This paper aims to examine the clash between languages and cultures as identified in the treatment of news events, with particular reference to the Falklands, or Malvinas in their Spanish denomination, in British and Spanish Internet news portals. English, as a global language, and Spanish, as its main European rival, exemplify a conflict between two languages and cultures that attempt to achieve or maintain world dominance, a battle that has been taken to the Internet arena in recent years. Thus, El País newspaper launched an English version for their Internet readers whereas the BBC produced a Spanish version of its English news service.
The conflict between the two languages is decisive when reporting on highly sensitive areas in each culture, such as the issue of Gibraltar’s sovereignty or the news events originating in or around the Falkland Islands. The paper pays particular attention to the latter and the way in which translation is embedded within or is part of the conflict itself. For that purpose, the paper surveys the reports posted in the Spanish news web sites Abc, El País, and El Mundo, on the one hand, and the English portals of The Guardian, The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Independent and the BBC on the other. The results will be compared with the translated news in the English edition of El País and in the Spanish version of the BBC (BBCMundo) respectively to determine the position of the two media with regards to this issue.
Le présent article se propose d’examiner le conflit entre langues et cultures tel que nous l’avons identifié dans le traitement informatif des nouvelles, tout particulièrement dans le cas des îles Falklands (Las Malvinas, en espagnol), dans les portails informatifs anglais et espagnols présents sur Internet. L’anglais, en tant que langue globale, et l’espagnol, son principal concurrent européen, illustrent un conflit entre deux langues et deux cultures qui essaient de maintenir ou de gagner la domination mondiale, une bataille qui a été récemment menée par le biais d’Internet. C’est ainsi que le journal El País a mis en oeuvre une version anglaise pour ses cyberlecteurs, tandis que la BBC a créé une version espagnole de son service informatif anglais. Le conflit entre les deux langues est décisif lorsqu’on considère des points très sensibles au sein de chacune des deux cultures, par exemple la souveraineté de Gibraltar ou la question des îles Falklands. Le présent travail accorde une attention particulière à ce dernier et à la manière dont la traduction s’y trouve impliquée ou en fait elle-même partie. Pour ce faire, l’article passe en revue les reportages publiés, d’une part, sur les sites espagnols d’information Abc, El País et El Mundo, et d’autre part, sur les portails anglais de The Guardian, The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Independent et la BBC. Les résultats seront comparés avec les traductions des nouvelles dans, respectivement, l’édition anglaise de El País et la version espagnole de la BBC (BBCMundo), pour déterminer la position des deux médias à l’égard de ce sujet.
1. Languages in contact, languages in conflict
Language and news are close associates in the effort to maintain a political status quo in times of conflict. They are allies serving one master, power, and deviations from the expected allegiances are often accused of a lack of patriotism. In the past, the king and the established Church represented the power of a nation at home and abroad. The spread of European languages bears witness to how nations have used them as instruments of power. Latin was perhaps the first imperial language in Europe. The power of Rome still manifests itself in the various Romance languages it gave way to. Of all these, French, Portuguese and Spanish became its veritable heirs, as the nations they represented became global powers in their turn. Spanish had a far-reaching evangelical influence for over two centuries, evangelical understood in more than a religious sense (Kachru 1985: 29), a role that would be taken over by French, whose cultural and geopolitical importance would make this language synonymous with class and distinction until well into the 20th century. Other European languages of Germanic extraction also exerted exceptionable influence in the 19th and 20th centuries, notably German and, above all, English.
But English has reigned for a longer and more intense period than any of its predecessors. In fact, the fate of this language and its status has benefited from a unique combination of two factors: on the one hand, the rapid advancement in communications in the 20th century, which has made the language instantly available through a variety of mass media, particularly the Internet. On the other, the succession of two empires speaking the same language, even if a different variety: the British empire was succeeded, without any interim periods, by the American empire, which has colonized us all through the cinema, the television, the Internet and other forms of popular subculture.
The expansion of English has turned it into a lingua franca or a global language. It has become the language of business, politics, tourism and the academia, with conferences and journals using (and imposing) only one language: English. Even university programmes in various parts of the world are now taught in English, the aim being not only to provide their students with a tool for international communication, but also to attract learners from other nations. That is, English is used as a source of revenue. This is obvious in the case of some universities of the former Communist states. Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and other Eastern European nations have adopted English as a way of alluring prospective students from neighbouring and other countries. For instance, the once local Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra now partly teaches degrees in English, with a high percentage of its students coming from third countries such as Turkey. The vision of an English-only Europe dreamt by Margaret Thatcher’s government after the fall of the Berlin Wall (Phillipson 1992: 10) seems to be getting closer.
But as English becomes an international language, its hegemonic role is also challenged in various ways. Firstly, a number of writers have spoken of imperialism both within the boundaries of the European Union (Phillipson 1992; 2003) and beyond (Canagarajah 1999; Phillipson 2003). This has caused controversy among the members of the linguistic establishment, usually linked to the world of the academia and to the all too powerful publishing companies, for whom English represents the last jewel in the crown. It is a multi-billion euro business, even for foundations like the Presses of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, which claim to work for the benefit of culture and education in their British charters, but resort to aggressive business tactics elsewhere. Critical writers have also argued for changes in the way English is taught. English may have become the lingua franca of the 21st century, but the assumptions about its teaching and learning have changed. As a language, it would not belong to the British any more and, consequently, it is necessary to establish new horizons that deprive its teaching of the old norms and regulations. The all-pervasive speaker norms have already been challenged by authors like Graddol (2003: 165), for whom “the decline of the native speaker in numerical terms is likely to be associated with changing ideas about the centrality of the native speaker to norms of usage.”
Additionally, some governments have passed laws that prohibit the use of English whenever there is a local term or expression. The French are particularly adamant to see English become the language of Europe. For instance, in 2005, McDonalds launched its new global slogan: i’m lovin’ it. The original English logo remained in most European nations, from Finland to Spain, but in France it had to be translated into French: c’est tout ce que j’aime. English is still perceived as a menace, and fortresses are built to keep it at bay.
The third challenge comes from the natural or artificial expansion of other world languages. Among them Spanish currently poses a bigger threat than other European languages like French or German. The threat is taken so seriously in some Anglophone nations that movements have appeared to protect English, such as the Only-English programme in the United States. In fact, as some authors have noted, these campaigners regard “Spanish and Spanish-accented English […] with particular disfavour,” which has given way to a “fierce and longstanding political conflict” (Milroy 1999: 179). The challenge has become so powerful that some nations now use Spanish as the third language in their tourist areas. Paris, for instance, has become an epitome of this move. As one of the main tourist cities in the world, attractions have to cater for the millions of visitors arriving in the city every year. Up to the 1980s, most attractions in the City of Light provided foreigners with version in English, German, and Italian. In the new millennium, Spanish has become the third language in the majority of the museums and tourist sights, from the Eiffel Tour to the Louvre Museum, but also in the all-American Disneyland Paris.
Information in its more restricted sense of news production also bears witness to these challenges. English certainly dominates global news, as Bielsa and Bassnett (2009) underline. In fact the four major world news agencies used English as their vehicular language (Bielsa 2007; Bielsa and Bassnett 2009: 33-55) and translation is very much at the base of news production processes (Bielsa and Bassnett 2009: 56-73; Hernández Guerrero 2009: 31-46). Adaptations, omissions and expansions contribute to the production of a news item in the target language (Gambier 2010) to suit the requirements of the target audience, but they also allow the writers / translators to instil the new versions with the ideological stance of the producers (Carbonell and Madouri 2005; Valdeón 2007; Carbonell 2010).
2. The expanding conflict: English and Spanish in the Internet arena
In this paper I intend to examine the situation arising from two languages in contact, English and Spanish, as its closest European rival, paying particular attention to the Internet battle to reach news readers. Kachru (1985; 1986) and Phillipson (1992: 17-31) have spoken of three circles to describe the global expansion of English: the inner circle, the outer circle, and the expanding circle. Phillipson, though, reduces these three groups to two: “core English-speaking countries” (Phillipson 1992: 17-23) and “periphery-English countries” (Phillipson 1992: 23-31). The latter would subsume the outer and the expanding circles. These concepts can be applied to other languages as well, as expressed by Kachru (2003: 19-23), and even to the media (see the last section). The concentric circles for the English case could be presented as in Figure 1 below.
In this figure English-speaking countries are placed at the core, including the mother country as well as those nations colonized and populated by Europeans. The next circle would be constituted by those former colonies where English is currently used a second language, often by the elite, like India or Pakistan. Finally, the expanding circle would include those nations where English is taught as a foreign or even as a second language.
Spanish, on the other hand, could present a similar structure, with a core of nations formed by Spain and the former colonies in South and Central America. In the Spanish case, these nations are ruled, although not exclusively populated, by the descendants of Europeans. The outer circle could be formed by countries which were partly or completely under Spanish rule, like Morocco or the United States. In the latter Spanish is now spoken by minorities, but is increasingly used by their Anglophone counterparts. Finally, the expanding circle would correspond to those countries where Spanish is taught as a foreign language, sometimes compulsorily, as in the case of Brazil. Here Spanish, rather than English, is promoted by the government as the second language. The figure for the Spanish case could be summarized as follows.
In the promotion of Spanish, a government-funded institution, the Instituto Cervantes, founded in 1991, has come to signify its expansion with branches in over sixty countries. The Instituto follows the steps of other similar institutions created in the past by the governments of Italy, France, German, and, above all, Britain. The British Council (founded in 1934) was, indeed, a model for the spread of the Spanish network.
The battle for world dominance is also fought in the Internet, which has provided the two languages with another arena where promotion and expansion signal the contact, but also the conflict. Most news media with global ambitions have produced news portals (Allan 2006: 13-52) where world readers can have instant access to information, often with a strong political bias. That is the case of both British and Spanish newspapers and television networks. Among them, two stand out for offering versions in the language of the other. The BBC launched an information portal in English in 1994, which, in 2006, claimed to be one of the most successful English websites in the world, with over thirteen million readers every month. The site also offers news and features in thirty-three other languages. BBCMundo, its Spanish version, was launched in 1998 claiming to offer specific sections for a Spanish-speaking readership. However, BBCNews also contributes with an important number of poorly translated versions of the articles posted in English a few hours before. On the other hand, BBCMundo also serves to promote English and the UK throughout the Spanish-speaking world. The site contains a link called Aprenda inglés (Learn English) with a vast amount of resources (news, science, technology, quizzes, culture) as well as tourist information about London.
On the other hand, El País is the most popular newspaper in Spain. Launched in 1976, a few months after the death of the former ruler General Franco, the newspaper started its Internet news service, elpais.com, in the mid-1990s. In 2002, it became the first news site in Spain to introduce a charge (although it was returned to its previous free status in 2005). This made it lose many of its readers to its main rival, conservative elmundo.es, which has become the world’s leading news site in Spanish, with eleven million readers every month. In 2001 elpais.com started its English edition, the only one in Spain at the time of writing. It offers, in a pdf version, a selection of its printed and Internet contents plus some original articles. The same edition can also be accessed from the site of the International Herald Tribune, together with the English versions of other newspapers from Korea, Greece, Israel and Thailand. The English version of El País is prepared by, as presented in its own pages, a team of translators working to produce the best of international journalism. Its eight pages include news reporting as well as translated columns by national and international writers, e.g., Mario Vargas Llosa.
There are some significant differences to be noted, though. Firstly, the target readers differ considerably. On the one hand, the BBC aims to reach Spanish speakers worldwide although the focus is on Latin America. The BBC cancelled its radio service for Spain in the 1980s, after Spain’s return to democracy, but the Latin American service received an unexpected push from various political events of the time, including the military conflict between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands. The web site has a similar structure with numerous sections aimed at Latin American readers. El País, on the other hand, offers a staple diet of Spanish national news together with international events for a global readership. There are no available figures as to the global popularity of the site (Frías Arnés 2005: 41), but it can be assumed that the pdf English version of the newspaper is bound to have a rather limited appeal and, therefore, readership.
As for the formal differences, while the BBC has a specific web site in Spanish, with a combination of translated reports and specifically conceived links for BBCMundo, elpais.com only offers a pdf English version of the Spanish printed edition, the former being clearly much more friendly-user. The pdf version has the format of a traditional Spanish newspaper, with sections devoted to national news, international news, the economy, sports items and weather forecasts. BBCMundo, on the other hand, follows the presentation of the mother site, with similar sections and some additional ones aimed at the Latin-American audience. It should also be noted that the quality of the final texts also vary. Whereas El País tends to post high quality translations of their original articles and reports, BBCMundo offers a combination of poorly translated texts, mixing formal and informal registers, and European and Latin American varieties of Spanish. As part of the increased interest in the translation of information in general, and news in particular, the issue of the quality of the translated articles in this site has already been considered elsewhere (Valdeón 2005; 2008). This translational process, because of its peculiarities, has sometimes been called transediting (Stetting 1989; Hursti 2001; Hautanen 2006) and it aims to meet the demands of a different readership (Stetting 1989: 374).
Finally, there is no clear editorial policy in the case of El País, apart from those of the Spanish edition (or, at least, not publicly stated in its English version), which marks a sharp contrast with the elaborate reglas del juego found in BBCMundo, the set of principles that attempt to justify the position of the corporation as regards the reporting of many world events, including issues such as the Iraqi conflict, Venezuelan politics, and terrorism in Spain.
This has an effect on the treatment of those issues in which an Anglophone country (usually the UK) and another Spanish-speaking nation are involved. In these cases, the approach varies and the texts are adapted to cater for the two intended readerships. This applies to the BBC and El País, but also to other Internet media. For instance, in February 2006, Reuters posted two reports on one of the numerous diplomatic rows between Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and a Western leader. On that occasion the Latin-American President became incensed when British Prime Minister Tony Blair urged him to abide by the principles of democracy. On 9 February uk.reuters.com posted a report with the following headline: Go to hell, Venezuela’s Chávez tells Blair. The expression is repeated twice in the main body, stressing that Chávez actually used “local slang that is more vulgar.” The text introduces the news event by saying that Chávez is “… a fiery leftist who recently compared U.S. President George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler,” and goes on to stress that Chávez mentioned Blair’s friendship with President Bush. The report concludes by reminding the readers that Chávez is “a former army officer and leader of a failed 1992 coup,” but conveniently forgets to mention that in 2001 some media revealed an attempt to oust him from power, allegedly orchestrated by the American administration.
The Spanish version is dated also in Caracas, but on the next day. It begins with the far more restrained headline Venezuela protesta formalmente por las palabras de Blair (Venezuela makes a formal protest over Blair’s words). The text makes a reference to Chávez’s angry reaction, although only once. Besides, the words are introduced after quoting the Venezuelan President’s argument that Blair should make an effort to stay away from the internal affairs of other nations, that is, a justification is provided. The Spanish report does not mention, however, Chávez’s equation of President Bush and Adolf Hitler, and opts for a milder expression, Mister Danger, also used by the Venezuelan leader. The combination of these omissions and additions has been called selective appropriation (Baker 2006: 114), and is aimed here at projecting a less negative side of the Latin-American leader for the Spanish-speaking audience. The text concludes with another addition: Chávez’s reference to the conflict between Britain and another South-American nation, Argentina, over the Falklands Islands. He is quoted to have said “exigió a Blair que devolviera las islas Malvinas a Argentina (heurged Blair to return the Falklands to Argentina).” Let us now examine this conflict as reflected in the media.
3. The Falkland conflict in the news
The Falklands war epitomizes a late-20th-century conflict between two nations and two governments, but also between governments and news media as well as between Anglophone and Spanish-speaking media. Allan mentions that in the first weeks of the war “having learned the lessons of Vietnam where the news media purportedly encouraged opposition to the war to ferment, British officials wasted no time in mobilizing a propaganda campaign” (Allan 2004: 159). He notes that the Thatcher government resorted to strategies such as a careful selection of the (male) journalists going to the area, the use of false information and the constant threat to be removed from the area if engaged in critical information (Allan 2004: 159). Some of these tactics have been pointed out by practising journalists (Bell 2003: 45-48; Simpson 2002: 401; Simpson 2003: 360). Allan (2004: 160) also mentions that the reporting of certain media, particularly that of the BBC, was regarded as “defeatist” or even “pro-enemy.” Twenty-five years later, as Chávez’s call and the recent celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the victory remind us, some of the sentiments of that time linger on. The conflict, in fact, exemplifies a linguistic and translational battle with present-day ramifications.
The translation and use of the very terms Falklands and Malvinas has remained at the base of a subtle ideological confrontation between English and Spanish in the media arena. Before proceeding, let us trace the origins of the names in both languages. This archipelago belonged to the French and Spanish Crowns before Argentina gained its independence in 1816. At that time the new nation retained some of the territories that had belonged to Spain in the Southern hemisphere, including the Falklands. Seventeen years later the islands were invaded by British forces and have remained under British rule ever since. The Spanish name for the islands is Malvinas, which, in fact, derives from Malouines, as they were called by the French (from St Malo). On the other hand, the English name comes, of course, from the name of the British aristocrat. In spite of the appropriation of the islands by the British, Spanish has retained Malvinas in all its varieties, European and American, as can be universally traced in printed and electronic sources alike.
Let us turn now to recent British and Spanish media reporting of news items that originate in the Falklands. To establish comparisons, the survey that follows provides information about the reports posted by the Internet news services of English and Spanish national newspapers as well as the BBC, one of the most popular news sites in the UK. No Spanish television network has managed to launch a successful news service in the World Wide Web. Thus, the survey looked into the texts published by elmundo.es, elpais.com, abc.es in Spanish, as well as by bbc.co.uk/news, thetimes.co.uk, telegraph.co.uk, guardian.co.uk, and independent.co.uk in English. Additionally, I will also cover the (mostly) translated reports posted in the English version of El País and the Spanish version of the BBC portal. The period selected for the analysis goes from January 2003 to the April 2007. This is the only period available in the archives of all the sites, which seems adequate enough to produce results concerning the use of the two names. It should also be noted that there are no search engines for the English version of El País, and, therefore, the analysis was painstakingly carried out by checking the printed issues.
As regards the Spanish sites, and bearing in the mind the widespread use of Malvinas in Spanish, I have assumed that reporting of anything connected with the islands will have recourse to the Spanish name. This assumption was tested, as indicated, by consulting the archives of the three main national newspapers with an Internet version and a search engine. The following table summarizes the results.
The table shows the predominant use of Malvinas in most reports. The approach is similar in conservative elmundo.es and abc.es, on the one hand, and pro-Socialist elpais.com, on the other, which implies that the ideological positions of these three media do not have an influence on the choice of name for the islands. It could be argued, then, that this is a linguistic choice: the writers have recourse to the item found in the Spanish bibliography (lexicons, encyclopaedias, history, etc). Of the three sites, two also have search tools for their printed editions. The tendency is also confirmed here since El Mundo provides us with 440 examples where Malvinas is used as opposed to only fifteen for the English Falklands. As for El País, the result is very similar with 157 occurrences of the Spanish term and only four of the English one. That is, the percentage remains around the same 2.5% encountered in the electronic versions.
Also significant are the cases featuring the English name. The writers may opt for Falklands in two main contexts. Firstly, they might be translating the words of a British official, as in the interview with Alan Hackle, the British governor of the Falklands, published on the 25th anniversary of the war in both the printed and electronic version of El País:
Here the term is embedded in the discourse of a representative of the source culture, which is celebrating the anniversary of its victory over the Argentines. The choice serves to anchor the interviewee within the dominant culture. It might be argued that the use of Falklands attempts to place an ideological bias in the mind of the readers against the officer and the government it represents. In this sense, the Spanish readership, familiar with a similar conflict between Spain and Britain over the rock of Gibraltar, would readily sympathize with the political plight of the Argentineans.
However, in most other cases, Falklands is merely used in Spanish news websites with an informative function, either in brackets or as non-defining clause. In these cases it provides secondary or irrelevant information:
Apart from these few examples, the Spanish name is used in the practical totality of the reports.
As for the English edition of El País, it was a difficult task to locate articles dealing with the Falklands since no search tools are available. The library of Oviedo’s state-funded School of Languages keeps printed copies of the past three years, in which I was able to locate thirteen articles on the islands. In all cases the English name was used without providing any reference to the Spanish translation. Thus, El País opts for the Spanish name for the source texts but chooses the English name for the English version, regardless of whether we are talking about a report specifically conceived for its global readership or whether the text is a translated or transedited version of a source report.
As we turn to the British media, the assumption is that Falklands will be the preferred choice. Table 2 provides the results.
The electronic versions of these newspapers opt for the English term in similar percentages as their Spanish counterparts, with only telegraph.co.uk and guardian.co.uk going over the 2.5% identified for the Spanish media and for the other two British news portals. Even in these cases, there is not any clear political bias since the higher occurrence of Malvinas applies to two news portals on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Additionally, the contexts in which the Spanish translation is used resembles those of their Spanish counterparts, with a higher incidence in informative clauses or phrases of the type Fully 94 per cent of the 2,400 residents of Las Malvinas, as the Argentinians call it or increased diplomatic pressure on the Falklands, which are known as Las Islas Malvinas in Latin America. Alternatively, also as in the Spanish case, Malvinas may appear with a political aim, that is, the writer might be trying to make a point for the audience, e. g.:
The first one attempts to reflect the prevalent feeling in Argentina that the islands should be returned to Argentinean sovereignty, the second one serves as an ironical device, and the last one marks a certain degree of understanding of the Argentinean claim. The extracts do not exemplify any clear connections between the ideological position of these media and the position of Argentinean and British governments concerning the islands.
Finally, let us turn to the BBC as a very distinct medium from the other four. On the 20th anniversary of the Falkland conflict, the electronic version of the BBC brought out a special section entitled Fight for the Falklands: Twenty Years On. The special included a link in Spanish called Falklands / Malvinas: 20 años, a title that was already indicative of the different approaches encountered in the two versions. In one of the reports published on that occasion, Roberto Belo, of BBC Mundo, underlined the impartiality of the corporation towards the issue by stressing that both Malvinas and Falklands were used: “un alineamiento editorial que ejemplifica el estilo de la BBC: al referirse al archipiélago de la discordia entre británicos y argentinos, siempre se habla de ‘Falklands o Malvinas’”, that is, the use of the binomial would epitomize the impartiality of the BBC towards the issue. This would imply that by using both names the corporation is not taking sides. It also seems to underline the fact that the choice of name is not merely linguistic or translational, as in the case of the English version of El País, or as found in the remaining Internet sites analysed. According to the BBC, a given choice would have clear ideological connections that the corporation is not willing to endorse. Fair enough. Let us now proceed to test the extent to which this principle is present in both BBCNews and BBCMundo.
Notwithstanding their claims of impartiality, we could expect a higher occurrence of Falklands in the former and of Malvinas in the latter. The principle claimed by Mr Belo, though, should leave a visible mark: the binomial should appear in both sites on a frequent basis. Table 3 provides us with the results.
The comparison for the period 2003-07, the same examined for the other media, shows that BBC World has used the term Malvinas only once. The item turns up in a text reporting on the views of the Argentineans concerning the twenty-fifth anniversary of the conflict, that is, in a context where the writer could be expected to make a reference to the Spanish name. In fact, the report, The Falklands are Argentine, is a translation of a Spanish slogan quoted in the body of the text:
Here, the writer is implicitly acknowledging that Falklands translates the source item Malvinas into English, with no other comment attached to it. In the remaining texts, the preference is undoubtedly for Falklands. To ascertain whether this tendency pervaded in the whole of the BBCNews site, the complete BBC archive was surveyed, yielding a very similar result for the 2001-07 period: the word appeared six times raising the percentage to a mere 1.9%. In the other five cases, Malvinas was used in similar contexts as in their British counterparts, and also in similar ways as Falklands was used in the Spanish Internet sites: as an informative clause (the Falkland Islands, known in Argentina as the Malvinas), or as part of a direct quotation of an Argentinean source. Here, again, the writer aimed at reflecting the ideological position of the interviewee (Ruben Rada of the Malvinas Veterans association, says: “You British have a Queen – but for the Argentine people the Malvinas are our queen…”). It is also noticeable that the occurrence of Malvinas in BBCNews lags well behind the other four British media surveyed here: 1.3% as opposed to, for instance, 5.1% in telegraph.co.uk.
As we turn to BBCMundo, the use of the English and Spanish terms is definitely much more balanced, with 114 occurrences of Malvinas in the 2003-07, and a surprisingly high eighty-two times where Falklands is used. The percentage reflects the well-studied and argued approach to the issue, which embeds Falklands within the Spanish discourse of BBCMundo, a tendency that is supported by the findings of the 2001-07 period. These percentages, as in all the other sites, refer to the total number of occurrences of both Falklands and Malvinas. But we may approach the issue from a different perspective, i. e., the number of reports in which both names is used, the Spanish word is accompanied by the English name in 71.9% of the reports in the 2003-07 period, and 72% between 2001 and the present day.
Perhaps more interesting is the way in which Falklands is introduced. As mentioned, BBCNews uses informative clauses of the type:
That is, the Spanish name appears as a translation, often with a geopolitical comment. This is in sheer contrast to what happens in BBCMundo, where the term Falklands forms a permanent binomial with Malvinas, without any other explicatory elements:
Falklands does not only feature in the main body of the reports, but also in the headlines. Thus, the name of the islands comes up in the title of twenty-nine articles, with Malvinas occurring on its own on fifteen occasions, both names in twelve reports and Falklands in two (although one is, in fact, the name of a petrol company). The binomial is presented by means of a slash, and Falklands often comes first.
This alleged principle of impartiality is present in all the texts reporting on politically-related issues, but the approach remains similar even when reporting on non-political news. For instance, in February 2006, BBCNews included a feature article on the discovery of a giant squid off the coast of the Falkland Islands. The issue, of special interest to the scientific community, was published by most news sites, English and Spanish alike, which used the English and Spanish terms respectively, since, within this particular context, the items had no political significance at all. As, in fact, did BBCNews:
On the following day, BBCMundo posted a word-by-word translation of the source text. Or almost. Falklands was readily inserted in the report:
Finally, we could also consider whether this principle is maintained in other language services of the BBC. It should be noted that the islands are called Malouines in French and Malvinas in Portuguese, the other two languages historically or geographically related to the islands that have specific electronic news services within the corporation. The results in BBCBrasil, the only one with a search engine, are incontrovertible: 100 occurrences of Malvinas versus 42 of Falklands out of a total of 142 items, with nearly 50% of the articles including both terms. In the Portuguese site, the strategy differs from the Spanish one in that the majority of the articles use expressions of the type called Falklands by the British:
The comparison in the application of the self-proclaimed policy of impartiality leaves no doubts: the corporation does not take sides by using the dual reference to Falklands and Malvinas only in the case of BBCMundo (and BBCBrasil) texts, never in the English ones.
4. Anglocentrism in the news
The choices in BBCMundo pose a number of problems vis-à-vis the situation in the other news sites examined. Firstly, the texts are produced from within the context of the languages and the cultures they belong to: Malvinas in Spanish and Falklands in English do not necessarily reflect the position of the reporters, since they are writing from the central circle, and for their respective audiences. Thus, elpais.com writers produce texts primarily for a Spanish readership whereas the telegraph.co.uk journalists are writing with the Anglophone audience in mind. The texts, due to the immediacy of the Internet, will reach readers in the peripheries of their cultures as well. The situation could be reflected in Figure 3.
The straight lines within the central circles represent the primary readership whereas the dotted lines signify a secondary readership. Consequently, the preference for Malvinas in the Spanish media and Falklands in the British ones mirrors the situation of the source cultures: writers use the names universally accepted in their languages and cultures, as can be documented in the primary sources (León 2000), and as is reflected in over 95% of the occurrences in all the sites, and up to 99% in BBCNews itself.
As regards the situation of the two translated versions, Mario León’s approach to the translational process can be of use for the ensuing discussion. A professional translator and interpreter, León (2000: 316) suggests that the first step in the transformation of a source text is what he terms abordaje del texto, which could be rendered as the approach to the text. The word abordaje, though, is a maritime expression referring to the boarding of a ship, and seems an adequate metaphor that reflects the “ethnocentric violence” of translation (Venuti 2008: 16). León (2000: 316-317) suggests several strategies to counteract this intrusion. Translators, he stresses, need to make sure that they understand what he calls the formal, structural and essential elements of the source text, if the target version is to succeed in the three main areas of the translational process: style, clarity, and accuracy. León (2000: 318) believes that every text imposes its own priorities: a news text, in his view, would aim for clarity first, followed by style and accuracy.
Although we might not agree with the scale, the ten strategies that León proposes cover most of the textual, cultural and ideological difficulties to be encountered in the translational process of a news text. One of these is of particular interest here: “Entre dos expresiones equivalentes posibles, elige siempre la más breve, la más clara, la más directa” (León 2000: 321), that is, the translator should aim at brevity and clarity when making choices. This can be achieved by turning to five types of sources (and, he underlines, in this order): the expert, monolingual dictionaries and encyclopaedias, bilingual dictionaries, the Internet, and the translator’s own glossaries and lexicons. All these sources make a clear distinction as to the usage of the two names that we are examining. The translators have, consequently, violated the norm of brevity on the grounds of an alleged principle of impartiality that cannot be substantiated by any of the five types of sources mentioned by León.
Additionally, the use of both names can be said to break the Gricean Cooperative Principle (Grice 1975: 45), which has been judged relevant in translational processes (Baker 1992; Hatim and Mason 1997; Katan 2004). In fact, it could be argued that it breaks not one, but three of the maxims associated with it. The Falkland / Malvinas binomial makes the text more informative than is actually required for the target readers (quantity), and it provides more information than is required for the exchange (relevance). It may even break the principle of manner, since the choice can be challenged as ambiguous and obscure, in spite of claims to the opposite: the constant repetition of the binomial in BBCMundo might stress the political conflict. That is, the use of both names can be interpreted not only as an impartial approach but also as a way of insisting on the existence of the different ideological perceptions of the same geopolitical reality. It is doubtful whether the target readers need to be reminded of this fact.
Besides, the implicature of using the binomial can also be questioned when compared with the choices made in BBCNews. Some readers might be inclined to accept the argument that the use of the two terms responds to the (self-imposed) rule whereby the writer / translator is not to make choices. After all, as Baker (2006: 123-129) clearly shows, a preference for a given name reflects the perspective or position from which the writer / translator is addressing the readers. For instance, Baker mentions the case of a Pilot Guide which opted for Derry rather than Londonderry when talking about Northern Ireland. This exemplifies the position of the writers as regards the Anglo-Irish conflict (Baker 2006: 125). The example is clear enough but it reflects two positions within the same language. However, Spanish speakers will be more adamant to accept this view when comparing the choices in the Spanish and English texts. The Falkland / Malvinas binomial may have political ramifications, but each term is the established standard form within each culture in all other disciplines (geography, tourism, etc.). León, in fact, underlines the fact that the question has never arisen in his long professional life as a translator and interpreter.
However, the comparison with BBCNews indicates a biased approach to the same principle, depending on the intended readership, and in spite of the importance attached to the choice of names when reporting on areas with more than one name (Baker 2006: 127). This might be related to the different intended audiences in the two translated media.
The texts examined in elpais.com (Spanish and English versions) and bbc.co.uk (English and Spanish sites) show the different position of the two media with regards to the (language of the) Other. Firstly, the BBC strives to produce a specific news portal for Spanish speakers in a global market, but the site is geared towards Latin American countries, with a clear interest in promoting English and British culture. The site has sections on the tourist attractions of the British capital and provides, on a regular basis, information about British events. An important number of the texts are translated, following principles of impartiality that have been contested by a sector of the readership and even by some of their former journalists. The lack of coherence in the application of these principles makes an impact on the translational process because each one is applied to very different degrees, depending on whether we are dealing with the presentation of a news event in English, on the one hand, and its adaptation, translation or transediting into Spanish, on the other. Thus, languages in contact can easily become languages in conflict, with one imposing political principles on the other. The recurrent use of the binomial Falkland / Malvinas might be aimed at avoiding face-threatening communicative acts, but this concern is applied bearing in mind the source readership or audience even when transediting a text into Spanish. Paradoxically enough, the principle is eliminated altogether when reporting in the source language for the source readership. Here, the face-threatening concern is applied once again to the source audience. The approach is openly ethnocentric, and the Spanish-speaking journalists / translators are clearly influenced by it. Thus, there is a clear asymmetry of these sites and their foreign-language versions as regards the language, the culture and the position of the other.
As indicated, BBCMundo is aimed at a foreign readership and works partly as a translated service of BBCNews. This is, for the most part, covert translation with no indication of the origin of the reports posted. In this sense, we may be face to face with what House (2003: 43) has described as a new form of “overt translation that may soon replace covert translation.” In her view, in the old type of overt translation, the original text continued living, although in different manner, for the target audience. It was a dialogue between the two languages and cultures. However, “this new overt type […] no longer resembles a dialogue. We are dealing with a situation of conquest, where the textual traditions and the generic conventions of the receiving culture are conquered” (House 2003: 43). In fact, the texts examined unashamedly imitate not only the linguistic conventions of the source texts, but also accept the ideological impositions of the source culture, thinly disguised as principles of impartiality. In a world dominated by Anglophone news media, an Anglocentric perception of the world, or an Anglocentric perception of what is right and what is wrong, permeates through them.
Conversely, the English edition of El País does not hide its Spanish origin. The short editorial team is acknowledged to be formed by translators and journalists. Its purpose is, therefore, twofold. On the one hand, its foreign readership might find, in its pdf format, an open window to what the International Herald Tribune also ethnocentrically describes as local news, that is, events embedded within the source culture: political, economic, cultural, religious, social, etc, even if international news also feature in the eight pages of El País English Edition. But, on the other, it is also addressed at the source audience in order to provide them with a tool that may assist their English language learning process at an advanced level, often used in language schools and universities in Spain. As a new Trojan horse, El País English Edition is, in fact, contributing to the global expansion of English within its own expanding circle.
BBCNews. Visited 12 January 2007, <http://news8.thdo.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/news/>.
El País English Edition. Visited 18 October 2008, <http://www.iht.com/indexes/partners/index.php>.
BBCMundo. Visited 2 November 2009, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/spanish/specials/167_principios/>.
Reuters. Visited 27 February 2006, <http://uk.reuters.com> (report no longer available).
I hereby acknowledge my gratitude to Oviedo’s state-run Language School, which keeps the issues I consulted.
El País.com. Visited 1 April 2007, <http://www.elpais.com/articulo/internacional/Reino/Unido/hara/islenos/quieran/elpepiint/20070401elpepiint_12/Tes>.
El País.com. Visited 25 February 2006, <http://www.elpais.com/articulo/Pantallas/BBC/suspende/emision/islas/Malvinas/elpepirtv/20060225elpepirtv_4/Tes>
El Mundo.es. Visited 24 February 2006, <http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2006/02/24/comunicacion/1140771047.html>.
guardian.co.uk. Visited 12 March 2005, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2003/may/25/movingoverseas.observercashsection?INTCMP=SRCH>.
The Telegraph. Visited 13 August 2006, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1526219/Cold-windy…-and-taking-bookings-now.html>.
The Telegraph. Visited 7 April 2007, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/southamerica/falklandislands/740767/Penguins-and-peace.html>.
guardian.co.uk. Visited 18 October 2007, <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/nov/15/argentina.features11?INTCMP=SRCH>.
The Times. Visited 16 October 2007, <http://www.thetimes.co.uk> .
BBCMundo. Visited 14 May 2008, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/in_depth/uk/2002/falklands/guide2.stm>.
BBCMundo. Visited 14 May 2008, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/specials/newsid_1865000/ 1865530.stm>.
BBCMundo. Visited 15 May 2008, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/6502227.stm>.
BBCNews. Visited 19 May 2007, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/2955061.stm>.
BBCNews. Visited 12 May 2008, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4507481.stm>.
BBCMundo. Visited 21 February 2006, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/latin_america/newsid_4735000/4735416.stm>.
BBCMundo. Visited 21 February 2011, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/latin_america/newsid_4495000/4495395.stm>.
BBCMundo. Visited 21 February 2011, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/latin_america/newsid_3595000/3595151.stm>.
BBCMundo. Visited 15 October 2007, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/latin_america/newsid_3592000/3592695.stm>.
BBCMundo. Visited 18 October 2007, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/specials/newsid_3055000/3055270.stm>.
BBCMundo. Visited 17 October 2007, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/latin_america/newsid_3492000/3492221.stm>.
BBCMundo. Visited 21 February 2006, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/latin_america/newsid_4735000/4735416.stm>.
BBCNews. Visited 12 May 2007, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4756514.stm>.
BBCMundo. Visited 12 May 2007, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/spanish/science/newsid_4761000/4761096.stm>.
BBCBrasil. Visited 2 April 2007, <http://www.bbc.co.uk/portuguese/reporterbbc/story/2007/04/070402_malvinas_aniversariorg.shtml>.
And readers might even judge that the writers are being particularly selective as regards the use of binomials. Parts of the international audience might find it desirable to see Suomi / Finland or Magyarország / Hungary. These might avoid likely face-threatening communicative events vis-à-vis Finnish or Hungarian readers that might not identify themselves with the English (or Spanish, French, etc.) terms.
I would like to thank Mario León for kindly answering my queries as regards this issue.
For instance, Martin Bell has recently criticised the traditional policy of detachment of the BBC, also described as the “sit on the fence” position (Bell 2003: 158-160).
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