November 12th, the date set for celebrating 10 years of successful research on both campuses of York University, was marred by the sudden death of one of its greatly respected participants: Glendon translation professor Daniel Simeoni. He was going to welcome visitors to the newly appointed Glendon lab of the Research Group on Translation & Transcultural Contact (RGTTC) for graduate research, which was under his direction. Instead, on the morning of November 12th, two of his colleagues, English professor Ian Martin and translation professor Maria Constanza Guzmán stepped into the breach and staffed the lab, ready to answer questions.
This new research group, established in 2007, and the RGTTC research lab constituted Simeoni’s project, from conceptualization to completion. No detail was too small for his attention, from the colour of the walls to the posters decorating the room; the computers and furniture were all selected by him to create a space which is ideal for research, as well as for student seminars and learned colloquia.
The RGTTC is an integral part of the University’s Centre for Research on Language Contact (CRLC), which brings together the research activities of the faculty members and students of York University, who investigate various aspects of language contact at both societal and individual levels.
One of Simeoni’s major achievements for the RGTTC is its trilingual (English-French-Spanish) website, which was entirely his concept and his work, and still under construction. The message of farewell on its home page says it all: “…He was always generous with his help, advice, and encouraging words, not just at the beginning of your studies but after their completion. You have all been able to appreciate his sound judgment, the depth of his knowledge in all the fields related to translation and beyond.”
Simeoni was a world authority on issues and concepts of translation. In 2005, he was chosen by the international community of translation scholars as the Chair of the Research Centre for Translation, Communication and Cultures (CETRA), based in San Pellegrino, Italy. He considered Toronto an ideal place for the study of translation, where “…160 languages are spoken and used professionally and in family environments in Toronto; 91,000 consider themselves genuinely bilingual, with 1,600 claiming as many as three native languages. Evidently, in this multilingual, multicultural context, translation, either textual or cultural, is a necessity. In this sense, Toronto constitutes an extraordinary field of research for all those interested in the high stakes of translation in the contemporary world.” So says Simeoni’s introduction on the RGTTC website.
An impressive list of participating scholars supports the RGTTC’s activities, with a number of projects in progress. For example, professors Guzmán, Martin and Rosalind Gill are involved in “Community, Translation and Interpreting”, a project in the form of a working group on language policy in Toronto. Simeoni himself was researching the importance of the translator’s habitus and had published extensively on this subject. He explored the notion that translators are not neutral, “transparent” media of textual processes, but rather products of their environment and the society they inhabit, factors which impact significantly on their output. The Group’s special lecture series, focusing on transcultural contact, has welcomed professor Sherry Simon from Concordia University; André Markowicz and Françoise Morvan, co-translators of the complete works of Dostoyevsky and Chekhov; and professor Jürgen Meisel of the University of Hamburg, currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Calgary – a specialist on sensitive periods in childhood language learning – among others .
“The RGTTC is an essential research group and part of Simeoni’s legacy, representing his vision of the transdisciplinary nature of translation studies in contemporary society”, said Guzmán. The group collaborates with many research centres and individual researches, reflecting Simeoni’s wide range of contacts, his energy, and complete focus on his work.
“Daniel saw this project as a hub of the global city that Toronto embodies”, added Martin, “and the group will continue working in the areas on which he was embarked.” Although the formal opening of the lab and of the CRLC was postponed as a result of Simeoni’s death, it will be rescheduled for a date in the near future.
This article was submitted by Glendon communications officer Marika Kemeny