Sneak Peek 22: Paul W. Birt & Daniel E. Josephy-Hernández

Translation and Minoritisation: the Case of the Welsh Language

Paul W. Birt /

Daniel E. Josephy-Hernández /

University of Ottawa

Abstract: The Welsh language (Cymraeg), spoken today by half a million people, has an unbroken written tradition that reaches back to the 7th century A.D. Welsh was the language of the people, gentry, and governance in Wales until the mid 16th century when the language was banished from the public sphere by the British State. Even if Welsh lost its official status, it remained the first language of the majority of Welsh people until the late nineteenth century, and as a minoritised language until recently. Literature survived, aided by the first translation of the Bible into Welsh in 1588 which provided a new standard for the language. Translation already had a very long history in Welsh from French, and Latin in the High Middle Ages, to the period after the Reformation, when translations from English became commonplace. Nonetheless, by the 20th century especially, international literatures opened new vistas for translation into Welsh. In this paper we ask why in fact this tradition of literary translation into Welsh seems to be declining. What does it signify if Welsh is now more translated into other languages (especially English) at the expense of translation into Welsh? What can this tell us about identity in a minoritised culture?


Paul W. Birt is a graduate of the University of North Wales, Bangor where he took his PhD on aspects of literatures in lesser-used languages. He worked as assistant editor of The Welsh Academy English-Welsh Dictionary after which he was academic translator and assistant lecturer in Bangor. He later taught at the Catholic University of Lublin in Poland. After moving permanently to Ottawa and the University of Ottawa, he became Chair of Celtic Studies. His areas of research include the socio-linguistics of minoritised language communities, language contact and Celtic communities in Latin America.

Daniel E. Josephy-Hernández has an MA in English-Spanish Translation from the Universidad Nacional of Costa Rica, and is currently a PhD Candidate in Translation Studies at the University of Ottawa, where he has won several scholarships. His dissertation analyses the subtitles, dubbing and fansubs of the Kon Satoshi film Perfect Blue (1997). In 2014 and 2015 he spent a research period at Tohoku Gakuin University in Sendai, Japan. His work concentrates mostly on gender and audiovisual translation, the translation of hentai anime, videogame translation, and translation in Wales. He speaks Japanese fluently, amongst several languages.