Colours of the Alphabet

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Yesterday, I attended the premiere of a beautiful film as part of the Glasgow Film Festival.  I was drawn to this film due to my interest in languages and subtitling.  The screening information described the film as ‘An inspiring, bittersweet documentary about language, communication and national identity with multi-coloured subtitles reflecting the different languages being spoken’.

Now, I was wondering how this would work since the blurb also noted that the film is set in Zambia where the official language is English, and there are seven national languages and 72 ethnic languages spoken.  The attention paid to translation, subtitles and languages in this film may be, in part, due to the theme of languages being one of the reasons for the making of the film,  but I was so impressed with Alastair Cole, the Director’s attitude towards these important processes.  During the Q + A following the screening, he praised the work of the translators and interpreters he worked with in Zambia, and also Elena Zini’s innovative subtitling work.  Although Alastair learned Nyanja prior to the project, he noted that he learned to speak a different kind of Nyanja to that which he encountered in the village, so although he was able to follow the events in the classroom, the help of interpreters and translators was invaluable.

There are 4 main languages spoken in the film, English, Soli, Nyanja and Bemba, and all of them are subtitled.  That’s right, all of them.  This was, in my opinion, an excellent choice – English is treated in the same manner as the other languages, they are treated as equals.  The colours used aren’t the garish cyan and fluorescent pink usually encountered in multicoloured subtitles; they’re pastel colours, orange and blue and green.  These colours are playful and reminiscent of childhood afternoons spent colouring in.  In my opinion, they work wonderfully within the setting of the Zambian classroom full of quiet children learning English through repetition, song and dance.

The decision to treat the subtitles as an integral part of the film was a bold one, given the status of translation and subtitled films, but here’s the thing: without those excellent subtitles, the viewer would not have access to half of the linguistic issues faced by Annie, the school teacher who is trying to teach 6 year-olds English through another language they don’t really understand.  On top of the moving insight into the lives of the children in the class and their families, the film is interspersed with beautiful images of the village and surrounding scenery through the seasons.  For this reason, I would recommend it to you, whether you have a personal interest in language or not.

Colours of the Alphabet has a website which will soon be online, as well as a Facebook page and twitter handle: @alphabetfilm.


Keeping the Blog Alive

So many things happened in the last few months of 2015, and I ended the year feeling so overwhelmed and exhausted that I actually managed to completely down tools for the Christmas break, turning off emails on my phone and returning to the place where I grew up and the bosom of my family without a single research-related book in my bags! I’m not sure I’ve ever managed that before.

A blurry train window shot.

2015 was full of new jobs (University Teacher), PhD-related changes (a switch from full-time to part-time) and new homes (my partner and I bought a flat together).  Just the thought of going back over all of that to explain it properly makes me feel exhausted, so I’m not even going to try.  I think that’s where I stumbled last time, feeling that I needed to explain EVERYTHING on this blog.  If I try to go back and cover it all, I will feel overwhelmed again and stop.

So today, I’ll update you on my change in circumstances, and next week I’ll write about something else.  I honestly will, I’ve even put a recurring entry in my diary for it…

Has anyone else switched from full-time to part-time during their PhD? I’d love to hear your top tips!



Part-time PhD Researcher/ Part-time University Teacher/ Knitter/ Subtitler/ Homeowner/ Feminist/ Blogger/ etc.


I haven’t posted in quite a while, I’ve been busy with lots of things, and I’ll try to write about the most important ones in due course.  The main reason I’ve been so busy is that I have my Annual Review on Wednesday, and I had to submit a piece of writing to the panel.  This means that a lot of my time looked something like this:

I’ve been going to lots of workshops, too.  They were quite useful, but I was frustrated because they were all in March/April/May time, and I would have liked to find out the answer to the question ‘Is my Writing Academic Enough?’ more than a week before the APR submission deadline.  This workshop was good, though, and afterwards, I had a wee chat with Mongrel PhD about setting up a couple of groups for the PhD students in our school.  At the workshop, we were encouraged to swap a piece of work with the person next to us, and ask them to answer a specific question about our writing.  I found this activity very useful, and it gave me an idea.  I thought it might be good to have a group within the school where PG students could do this regularly – perhaps once a month.  Mongrel PhD had wanted to set up a Shut Up and Write! group for a while, so I suggested that we do the two together.  I wrote this proposal, and we sent it around to the PhD students in the school:

The PFG – SMLC Peer Feedback Group

The PFG is a student-led activity aimed at postgraduate students in the SMLC.   The idea came about following the workshop ‘Is my Writing Academic Enough?’ Participants of the workshop were encouraged to swap a piece of writing with someone in a similar field, along with a question about their writing.  Although only a brief amount of time was spent on the activity, the exercise turned out to be incredibly useful, not only in terms of the feedback received, but also in terms of seeing how other people write.  We would like to set up a similar activity on a regular basis, within the SMLC.

The point of the PFG is to provide a forum for getting structured feedback on your work.  This might be before you submit something to your supervisor, or later, following heavy editing.  The structure of the PFG would be as follows:

  • Bring along a piece of writing of roughly 4 typed pages, or another item for which you would like feedback (this could be a conference poster, or a PowerPoint for a conference presentation, for example).
  • Participants would partner-up with someone, and briefly explain the piece of work they want feedback on, providing a specific question for the person feeding back to answer. This should be along the lines of ‘Do you think I waffle too much?’ Or, ‘How is the structure?’  People wouldn’t be encouraged to just give someone their work and say ‘what do you think?’
  • We would then spend around 30 minutes looking at the piece we had been given, specifically focussing on the element we were asked about.
  • Around 30 minutes would then be spent ‘feeding back’, where participants would give their opinions on the specific issue on which they were asked to focus.
  • We would like this to be a regular meet, but we understand that this might not be suitable for everyone.

The idea would be that you would be giving up 1.5 – 2 hours of your time, and although during this time you would be looking at someone else’s work, not only could this be useful for you (e.g. ‘I like the way this person connects their paragraphs, maybe I’ll try a similar structure’), but you will also then get feedback on your own work.  All reviewing would be done during the PFG session, so there would be no risk of you having spent a long time looking at someone else’s work without getting any feedback of your own – it would all be done at the same time.


We also sent Mongrel PhD’s Shut Up and Write! proposal too (you can read a post about it on her blog), but we haven’t had many responses yet.  We both think they’re awesome ideas, though, so we’ll be meeting just the two of us if we have to!

Has anyone set up something similar? How did it go? Did you find a way to convince people to commit?

Taking Stock of Subtitling

I know I’ve been very quiet on my blog, but things have been incredibly busy lately! However, I have been blogging a little, if not here. I’m now reblogging a post I wrote for the Translation Studies at Glasgow blog about a talk given by Dr Jorge Díaz-Cintas; ‘Taking Stock of Subtitling’.

I promise I’ll be back soon with more PhD-related fun – for now, I’m sure you’ll learn a lot about Audiovisual Translation through this post.

Translation Studies @ Glasgow

Díaz Cintas Dr Jorge Díaz-Cintas

We were lucky to have Dr Jorge Díaz-Cintas come to the University of Glasgow to give a lecture titled “Taking Stock of Subtitling.” This coincided with the launch of a new postgraduate course ‘Subtitling Film & TV’ for students on Glasgow’s MSc in Translation Studies. Dr Díaz-Cintas has published widely on Audiovisual Translation, and is currently Director of the Centre for Translation Studies (CenTraS) at University College London, and Director of the European Association for Studies in Screen Translation (ESIST).

Dr Díaz-Cintas was quick to highlight that when we refer to subtitling, we are considering a medium of translation, rather than a genre; indeed, we are not always working with films, but also with TV programs and adverts, for example. What is most important in subtitling is that the content with which we are working is presented through two channels: the audio and the visual, sound…

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Growing in Confidence – 3rd Durham PG Colloquium

This weekend, I attended the 3rd Durham PG Colloquium.  This was the first Translation Studies-specific conference that I have attended during my PhD, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!  Although I have attended (and presented) some Translation Studies-themed lectures and seminars, the conferences that I have attended have mostly been in the field of French Studies.

Now, of course there’s nothing wrong with that – my research lies in Translation Studies, French Studies, Sociolinguistics, Audiovisual Translation, Film Studies, and various other areas.  However, it was so reassuring and refreshing to hear about research that was so closely linked to mine.  Not only that, but I met two people who will be carrying out audience reception studies as part of their research in Subtitling.  This was incredibly exciting for me, as I had only previously encountered AVT audience reception studies two or three times before, and these have been completed, written up and published.  This weekend, I was able to sit down with two other people and say ‘Oh my God.  How are we going to do this?!’

So this was a big weekend.  Not just because I met people with similar research interests (and fears) as mine, but also because this somehow increased my confidence.  I actually raised my hand at the end of a presentation, and asked a question.  I may be in the 2nd year of my PhD, but I have suffered regularly with imposter syndrome since I began, and this is the first time I felt like I knew enough, and I had an interesting enough question to ask!

During the lunch break, I stood and chatted to the keynote speaker, and then spoke with people about their research which, although very different to mine in some ways, was also similar in others.  The theme of the colloquium was “Theoretical Frameworks and Methodologies in Translation Studies,” which meant that there was a wide range of research presented, and a lot of this research was being undertaken using quantitative research methods.

Dr Sharon O’Brien gave the keynote lecture, considering “Quantitative vs. Qualitative Approaches in Translation Studies Research.” The lecture was very informative, and demonstrated that there is beauty at both ends of the spectrum.  In some cases, it may be favorable to produce research which draws on both quantitative and qualitative data.  This is what I plan to do, and now I know that there are others struggling with the same task, it feels a great deal more achievable.

In fact, I must give heartfelt thanks to the organisers of the colloquium.  I had been going through a difficult period with my research – there are always ups and downs, and I really needed the boost that this event provided.  My only regret is that I didn’t spend longer exploring Durham, I only managed to get one quick snap on the way to the venue in the morning.  It was indeed a beautiful day, in more ways than one.

Piirus – Online Braindating for Academics

Following on from my last post, I decided to try out Piirus and see what all the fuss was about.  My eagerness to try it was definitely increased by a friend of mine, the Mongrel PhD, who was beside herself with excitement when she created her profile, and found that there were some people on Piirus with  ‘Intertextuality theory’ and ‘Polysystem theory’ listed in their interests.

The process of creating a profile was incredibly straightforward and speedy, which was a relief.  I’ve definitely signed up to a few websites lately which have made me lose the will to live by the 15th page of ‘about myself’ questions.  All I had to do was add a photo, fill in a little about my university and department, along with a couple of ‘Collaboration interests keywords,’ and the minimum was done!  I was presented with ‘my suggested matches.’

'My suggested matches' on Piirus.
‘My suggested matches’ on Piirus.

Admittedly, there weren’t hundreds of people with similar collaboration needs, but from what I can gather the network is still young.  I was the first to add ‘subtitling,’ ‘AVT,’ and ‘banlieue’ (not surprised about that one) to the keywords section – but if I’m honest, that’s kind of cool.  After clicking around a few profiles, I realised that to get the most out of this network, I needed to complete my profile (fear not – this entails a further 5-10 minute’s work!), and added a little paragraph about my research and my collaboration needs, along with links to my websites.  My profile now looks pretty good, I think:

My Profile on Piirus
My Profile on Piirus

Now I just really need more people to sign up, so that I can connect with people with awesome research interests like mine.

Go on, you know you want to.

Launching myself as a ‘Digital Academic’

I am fresh from a live video hangout called ‘How to be a Successful Digital Academic to Boost Your Career,’ which was organised by  I stumbled across it in one of the groups I joined on Facebook, in order to try and keep up with the hundreds of interesting events and publications that are constantly popping up in Translation Studies, and in academia in general.

It can be difficult trying to follow, read and do all of these different things that will make you employable by the time you finish your PhD, but I’m trying.  When the video hangout finished, I found myself sat at my computer, with a hundred tabs open, each one a new site or program to explore.  I need to create a profile on Piirus, check out Pocket, be more active on Twitter, look into Evernote and write a blog!

It’s not going to happen overnight, but this is me, launching myself as a Digital Academic.

I think I’ll have to bookmark the other tabs, and close them for now.  After all, before being a Digital Academic, I need to be a real-life academic, and my research won’t do itself.  All of these tools will be useful, I’m sure, but I think I’ll introduce them one at a time.  It’s all part of the PhD journey; I’ll let you know how I get on.