Thursday, August 12, 2021

Translatology in Nigeria


We in Europe are woefully ignorant about the vast continent that is sub-Saharan Africa. It was with some surprise that I learnt last week that there is a town in Nigeria called Ilorin with a flourishing university; and I was even more surprised to find out that it has an Institute of Translation Arts. The institute is an offshoot of the Department of French, which is understandable if we consider that several countries in West Africa use French as an official language. There’s no other Nigerian translator training institution in my extensive data base of schools and programmes although a Nigerian Association of Translation Studies was formed recently.

The trail through the highways and byways of Google that led me to make the discovery is a personal one.

In the early 1970s, inspired by Eugene Nida’s classic work Toward a Science of Translation,  I coined the term translatology in English. (Its Romance language cognates like French traductologie have a different origin.) The story is told in an article on my page (see below). It didn’t catch on. Instead it was eclipsed by another term with roughly the same meaning, translation studies, established by James Holmes. The current figures of hits on Google are very telling: 131,000 for translatology, 2.77 million for translation studies.

So I was delighted to find that the term translatology is used by a distinguished professor and currently head of the department of French at Ilorin, Isaiah Bariki (see photo).. His interests are not only French but also translating African Languages. In a paper this year he noted that translations by the country’s institutions should not be focused on European languages only. He is the first holder of a PhD inTranslation in the University of Ilorin The university’s web site describes him as “an expert in translatology.”.


He has a remarkable life story that began in a poor family in the riverine parts of the Niger Delta and presented very challenging and unfavourable conditions for intellectual pursuits. You can read more about it in the Adewumi article referenced below. “With French as my base," he says, "I had a smooth sail to the shores of Translation as a field of study.” 


To clarify between Translation and Translatology, Prof. Bariki explains that “translation in its primary sense means the transfer of a message from one language into another. It is an applied Translatology and does not fully take care of all that Translatology stands for. Translatology is an academic interdiscipline rooted in a systematic study of translation, interpretation and localization, while consciously drawing his strength from aspects of linguistics, culturology, philology, neuroscience, history, comparative literature, philosophy, semiology, mathematics, computer science, and a host of other fields – all in a bid to give translation the support it needs.”


It couldn’t be better said.



Eugene Nida. Toward a Science of Translating. Leiden: Brill, 1964. 

Brian Harris. 'Origins and conceptual analysis of the term Traductologie'. Paper to the Annual Conference of the Canadian Association of Translation Studies, 2009. Published Babel 57:1.15-31, 2011.

Ilorin. Wikipedia, 2021.


Isaiah Bariki. Translating African names in fiction. iIkala 14(23):43-61, 2009.


Agency Report. ‘Things fall Apart’ should be translated into Hausa, other languages – Don. Daily Nigerian, 30 July 2021.


Kehinde Christopher Adewumi. MosesLe Voyag√©: Moses Bariki’s exhibition In honour of his father, Prof. Bariki. New Telegraph, 4 August 2021. or click [HERE].


Image source


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