FICTIONAL DIALOGUE BETWEEN GUTENBERG AND SAINT JEROME

Extract from a fictional dialogue between two of the fathers of multilingual publishing

In the impossible meeting between
Saint Jerome and Gutenberg,
there is also a mention
of Eurologos and its subsidiary Littera Graphis

“I accepted this meeting because
it has already taken place
in our professional activities.”

G. - Your saintliness Hieronymus, on this 30th of September 2006, your feast day on which translators celebrate you as their patron, I wanted to meet you in person to pay you homage.

J. - I consented to your request, Master Gutenberg, because I have heard a lot about you – for more than 500 years now – and of your prodigious invention, the printing press, which has permitted among other things, my Vulgate, the Bible, to be distributed throughout the whole world.

G. - I would have liked to finish it earlier, your saintliness, but the printing of my “thirty-six line” Bible had to be interrupted because I lost the court case which saw me clash with my silent partner and associate….

J. - Worry not, my dear master, thou art the one that has gone down in posterity and not this Fust from Mainz (his name was Johann like your own if I am not mistaken?). It is in thy honour that the people of Strasbourg have erected the monument with the magnificent fountain near their gothic cathedral: certainly among the most beautiful ones in France on the border, with its beautiful regional red stone.

G. - You are too good. I have been told that in your immense humanism, which made you the savant of your time, you were also very merciful: I am but a master of crafts who worked all his life to invent but a press, metal characters and an ink which enables a page to be printed on both sides.

J. - Master you know that history is often fashioned by inventors and professionals who humbly work in the grayness of their innumerable days: their activities add true value to Creation.

G. - This warms my heart your saintliness. Before meeting you, I consulted your writings which mesmerized me by their culture and repercussion. All the great translatologists refer back to you (we call them this, in these days where Internet and multilingualism dominate the era of communication): your title of doctor of the Church is not wrongfully assumed.

J. - To tell the truth, the one thing which most pleased me in this period, in this twenty-first century, was the publishing of the Bible in its two thousand four hundred and third language, as announced by the “Le Soir” newspaper in Brussels, . That, I must say stunned me; 2,403 languages in which the word of God is transmitted to the people of Earth… It is thanks to you, Master Gutenberg, that this was possible.

G. - I recognize the gentle speech of the polyglot diplomat that you were, for at least three years, at the service of Pope Damasus, in almost all the countries known at the time. I can also say that it is thanks to the multilingualism of this time, the so-called era of globalization, that it was possible to translate the Bible into almost two thousand five hundred languages. And your saintliness is at the origin of this movement.

J. - It was not by chance that you, a prototypical worker of the XVth Century, were knighted by the archbishop of Mainz. True nobility is not hereditary, but the fruit of talent, work and craftsmanship. Indeed, if I agreed to this meeting, it was because in a sense it had already taken place in our professions. In what these “modern types”, whom we observe from up here, have called the new market of communication media offers.
“Who knows the inventor of Internet?”

 

G. - Your saintliness must have noticed; the content and the containers have met. Communication content (which has inevitably become multilingual) has met and even married its mediums, whether they are printed or online. The truly modern companies must produce multilingual texts as much as print (pre-press), Internet (websites) and readable (CD’s and DVD’s) mediums.

J. - Indeed, I would also have liked to meet other men, those at the basis of modern IT technology and telematics (the Information Technology), such as yourself for press houses during the renaissance, Master Gutenberg.
What seems quite strange to me is that none of these men are currently well-known. Who knows the inventor of Internet?
Now, it can be said that there is a multipaternity of the content as much as of the IT medium.

G. - Exactly, your saintliness. Today it is companies that have synthesized this knowledge. We call that know-how. This often concerns new companies that have integrated several types of production into their activities which previously were well separated, often primitive (as we say today).

J. - I have come to discover this company which you know so well, my dear master, from what I have seen. You mention its website in your invitation card. But I have already known about it for some time for another reason: in addition to frequently speaking of me and my work in its books, it has produced a new discourse thanks to which I could be less overworked…

G. - You, St Jerome, overworked? I thought that after your retirement to your convent in Palestine – toward the end of the fourth century, I wouldn't like to be mistaken – you had totally forgotten the word that the “modern types” call “stress”.

J. - In reality, I have been stressed for just about thirty years. Since “pragmatic” translation concerning the commercial, technical, and advertising domains has become a very prized activity. Previously, translations were fundamentally literary or poetic, sometimes military or, occasionally, economic. A somewhat marginal or “restful” activity. Intense multilingual communication of globalization and the Internet has not made things better.

G. - But, why would this considerable increase in multilingual and visual communication have induced overwork on you personally? And in what way have the Eurologos Group and its subsidiary Littera Graphis been able to help diminish your “stress”?

J. - This discourse of the Eurologos Group and its website and print localization subsidiary is very simple and pertinent. How can a translation and graphic design agency deliver guaranteed quality multilingual publications to its clients when it only has one monolocalized office in one country? The answer is simple: “It can’t”.

“I remember the time when I
was living in Strasbourg and
my French interwove
with my German…”

G. - I am beginning to understand, but I am not totally sure.

J. - Everyone has always known – but even more so in this era in which multilingualism in communication is endemic - that a quality language can only be produced if two preconditions are fulfilled. First of all, it must be written by a writer – a good one, obviously – (a professional translator for example) only works into his/her mother tongue.
Secondly, the writer must live in the country of the target language in order to avoid the problems of lexical, phraseological or conceptual interference with the local and foreign tongue that is used regularly, if s/he has emigrated.

G. - Although a printer and graphic designer, I felt this. I remember the time when I was living in Strasbourg and my French interwove with my German and that, very dialectal German, spoken in the town of my exile on the Rhine. In fact, anybody can understand that.

J. - It goes without saying, as you say: it is useless to hail the translatologists and to refer to their vast studies over the past fifty years. But the reality is totally different, because almost all of these translation and publishing offices situated throughout the world only have one localization office (they are practically always monolocalized in one country or in one language), the linguistic quality can never really be guaranteed. These offices (which make up 99% of the total number) cannot control nor validate texts they receive from their freelancers or from competitors: they are technically illiterate.

G. - I had noticed that even my graphic designers or IT specialists (as we call them) have a tendency to make graphic mistakes due to the fact that they are unable to read the texts (multilingual) which they lay out. However, I still do not understand the “stress” problem.

J. - Well, the thesis put forward by the Eurologos Group and Littera Graphis is very simple and logical. As these translation agencies cannot possibly guarantee their clients high quality translations or multilingual texts (except of course for languages, two or three maximum, spoken in the countries in which they reside), they must fatally pray for my transcendental intervention on behalf of the freelancers and competing agencies in order to miraculously preserve them from making mistakes.
Including graphic mistakes – especially the so-called “misprint” ones to which you allude.

“Glocalization is the
real solution even for
software and website
localization »

G. - Thank goodness that I wasn’t sanctified, if I may say so; I am fundamentally a simple sinner.
Otherwise, I would also have found myself having to face prayers of religious superstition which are too vulgarly interested, in order to avoid the misprint and all graphic mistakes…

J. - Even though I am the patron saint of translation, a theme on which I have written a good number of notes that today would be qualified as translatological, my passion for orthosyntactic and semantic correctness is far from being able to provide perfection for an evidently impossible quantity. Whence the “stress” and uselessness of my willing yet immoderate engagement.

G. - And so, what will happen?

J. - I myself do not know. But it is certain that I resigned from my miracle-making position. The Eurologos Group has made the effort to multinationalize and “glocalize” itself (that’s how they put it) in order to assure that – as logical and reasonable as it may be – an office full of editors, translators, revisers, terminologists, localizers, graphic designers, webmasters, IT specialists and project managers. But, this idea of having as many offices as languages promised to the clients isn’t followed by competitors who insist on remaining hidden away in their unique office. And this, even though they continue to offer their clients all languages in the world.

G. - Glocalization (I have also seen this very adequate and pertinent modern Californian terminology revisited by the Eurologos Group, the contraction of globalization and localization) constitutes the true solution, even for software and website localizations - in addition to printing, of course. As you can see, I also use very modern terms: I only needed to read the glossaries which can be found on the Littera Graphis and Eurologos’ websites, the Brussels parent company.

J. - I agree that this strategic solution can only be that of the multinationalization of companies, of “glocalization”, as the good people of the Eurologos Group and its subsidiary Littera Graphis would say. Even more so as I have just discovered the umpteenth skirting around of a number of “mailbox” agencies (or what we know in our business as monolocalized multilingual publishing agencies).
They claim that they outsource their publications (translations and internet medium or printing) for final revision before delivery. Clients are satisfied, or pretend to be satisfied with this solution, which isn’t one in reality.

“This skirting around resembles
the dazzling advertising campaign
of the ISO 9000”

G. - And why, your saintliness? Is it not judicious to have a final control made before delivery?

J. - I am not too sure insofar as graphic design, lay-out or desktop publishing are concerned (although maybe not!), but in terms of textuality, editing, and translation who will make decisions regarding the final text after this so-called outsourced revision? More often than not, this is a publicized solution but not a truly achievable one because – as a separate service – it obviously costs more and pushes back the deadlines almost always beyond the barriers of what is possible… But even when we carry out such a revision, we are not in a position to validate it because the revisers (especially revisers very expert in “hypercorrection errors”, according to translatologists) can also make mistakes.
Quality control cannot be outsourced. Everything can be outsourced, except the final control.

G. - I am very happy that you, your saintliness, have well spotted this skirting. It looks very much like, for example, the flashing advertisement of the ISO 9000. Several graphic and website development studios use, in a similar manner, the obtaining of the ISO which concerns neither linguistic quality, nor graphic quality, nor that of manufacturing. One wonders if the clients aren’t trying, voluntarily, to be duped…

The conversation between Gutenberg and St Jerome continues. We have switched off the microphones. As we can imagine, these two great personas continue their passionate dialog with a lot of pertinence, just as two modern concerned professionals.

Fra Nico Ornato