Editors, translators and teachers as gatekeepers of the language - a panel discussion

Editors, translators and teachers as gatekeepers of the language - a panel discussion

English continues to be used more and more in professional life in the Netherlands. It is the language of business, the language of academia, and the international language of communication in general. An ever-increasing number of people want to use English at a high level, but they also want to be seen as real users, with their own way of saying things. SENSE members play various important roles in mediating between the writers and readers of English. Crucially, whether it be in our role as editor, translator or tutor, we are seen as gatekeepers of the language. It is our job to determine what counts as good English and what not.

But as a lingua franca, English is changing. So should we stick to our guns and ensure that every report we edit comes across as a piece of native speaker writing? Should we use the full richness of our vocabulary and syntactic repertoire when translating a website for an international readership?  And should we continue to put a red line through <If the experiment would be replicated> in every PhD candidate’s first draft?

In other words, what is the best way to perform our gatekeeping role? Should we become more relaxed in that role, or is it important that we do everything we can to ensure that standards do not slip? Is there perhaps a way to continue to stress the importance of correctness and clarity while at the same time recognizing that the English used by Dutch speakers may have its own features, and that the readability of a text is more important than the wonders of the idiom?

Panel leader and participants:


Mike Hannay - panel leader

Alison Edwards

Susan Hunt

Tony Parr

Laura Rupp 


Mike Hannay - Professor of English language and Director of Studies at the Arts Faculty of the VU University Amsterdam. He is specialized in the relationship between sentence and text: how can you organize the information in a sentence so that you improve the coherence of the text? He is particularly interested in differences between English and Dutch. Mike incorporates insights from new linguistic research into advanced training programmes in writing, translating and text editing. Over the last 15 years he has given a range of invited courses and workshops in the Benelux, Germany, Spain and Brazil, including workshops for the translation departments of the European Commission.

Alison Edwards - received her PhD at the University of Cambridge, focusing on the sociolinguistics of English in the Netherlands. She has a Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics and undergraduate degrees in both German Studies and Journalism. Alison has lived and worked as a researcher, writer, editor and translator in various countries, including Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.

Susan Hunt - Inspired by the principles of the UK-based Plain English campaign PLAIN ENGLISH, Susan set up her own translation agency in 1987 to provide English language services in the widest sense to businesses and organisations in the Netherlands whose activities are dedicated to an international audience.

Tony Parr - Tony Parr has extensive experience as translator (freelance and in-house) and as teacher of translation, principally at the National College of Translation in Maastricht. He is co-author of Handboek voor de Vertaler Nederlands-Engels and, operating under the name of Teamwork [http://www.teamwork-vertaalworkshops.nl], has been organising short courses, workshops and conferences for language professionals in the Netherlands since 1993.

Laura Rupp - Senior Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics of the VU University Amsterdam. Previously, Laura was Lecturer English Language and Linguistics in the Department of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Essex, where she also received her PhD. Current research: Language Variation and Change and Global English. She also is involved in an international research project regarding English as an international language in higher education.