Working Together: Modern Languages and Libraries in the UK – 4th September 2019

This one-day conference, organised by the West European Studies Library and Information Network (WESLINE), aimed to review the state of modern languages teaching and learning in the UK now and in the future, and explore innovative ways in which researchers and librarians could work together to support learning, teaching and research in modern languages.

Marion Loire, Head Librarian at the Institut français, welcomed us to their elegant building in South Kensington. Janet Zmroczek, Head of European and Americas Collections at the British Library, gave an introduction to the first panel on ‘The future of languages in the UK: advocacy, policy making, teaching and learning.’ She noted what a unique opportunity the conference was to gather together librarians, educators and students from different backgrounds to share experiences and insight.

Nicola McLelland, Professor of German and History of Linguistics at the University of Nottingham, commenced the first session with an overview of the history of language teaching and learning in Britain. We learnt that concerns about the state of languages in the UK are not new; characterised as ‘100 years of worrying’ since the 1918 Leathes Report! However, there is a real concern about the downgrading of languages at school level. Student numbers are down compared with the 1960s and 1980s, and Nicola made a strong case for a national languages strategy in England. Click on the image below to take a look at Nicola’s presentation for more detail:

Click on the image to open Nicola McLelland's presentation in PDF format.

Nick Mair, Director of Languages at Dulwich College, spoke about language learning in secondary schools with a particular focus on changes over time to the A-level syllabus. The top three issues putting students off from taking languages at A-level were i) severe grading compared with other subjects; ii) lower percentage of students gaining A* required for competitive university places; and iii) unpredictable marking. Interestingly, due to the way that the exams are graded, language A-levels have a unique problem with native speakers skewing results – which helps lead to some of the issues outlined above. See Nick’s presentation for more details:

Click on the image to open a PDF version of Nick Mair's presentation.

Claire Gorrara, Professor of French at the University of Cardiff and Chair of the University Council of Modern Languages, gave a powerful presentation on language activism and advocacy. Language is a political issue and could be linked to social advantage/disadvantage. Despite the rhetoric of UK monolingualism, we are a multilingual group of nations both historically and currently and we should capitalise on this. Claire felt it was important to make the case for all languages (dropping the usual ‘modern’ and/or ‘foreign’), and to collaborate rather than compete when it came to lobbying for languages. See the full presentation here:

Click on the image to open Claire Gorrara's presentation in PDF format.

To round off the first session, Neil Kenny – Lead Fellow for Languages at the British Academy, and Professor of French at the University of Oxford – drew attention to a number of reports which call for the government to create a national languages strategy. [More detail at] He proposed the creation of an umbrella portal to gather together information about languages in one place, helping to stimulate links between different groups and making it easier to forge connections. Languages need a high-visibility platform and strategic coordination from government in order to tackle the current crisis.

In the Q&A session, all four speakers highlighted the importance of learning languages not just as a key communications skill, but as a way of accessing a different mindset and opening yourself up to other cultures and communities. Although economic arguments in favour of languages are common, these are rarely the reasons that motivate us to learn a new language. Language learning opens a door to new experiences and ways of seeing and understanding the world around us, and people in the UK should have opportunities to embrace this at any stage of life, not just through formal education.


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WESLINE conference registration now open!

Registration for this year’s WESLINE conference is now open! The event will take place at the Institut français in London on Wednesday 4 September 2019, kindly hosted by Marion Loire, the Head Librarian.  The overarching themes of the conference are the state of modern languages teaching and learning in the UK and predictions for the future, and the ways in which libraries and library language groups can be innovative in supporting language learning, teaching and research in modern languages.

Please find the draft programme and registration form below. All welcome!

WESLINE 2019 provisional programme

WESLINE 2019 Registration Form

Please register by Wednesday 28th August.

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Save the date! WESLINE conference, 4th Sept 2019

We are delighted to announce that this year’s WESLINE conference will take place at the Institut français in London on Wednesday 4 September 2019, kindly hosted by Marion Loire, the Head Librarian.  The overarching themes of the conference are the state of modern languages teaching and learning in the UK and predictions for the future, and the ways in which libraries and library language groups can be innovative in supporting language learning, teaching and research in modern languages.

The full conference programme is yet to be finalised, but will include panels on:

The future of languages A panel on modern languages in schools and universities.

What can libraries do?  A round table discussion on the role of libraries in fostering the learning of modern languages and supporting research.

The future of languages librarianship A workshop/open discussion on the proposals for a refreshed library group provisionally named the Modern Languages and Cultures Library Group.

More detail and information on how to book to follow.  For now, please hold the date!


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ACLAIIR seminar & translation slam – the report

Many thanks to everyone who attended our translation seminar on 5th June. We received great comments and feedback from all of you, and we’re really pleased that everyone found the day interesting and informative. It was great to see so many students, translators and librarians meeting and making connections from across the country .

If you enjoyed the seminar and would like to support ACLAIIR so that we can continue to hold similar events, please consider becoming a member. Our aim is to highlight Latin American and Iberian information resources in libraries and to work with users of those materials to advance knowledge in the field. Annual membership is just £20 and includes a copy of our Newsletter. Students can join and attend most events free of charge. Click here for the membership form.

For those of you unable to attend our latest seminar, here’s a report of the day including our translators’ passages from the translation slam.

ACLAIIR Seminar 

Richard Mansell began the seminar with a really useful overview of translation studies in the UK. He described some of the areas covered by translation studies, and highlighted the fact that creative writing and technical writing were often omitted from the field. Different countries also had different types of courses and levels of professionalisation for translators, meaning that the career path for one translator could be very different from another.  You can view the slides from Richard’s presentation here, including a very useful page of links to translation associations and groups.

Next up was Jennifer Arnold who spoke about the reception of translated fiction in the UK, with a focus on Catalan literature. Literature Across Frontiers (LAF) published a report in May 2015 entitled Publishing translated literature in the United Kingdom and Ireland, 1990 – 2012, which aimed to remedy the absence of reliable statistics on the state of translated literature in the UK publishing field. The oft-quoted 3% figure of works in translation turned out to be roughly accurate, and it is interesting to compare this to other countries where the percentage is much higher, e.g. 12% in Germany, 16% in France and 20% in Italy.

Focusing on Catalan, Jenny emphasised that the Institut Ramón Llull, formed in 2002, had a clear cultural agenda to promote Catalan language, literature and culture though translation. The Catalan government financed this agenda, which helped to support translators and also enabled publishers to purchase translation rights. The IRL has also provided specific courses on how to translate from Catalan into English. This high-level and well-financed support has made a difference to the visibility and success of Catalan literature in translation, particularly since 2007 when Catalonia was the guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

To complete our seminar session, Tom Boll spoke about his work on the archives of J.M. Cohen and Gregory Rabassa. Cohen was associated with Penguin Books and their national anthologies.

The Cohen Collection at Queen’s College, Cambridge holds original correspondence from Cohen as well as other background material, whilst the University of Bristol holds the Penguin Archive. For more information on J.M. Cohen, see ACLAIIR member Vladimir Alexander Smith-Mesa’s article on our blog.

Gregory Rabassa was most well-known for his translations of Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela (translated as Hopscotch) and Gabriel García Márquez’s Cien años de soledad (One hundred years of solitude). Part of Rabassa’s archives can be found at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Centre as the Gregory Rabassa collection, consisting of manuscripts, correspondence, printed materials, and subject files. There is also relevant material relating to Rabassa’s translation of José Lezama Lima’s Paradiso, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 1974, in the company’s archives held at the New York Public Library.

Tom stated that the material in archives can be disparate and one-sided or fragmentary, challenging us when it comes to drawing a conclusion about a person or situation. This poses an interesting question about methodology when it comes to using archives in research. How reliable can they be? They certainly help to give an insight into personal relationships, in this case between authors, translators and publishers. Letters, memos and notes can be written with differing levels of formality and tone. This kind of material can provide an extra facet to our reading and analysis of a translated text.

Translation Slam

To close the evening, Rosalind Harvey and Sophie Hughes presented their translated versions of an extract from Mónica Ojeda’s Nefando. Peter Bush posed questions to both Sophie and Rosalind about their translations, noting the differences and similarities in their texts. In fact, this passage was an excellent choice for a slam as it turned out that only about 25% of each translation was the same as the other, so there was plenty of variation to be discussed! We started with a good-humoured conversation about the Spanish word mierda and whether this was best translated in this context as ‘crap’ or ‘shit’. This brought up a number of issues around translating an isolated extract rather than the whole book. The translators felt that this was something they would potentially change once the full text was translated and they had more of a feel for the character in question.

One stylistic point about the passage which had to be taken into account was the use of two different voices. From the extract we assumed that this was the same character, but that one of the voices was her ‘writer’s voice’. This again was challenging, as the register was quite different from the ‘normal’ narrative. There was also some very unusual word combinations, such as un refugio-reptil-muro, which had the potential to pose some difficulty for the translator. A refuge-reptile-wall? Or a wall of refuge for reptiles?

To see how Sophie and Rosalind translated the extract, please see the links below.

Nefando translated by Sophie Hughes

Nefando translated by Rosalind Harvey

Overall the slam was a really interesting way of discussing the translation process from different points of view, and hearing about how translators make choices about the text. There was also some discussion about interaction with the author of the original text – not always possible but very helpful in some cases – and the role of the publisher in facilitating the translation process.

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AGM & Seminar 2017 – Monday 5th June, Oxford

We are delighted to announce that this year’s AGM & Seminar will take place on Monday 5th June at the Weston Library, Oxford. The theme of the seminar is Translation Studies, and we have an excellent line-up of speakers presenting this growing area of academic interest from a Hispanic perspective.

Speakers include Jennifer Arnold (Birmingham University), Tom Boll (UEA) and Richard Mansell (Exeter University). The event will end with a translation ‘slam’, moderated by Peter Bush. Literary translators Rosalind Harvey and Sophie Hughes will each argue for their versions of a chosen extract from Mónica Ojeda’s Nefando (Candaya, 2016).

A more detailed programme including the booking form is available at the link below.

As usual, students are welcome to attend the seminar free of charge. Please note that booking is required as places are limited and registration is compulsory due to the access requirements of the venue.

To reserve your place, please fill in and return the booking form by Tuesday 30th May.

ACLAIIR AGM 2017 programme and booking form

Conference poster

We look forward to seeing you in Oxford!

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POSTPONED Library and Information Resources for Iberian Studies, Friday 10th February

Dear all,

I’m sorry to announce that the Iberian Resources Session planned for Friday 10th February has had to be postponed. We hope to reschedule this event for later in the year, so please keep an eye on our website for details.

Thank you very much for all your interest in this event. We hope to see you at an ACLAIIR event soon!

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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Library and Information Resources for Iberian Studies, Friday 10th February

Library and Information Resources for Iberian Studies

Friday 10th February 2017, 1.30-5pmwordle

Seng Tee Lee Room, Senate House Library, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HU

Join us for an afternoon at Senate House Library to discover scholarly resources in Iberian Studies. This session is designed for postgraduates who are interested in finding out more about library resources and materials in the field.

The session will cover collections at Senate House Library and the British Library, as well as a look at some of the scholarly information resources which are freely available online.

The full programme is available here.


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AGM & Seminar 2016 notes now on the Events page

One of 14 bronze book bollards in front of Cambridge University Library, England (UK). "Ex libris", designed by Harry Gray (Carving Workshop, Cambridge)

Image Credit: Vysotsky (Wikimedia) [CC BY-SA 4.0 ( or Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

If you missed the ACLAIIR Seminar in Cambridge this summer then take a look at our Events page where you can find links to the projects which were presented. Many thanks to all our speakers and attendees!

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Register now for the 2016 ACLAIIR AGM & Seminar!

Cambridge-University-Library_editedWe are delighted to announce that this year’s AGM & Seminar will take place on Monday 27th June at Cambridge University Library. The theme of the seminar is Digital Humanities in Hispanic Studies, and we have an excellent line-up of speakers presenting some fascinating digital projects.

Digital Scholarship in Iberian & Latin American studies : an introduction
Aquiles Alencar Brayner (British Library)

From Spreadsheet to Fusion Table: Mapping Anglo-Hispanic Connections in the Long Nineteenth Century
Kirsty Hooper (University of Warwick)

An overview of materials and issues in creating the Cantos Cautivos archive of musical experiences of political detention in Pinochet’s Chile
Katia Chornik (University of Manchester)

The Quipu Project
Ewan Cass-Kavanagh

An Electronic corpus of 15th century Castilian Cancionero manuscripts
Dorothy Severin and Fiona Maguire (University of Liverpool)

We look forward to seeing you for what promises to be a very interesting and enjoyable day. As usual, students are welcome to attend the seminar free of charge (booking required).

To reserve your place, please fill in and return the booking form by Friday 10th June.

AGM 2016 programme and booking form

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Save the date! ACLAIIR AGM & Seminar 2016 **UPDATE**

ACLAIIR logoPlease note the change of date for the ACLAIIR AGM! Due to clashes with other events, the AGM & Seminar will now be held on Monday 27th June in Cambridge. The theme will be Digital Humanities – details tbc, so watch this space.

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