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Interview with Professor Jean Quirion, University of Ottawa

David Dufour, Communications Coordinator
Language Technologies Research Centre


A photo of Professor Jean Quirion of the University of OttawaToday, the Language Technologies Research Centre (LTRC) team gives the floor to Jean Quirion, a professor at the University of Ottawa’s School of Translation and Interpretation. An active contributor to LinguisTech, especially in the development of the Collection of Electronic Resources in Translation Technologies (CERTT), Professor Quirion is a passionate man who is very involved in his field. Here is the interview he was kind enough to give to our team.

  1. Tell us briefly about your professional and academic background.

    A. I completed a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts in Translation at Laval University. After that, I had the opportunity to get work experience in the private sector with IBM, and in the public sector with the Translation Bureau. After completing my doctorate at the University of Montréal, I taught at the University of Quebec in Outaouais for 12 years, and later became a professor at the University of Ottawa, where I am currently working. 

  2. What did you do to win the 2010 Volunteer of the Year in Canada award presented by the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council (CTTIC)?

    A. I’m still wondering! Some colleagues wanted my long-standing participation in the Joint Committee on Terminology in Canada (JCTC) to be recognized.

    The Committee’s mandate is to promote every variety of terminology in every way possible. So far, more than 250 terminologists and terminology lovers have registered with the Directory of Terminologists in Canada. The Committee regularly publishes information on its site and sends it to those listed in the directory as well. The new JCTC site was also launched in February. Moreover, the Committee holds regular seminars and study sessions on various aspects of terminology. It is therefore an honour to have been recognized by the CTTIC.

  3. What are the challenges of teaching language technologies in comparison with previous years?

    A. There are fewer challenges today. Fifteen years ago, many students did not have basic computer skills. As a result, it took them more time to learn how to use specialized software for language professionals, which was, at the time, less user‑friendly than it is now. In most cases, students entering university today have considerable computer knowledge. They know a great deal about technology and expect to use it in carrying out their tasks. Students don’t need to be convinced of the value of language technologies as they did in the past.

    However, many aspiring translators have a romantic vision of the profession; they may dream of doing literary translation or of working from home at their own pace, for example. But language technology courses uncover the mechanics of the profession, the technical constraints associated with translation, productivity, actual and expected rates, etc. I would say that the challenge lies more in raising awareness of the impact language technologies have on the profession, in order to give future language professionals a critical, but realistic, vision of translation. As they embark on a career in languages, students are encouraged to pull up their socks and prepare for what’s ahead.

  4. Tell us about your current research into Quebec’s influence on Catalonia in the fields of terminology, language planning and language policy.

    A. I am carrying out this research in collaboration with Professor Judit Freixa of the Institut Universitari de Lingüística Aplicada at Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Within the contexts of Spain and Canada, Catalonia and Quebec share many characteristics. Both enjoy political, economic and linguistic powers, which they have used in language and terminology planning in their respective jurisdictions. Moreover, Catalonia and Quebec share a common trait: their national language is spoken by a minority within the country.

    Over time, this reality has led to the implementation of numerous measures to preserve and revitalize the national language. Our research, the results of which were published in the December 2013 issue of the journal Meta, traces the form the numerous exchanges between Quebec and Catalonia have taken since the mid‑seventies, a key moment in the linguistic affirmation of both peoples. In particular, the research examines the various aspects of Quebec’s and Catalonia’s contribution to language planning. These exchanges have inspired Catalans in the creation of their education and terminology standardization policies; for example, the Office québécois de la langue française has been a model for its Catalan equivalent, Termcat, for 25 years now.

    In addition to ideas, the research describes various other forms of exchange between Quebec and Catalonia. We are reviewing these exchanges as well, specifically to determine overall the impact Quebec influence has had in the discipline. We find that, for many years, Catalonia has been flourishing in the field of terminology: it has itself become a major centre of knowledge for other communities and is in turn a source of inspiration to Quebec.