for translators and students because it offers all of these pieces of information as well as a wide range of terms and their translation into the official EU languages. It also offers other terms which are related in some way to the term searched for. Filters for more specific results can be found by expanding the search menu. In class, students have to integrate IATE in their “documentation phase” and work with it while translating. It’s an important tool they need to be familiar with, as well as all the types of information it offers. Last but not least, I also like the new interface of IATE.

5. What is the most challenging part of audio description? How do you deal with such difficulties?

The most challenging part in audio description above all is which information to provide in the limited amount of time there usually is for audio description. It is also very important to think of how to pass this information on to the users without influencing the recipient of the audio description in any way. (Thus, they are independent from the audio describer’s point of view and can form their own opinion.) The audio description should also be in harmony with the atmosphere of the things described and not overload the recipients’ cognitive capacity. Therefore, it is really complicated transmitting the information to the recipient in a way that means they receive the information as similar as possible as other people, in our case, the recipient of the source text.
In order to throw light on how recipients understand the pieces of information they receive, it is necessary to work hand in hand with the users of audio description and to collect data through questionnaires.
When it comes to providing instructions for visually impaired or blind people so that they are able to orientate themselves in spaces and move around by themselves, it also is essential to keep the user of the audio description safe. This is valid both, for inside and outside spaces, like for example in public buildings such as museums but also when doing outdoor activities like hiking. Visually impaired or blind people must be warned of obstacles in their way or dangerous parts of the way. Audio description and accessible translation is really still a big field to investigate as we are still, from an academical point of view, in our infancy in this area. In my opinion, the use of new technologies helps enormously to make our environment more accessible.

6. How important do you consider terminological research for a translator, especially when working on audio description?

Terminological research is very important for a translator as well as an audio describer as they have to express themselves precisely, concisely and accurately. It is necessary, first, to understand the terminology used in a certain text and then, secondly, to translate this terminology correctly, taking into consideration the new communicative situation in which the translation is used. Therefore, it might be necessary to adapt terminology to the recipient of the target text, for example appendicitis can be translated into German two ways, either with Appendizitis or with BlinddarmentzĂĽndung depending for instance on if the recipient is an expert (doctor) or a layman (patient).
The same is valid for audio description, the audio describer has to bear in mind who the target recipient is and has to ask themselves if the target recipient is familiar with the terminology he would like to use in the target text. Apart from this, when describing our environment, i.e. when translating a multimodal text, the audio describer has to relate the concept they observe to the term, the starting point therefore is not the term in another language but the concept itself. In a specialized environment, this can be very difficult. Definitions and pictures as well as information about the frequency the term is being used and the register it belongs to are essential information for the audio describer here.

7. Besides the maintenance of IATE, the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament aims to assist translators and improve research and management methods in terminology. Are you aware of the work of TermCoord and the website? What are your thoughts about it?

In my opinion, the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament does very valuable work assisting translators and improving research and management methods with a great variety of measures. I like navigating its website and looking for new and useful information. As mentioned before, not only do I work with IATE in class, but I also think the website offers very helpful information for students and prospective translators. At the menu point “opportunities” for instance you can find a long list of universities which offer bachelor and master studies in the field of translation, interpreting and terminology. Moreover, you can find job opportunities for terminology professionals. What is also very interesting is the cooperation with universities in the field of terminology, such as the terminology projects, the “Masters on terminology” or the traineeships TermCoord offers.
From a more professional point of view, the menu point “explore” is also very intriguing. Here you can find tutorials, tools and e-trainings, e-books and theses & papers to read, etc. Moreover, TermCoord offers a tremendous amount of links to external websites with more specific information and also seminars which can be attended.

8. Which book, paper, project, etc. would you recommend translators to read?

This is a very difficult question as there are so many books for translators. It really depends on the field you’re interested in or specializing in. Although, if I had to name one from the large variety of books for translators, I would definitely recommend “Traducción y Traductología. Introducción a la traductología” de Amparo Hurtado Albir (2011). This book is sometimes referred to as the Bible, as it contains a very wide-ranging overview of the development of translation studies, the different kinds of translation, interpreting, etc. It is a very good starting point for anyone interested in translation.
Christiane Nord is also highly recommendable as she is one of the most famous researchers in the field of translation. Her books “Textanalyse und Übersetzen: theoretische Grundlagen, Methode und didaktische Anwendung einer übersetzungsrelevanten Textanalyse” (2009) and “Fertigkeit Übersetzen: ein Kurs zum Übersetzenlehren und -lernen” (2010), to name only a few, are simply a must. This is particularly pertinent for translators with the linguistic combination German-Spanish or vice versa. Another book which is absolutely fascinating to read is “Las lenguas, ventanas que dan al mundo” de Gerd Wotjak (2006) because this book deals with the way reality is perceived and how this perception is reflected in our language and therefore differs from one language to another.
These are just a few books to get an overview of translating, of course. However, once a specific field of translation has been chosen, there are many others one could recommend.

Interviewed by Ioannis Bersos, terminology trainee at TermCoord. Ioannis was born in 1992 in Thessaloniki, Greece. He studied German Language and Literature at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and Translation at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. He has worked as an academic assistant at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. He participated in various academic projects within the university. He speaks Greek, German and English and he is passionate about photography. His master’s thesis was on the languages that refugees who came to Germany in 2016 and 2017 speak.