nedelja, 12. december 2010

Appreciation of terminology and misunderstanding - Internationality of Terminology

Gostujoče pero – Elisabeth Simon

With English emerging as the lingua franca of international and interdisciplinary communication, terminology being the corner stone of professional and scholarly interaction has not lost its importance, on the contrary. With the future internationality the discussion about terminology, and in particular library expressions in our case, can become more intense and this does not refer only to multilingual and multicultural Europe. Discussions about library consortia, which can also be international, the international user, and the development of and access to special material and collections on an international base through the web are signifficant for the new phase of terminology use. The international scope inside the discussion about terminology can be accompanied by deep misunderstanding if the awareness of historical roots and cultural structures of long, historical duration are missing. The fact that Rumanian librarians feel more comfortable in professional relations with French librarians(1) than the English speaking ones is not only caused by better or lacking language skills. The positive development of public libraries in Italy can be recognised by those who had the possibility to observe similar developments in France 20 years ago(2). Word lists and dictionaries are not only reflecting the state of the art of the present discussion but also (un)observed similarities in the administration and the somehow unconscious professional connections on a transborder and transcultural level.

There is an illustration appended to the text, Public Library as a term and as a concept, a simple expression used on a daily basis by librarians and omnipresent in the mind of every professional in a library. This simple expression has been chosen because it may illustrate what happens in the mind of each participant attending international symposia, conferences and workshops. If a German librarian says public library, then she or he has a distinctly different image than that of e.g. a librarian from Midwest of the United States. One could say, that this is not of such an importance, that French librarians should know and conceive their terminology the same way Slovenians comprehend their own. But this has become a general postulate today. It is not connected only with the international network of communication and understanding but also with the support of libraries by a growing international framework of co-operation(3).

Understanding the different concepts of international colleagues and collaborators in the profession is necessary for surviving not only on international meetings but also for applications at different units of the EU. Otherwise we will constantly be missing the point. A thorough knowledge of and familiarity with terminology up to date and covering a wide range of issues belongs to it, including familiarity with expressions in a number of supporting fields, e.g. in management(4). It is easily thought that knowledge of management expressions is universal and that it will be understood everywhere, but it can be observed today that the application of these expressions is very often not well balanced, not correct or changes the meaning. Therefore it is necessary that an agreement about the terms of use (e.g. of a fatabase or e-journal) shall be found, with the support of a dictionary of terminology, in best case a multilingual one. But also in this fortunate case we must always be certain that the ideas of professional representatives may differ from each other (e.g. the definition of a book for librarians or publishers). That may not be comfortable, because it forces to clarify the terms in use before entering a discussion, but it also adds to the colour and interest in a profession which for many outside people seems to be dull.

    1. Cf. the book about the university library of Bucarest: Biblioteca centrala universitara dim Bucuresti 1891- 2000. Bucuresti, 2001, 231 pp.
    2. Les bibliothèques en France 1991- 1997. Paris: Editions de Cercle de la Librairie Collection Bibliothèques, 1998, 315 pp.
    3. Topics national and international foundations and EU promotion of libraries were discussed in more detail during a seminar at Humboldt University, winter term 2003/2004
    4. Kanič I., Wells M.: How to present my library: German librarians meet international guests. Berlin: BibSpider 2003, 65 pp.

  • 4 komentarji:

    1. This coming Wednesday, December 15th, marks the anniversary of the birth of Dr Zamenhof, creator of Esperanto. Esperanto is slowly consolidating itself as a purpose-built international language. It's of use to librarians as well as to everyone else.

      Why not use Esperanto terms as the basis for a 'biblioteka terminaro'?

    2. I am glad you found interest in our blog, Bill, and thank you for reminding us of the anniversary! In our international project Multilingual Dictionary of Library Terminology we had in mind to include Esperanto as one of the languages but unfortunately the expert, fluent in both library terminology and Esperanto, could not do it for personal reasons. We still support the idea, though.

      I found a number of your postings on the net which I find very interesting, but could not find your e-mail address. If you are interested please do contact me at ivan.kanic(at)

    3. Saj lepo in res čestitke, da ste dobili tudi tuje strokovnjake, ampak pričakujemo spet kaj iz naših logov, je bolj zanimivo in radi preberemo! :-)

    4. Se bomo potrudili in čez vikend bo spet kaj novega "iz domačih logov", nas pa seveda veseli, če se najde kak zadovoljen bralec!