Keynote speakers

De la mesure de l’efficacité communicationnelle au protocole de réécriture : le cas de lettres adressées aux citoyens par la Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité au travail au Québec

Isabelle Clerc
Groupe Rédiger, Université Laval

Au Québec, depuis que les enquêtes internationales en littératie (Statistique Canada et OCDE, 1995, 2000, 2005 et Institut de la statistique du Québec, 2015) ont soulevé la question du niveau de compétence exigé pour lire des documents et que les statistiques ont révélé que près de la moitié de la population adulte ne les posséderait pas, le gouvernement a décidé de simplifier ses communications avec les citoyens. Ainsi, aujourd’hui, les ministères ont tous dans leur Déclaration de services aux citoyens un objectif visant la clarté et la simplicité de leurs communications écrites externes. Clarifier et simplifier les documents existants exige d’abord de pouvoir estimer leur efficacité en posant un diagnostic expert sur le degré de difficulté des écrits et en mesurant la compréhension de ceux-ci par les lecteurs cibles. L’idéal pour poser un diagnostic est de cumuler les approches et de trianguler les données (Ganier, 2002). C’est ce que nous avons choisi de faire dans le cas d’un mandat de réécriture donné au Groupe Rédiger par la Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité au travail, au Québec. Lors du projet pilote précédant un mandat de réécriture plus large, nous avons posé un diagnostic en combinant une analyse informatique de la lisibilité avec Sato-Calibrage (Daoust et al, 1996), une analyse visuelle et textuelle experte, ainsi que des tests utilisateurs réalisés en équipe de deux personnes. Nous avons rédigé un rapport de recommandation à partir du diagnostic et avons réécrit un échantillon de lettres en suivant les règles émises. À la suite de notre réécriture, les lettres « avant/après » ont été testées lors de groupes de discussion. Dans cette communication, nous nous proposons de décrire chacune des étapes de la méthodologie utilisée et d’en présenter les résultats.


Translation and multilingual communication at the European Investment Bank

Thierry Fontenelle
European Investment Bank

The European Investment Bank has been the lending arm of the European Union since 1958. As a public EU institution, the EIB is currently transforming itself into the EU’s climate bank. With around 3,400 staff members and 50 regional offices around the world, multilingual communication is an essential component of the success of its strategy and its initiatives. In this presentation, we will focus on the role played by the EIB’s Linguistic Services Division in the Bank’s overall multilingual communication. Multilingualism is one of the key principles of the European Union. With 24 official languages, one easily forgets that some 46% of Europeans are monolingual and do not speak a foreign language. It is easy to forget because, usually, all the participants in internal meetings at the Bank are multilingual, given that knowledge of foreign languages is a sine qua non for recruitment in EU institutions. Yet, the Bank also needs to communicate with EU citizens in their languages, especially at a time when it is interested in raising the level of awareness of its activities, which varies considerably between the EU countries. Multilingual communication is traditionally a huge challenge in big international organisations. Internally, a limited number of working languages make it possible for the staff to operate and the EIB is no exception, since it mainly uses English, French and German as its main official working languages. The status of English as a de facto lingua franca means that an increasing number of documents are initially drafted by non-native speakers of English. To overcome the problems posed by this situation, the EIB, like the other EU institutions, tackles these issues in different ways:

  • Upstream: by creating and disseminating instructions and recommendations in the form of guidelines (style guides), glossaries (of abbreviations), terminology work (for local term bases, or via the IATE interinstitutional terminology database). More recently, “Clear Writing” tips have been introduced and are provided to EIB staff on the Bank’s intranet.
  • Downstream: by providing an editing and proofreading service for important publications.

The translation activities of the Linguistic Services Division will also be presented, focusing on the need to raise the client’s awareness of the complexity of managing the translation of a document into potentially dozens of target languages. The use of advanced technologies such as the European Commission’s neural machine translation system will also be addressed to show how MT can be used as a ‘gisting’ service to manage and control the demand for high-quality translations.


Corpus Linguistic Approaches to Business English

Michael Handford
Cardiff University

The question ‘What is business English?’ can be answered in different ways. For instance, we might define it as a register (Biber, 1988), and then compare it to other registers, for instance everyday conversation (McCarthy and Handford, 2004). We can pinpoint specific genres (Bhatia, 2004) which are agreed to play a key role in business communication, such as business meetings or emails, and then analyse the language and practices used to construct the genre in question (Handford, 2010). Alternatively, we might follow Nelson’s (2000) exhortation to distinguish between language about business, which we might find in business magazines or interviews with professionals, with language used in doing business, for example in meetings or company reports. We can distinguish between written, spoken and online modes, or front stage and back stage interactions (Goffman, 1956). All of these responses to the main question can be fruitfully informed by corpus linguistic methods. Nevertheless, corpus linguistics, like any methodology, can only provide partial insights to a question, and it can easily lend itself to a rather decontextualized understanding of communication (Hunston, 2002). When considering any type of organisational discourse, such as business English, the role of context is key (Charles, 1999). This talk will therefore examine the benefits and limitations of corpus linguistic methods when used to analyse business English. It will then demonstrate several corpus methods which have been successfully used to analyse business English, such as keywords, clusters, collocations and Word Sketches, and discuss how they can be supplemented by other methods and approaches to provide a contextually-informed understanding of the interactions in question. One or two case studies will be then presented to show how topics like identity (Handford, 2014) or conflict (Handford and Koester, 2019) can be both motivated by and explored through corpus methods.


How to make free trade cool (again): A metapragmatic analysis

Geert Jacobs
Universiteit Gent

In an era of social media and populism, so-called postfoundational thought (see Macgilchrist 2016 for a good sketch) has started to be an important source of inspiration for the study of organizational discourse. Media linguists, for example, have shed light on how traditional groundings in newsmaking that used to be firm, solid and pervasive (e.g. objectivity) have become fluid and contingent (Phelan & Dahlberg 2011; Cotter & Perrin 2017) and are gradually being replaced by the new foundations of collaboration and engagement. In this lecture I will go into this by turning to the domain of EU economic policy. Drawing on a metapragmatic analysis of the blog series of a libertarian thinktank, I will explore how free trade economists have recently started to engage in a highly interesting critical self-reflection on the politicisation of their discipline and the need for a radically new communication strategy (including a revised perspective on their relationship with the media, both legacy and new). I will end with a couple of thoughts on researcher activism and the need to open up the workings of organizations to a more general scrutiny. I will argue that this is instrumental in promoting knowledge transfer as part of the global democratic project, especially in today’s post-foundational climate in which, turning to the media for example,  ‘fake  news’  and  ‘alternative  facts’  dominate  public  perception.