In political science, as in other spheres of contemporary life, English has become the lingua franca that knits together an increasingly international community of academic scholarship. The enormous communicative benefits of a common language are undeniable. But linguistic hegemony has its costs as well.

The Limits of Our Lingua Franca

Political scientists who are writing and teaching in English without being native speakers are continually struggling with intriguing problems of translation. All the time, they face enervating situations where either some word of their own language does not have any equivalent in English or, the other way round, where a common English term in political science cannot be properly translated into their mother tongue.

We thus propose to develop a dictionary that takes stock of the translation problems and translation costs of English in political science. Les Intraduisibles shall collect both English terms in political science that are untranslatable into certain foreign languages as well as terms in other languages that lack equivalents in English.

What Is "Untranslatable" Supposed to Mean?

The idea of the "untranslatable" is not to be taken in a narrow, literal sense. Between the genuinely untranslatable term and perfect translation spans a wide continuum along which translation costs and difficulties vary from subtle to grave. Les Intraduisibles wishes to cover the whole ground of less than fully equivalent meaning in translation. The dictionary is not exclusively, and not even mainly, destined to register cases of total damage in the business of translation. Actually, it is less about total losses than about subtle shifts of meaning and elegance that are bound to haunt the business of translating political analysis from one language into another.

Which Languages

Which languages are included? For a start, the dictionary is based on five languages: Dutch, German, French, Italian, and Spanish. Eventually, the dictionary may include other languages as well.

The General Editor as well as individual Language Editors are entitled to commission new entries but also, to edit, correct, or delete existing entries. They are to fulfill minimal functions of review, gate-keeping, quality control, and coordination in what fundamentally is an open and horizontal multi-author project.

Persons interested in acting as editors responsible for some additional language may send a request and her CV by e-mail to the General Editor.