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Debbie Folaron is named Concordia’s first-ever Jean Monnet Chair by the European Union

The translation and Romani studies scholar will be tasked with promoting EU studies for the next 3 years
October 6, 2020
By Alexander Hackett

Portrait of smiling woman wearing glasses, dangling earrings and warm coat. Debbie Folaron: “Bringing the unique Romani context into our practices and reflections on translation studies is an integral part of what led to this inaugural chair at Concordia.”

No Concordia professor has ever been awarded the Jean Monnet Chair by the European Union — until now. Debbie Folaron, a specialist in multilingual and Romani translation practices in the Département d’études françaises, has become the university’s first-ever faculty to hold the three-year post. The chair is aligned with her project “Multiple Roles of Translation in Minority Multilingual Romani Contexts (ROMTRA).”

The prestigious position is designed to promote excellence in teaching and research in the field of EU studies worldwide.

“On behalf of the Faculty of Arts and Science, I congratulate Dr. Folaron on this outstanding accomplishment,” says Pascale Sicotte, dean and professor of biology. “We are eager to see the many synergies that are sparked through this exciting project.”

Only two Jean Monnet Chairs were awarded to universities across Canada this year.

The position’s teaching and research activities focus on many different aspects of the EU, such as policy, citizenship, education and technology, among others, Folaron explains.

“They are designed to encourage intercultural understanding and dialogue between diverse peoples and cultures as a path to EU inclusion and integration,” she says.

“Translation, with its multiple roles in minority contexts, is a means with which to do just that. Bringing the unique Romani context into our practices and reflections on translation studies is an integral part of what led to this inaugural chair at Concordia.”

Recipients must provide 90 hours of courses per academic year for three consecutive years to deepen the teaching of EU studies in a university’s official curriculum.

“Dr. Folaron has been working for years in translation studies, bridging languages, cultures and worldviews,” says Patrick Leroux, associate dean of research in the Faculty of Arts and Science.

“With this chair, she’ll be able to connect to a rich and thriving Romani studies scene, positioning Concordia as the new North American hub for such study.”

Europe’s Romani peoples and their languages

The Romani peoples, long referred to as Gypsies, Tsiganes, Gitans and other variants, are a transnational and multilingual ethnic group that has settled around the globe and has been present on the European continent for nearly 600 years.

“They comprise one of the most fascinating multilingual translation contexts in the world,” Folaron notes.

“Romani peoples have survived for over 1,000 years outside of India, through many migrations and the marginalization of their language and culture — resulting in a Romani language of over 60 dialects in contact linguistically with world languages everywhere,” she adds.

“Because there has never been a Romani nation-state, they are always educated in the national language of the country where they live, leading to them being bilingual and multilingual. Their distinctive historical, social and political contexts lead to a unique set of translation practices.”

The other part of Folaron’s research looks at multilingual translation practices and their theorization in the digital world.

“We use various translation technologies to communicate and relay information across linguistic and cultural borders around the globe. Although it’s not always noticeable, translation plays a critical role globally, from the highest level of the financial services sector to humanitarian and crisis situations on the ground.”

As Europe’s largest minority group, the multilingual Romani are of particular relevance to the language and translation policies of the EU.

Along with her Jean Monnet courses, Folaron will be organizing Romani workshops and a summer school with leading Romani and translation studies scholars.

“I’m delighted to expand on the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture–funded research on Romani and minority translation that began in 2007,” she says.

“I’m thrilled and look forward to integrating these interlingual, intercultural dialogues — which are so critical to the principles and values of the EU, Canada and Quebec — to my Jean Monnet teaching and research activities at Concordia.”

Find out more about Concordia’s
Département d’études françaises.



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