Supporting Research Writing: Roles and Challenges in Multilingual Settings
V Matarese (ed), Chandos Publishing, 2012. 330pp, £52.50 (pbk), ISBN 978 1 843 34666 1
Reviewed by Alison Walker
Supporting Research Writing is part of the Chandos Information Professional Series. It is mainly aimed at language professionals, including teachers of academic English writing, editors and translators, and would certainly be of value to copy-editors working with authors who have English as a second/additional language. The book looks at the current range of services and support available to non-native Englishspeaking (NNES) authors in the three main areas of education, translation and editing. It helps the reader understand the problems and needs of NNES authors and offers advice on how to deal with them with the aid of real-life cases.
The book is divided into four parts: (1) teaching NNES authors to write in English; (2) helping NNES authors to publish through translation; (3) facilitating publication through editing and writing support; and (4) blurring the boundaries. The third part is perhaps of most relevance to the SfEP membership, although I would recommend reading the book as a whole. The contributors of the 15 chapters are experienced language practitioners from across Europe, the USA and Australia. They are from diverse educational backgrounds, including linguistics, language teaching, translation studies, humanities, business and biomedical science. Each chapter contains an abstract, keywords, a list of learning points and a list of references. There is also a useful index. As well as three forewords and a preface, there is an afterword by the volume editor, which reflects on what it currently means to be a language professional and discusses recurrent topics in the book, including ethical issues such as plagiarism.
Many NNES academics depend on language support to help publish their research in English for international communication. They can have widely different needs, depending on their standard of English, level of writing skills and knowledge of publication requirements. One of the challenges outlined in this book is to decide how far to go in each case to ensure that an author's work achieves an acceptable standard for publication. It is suggested that the traditional levels of editing, ranging from 'light' to 'heavy', cannot be applied easily to work produced by NNES authors. The reason is that there may be language learner errors and problems caused by the author's native language and writing culture that require varying amounts of extra time and attention. Work submitted by NNES authors may require developmental work on language, content and structure before it can reach the copy-editing stage. When working with authors to resolve these problems, editors may find themselves taking on an educational role, such as helping them to structure an academic paper in an internationally acceptable style. They may also require other skills beyond standard editing, such as the translation skills involved in making the author's voice in English appear credible, and knowledge of different languages and cultures. Editors need to ensure that their work receives sufficient remuneration and acknowledgement if they are going beyond their traditional remit in giving support of this kind.
The final part of the book suggests that language professionals in this field, including teachers, translators and editors, should see themselves chiefly as writing support professionals, differing in their initial approach but with a common aim: the publication of high-quality research articles in clear and accurate English, which conform to internationally accepted standards and conventions of academic writing. If language professionals have too fixed a view of their roles, they may not provide the best service for their clients. The book concludes that effective writing support should be considered as a continuum in which the boundaries separating the roles of education, translation and editing are blurred.
The book makes a valuable contribution to this subject area through its sharing of insights by diverse experts. It is somewhat limited in scope, however, in that most of its contributors are based within Europe, with only a few from outside, possibly because it has its roots in discussions of the Association of Mediterranean Editors and Translators. The book could be used effectively as a learning resource for continuing professional development for those in this field or as an introduction for those thinking of entering it. I can certainly recommend this book, as it has much to offer, although the hefty price tag for a paperback is a disadvantage.