Véronique Hotton grew up in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, in a small francophone community. She has an honours BA degree from the University of Ottawa in English-French translation with a minor in theater. During her time in Ottawa she was a set and lighting designer, stage manager, and actor in plays performed both in French and in English and more recently has done some acting and directing in Cape Breton, where she was also a bilingual tour guide and interpreter. She briefly studied folklore and archaeology before starting her master’s in French studies at Memorial. She is currently in the second year of her program, and her research focuses on the translation of plays written in a mixture of French and English and intended for a bilingual audience. As a per course instructor she teaches Introduction to University French.
How and why did you decide to attend Memorial for your graduate degree?
I had originally come to Memorial to do another undergraduate degree in archaeology. In that first year, I got a MUCEP position to help Dr. Graham, now my supervisor, with a translation from French into English of a play from the Renaissance. I told her about the ideas I had floating around in my head about a potential master’s project involving translation studies and theater. She encouraged me to give it a go; since we share research interests, she was available to supervise me. The next year, I started my master’s in French.
What drew you to explore French originally?
I am very much invested in the importance of the French language in the culture and sense of identity of people who live in francophone communities outside of Quebec, myself included. Bilingualism tends to be the norm in those communities, and that has led me to explore the interesting dynamics between French and English among Franco-Ontarians and Acadians particularly. The master’s in French studies allows me to explore this linguistic reality in combination with my interests for theatre and literary translation.
Can you tell us a bit about your current projects?
I am proposing a translation into English of a play that was originally written in the variety of French spoken in Ontario. The particular interest of this play is the emphasis on the way the characters speak and the mix of English and French in the text. I am seeking to understand the way bilingualism is used to achieve specific theatrical effects, and then I aim to find ways to translate the play in such a way that the effect is not lost on spectators that only understand English. It is a multidisciplinary project, involving theatre, literature and translation studies as well as sociolinguistics.
A supervisor can be key to the success of any grad student. What does your supervisor bring to their role as your advisor and mentor?
Dr. Graham encouraged me to start my master’s degree in the first place, and she has been very supportive throughout the whole process. Our conversations often include some brainstorming which has proven to be very helpful in many instances, and she has allowed me to work at my own pace. I very much appreciate her patience and her insight.
How does studying in the humanities and social sciences affect your worldview?
Studying translation, bilingualism and French in situations where it is a minority language means I am always right in the middle of cultural exchanges, right at the intersection between the two languages and cultures. Studying social sciences has helped me to gain a deeper insight into and appreciation for the cultural wealth around me; seeking out different perspectives has been and continues to be an enriching experience.
Are you involved in any organizations on-campus or off? If so, can you explain and detail such involvement?
I have recently worked with the East Coast Trail Association to produce French versions of the maps they hand out to visitors, but otherwise I have not been involved in much yet. However, I intend to continue to seek out opportunities to connect with the community outside of the university, and I kind of wish I had started to do that sooner!
What do you like most about being a graduate student at Memorial?
The faculty and staff at the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures are a great group of people to work with, all very knowledgeable and with a diverse set of research interests that really promotes and facilitates interdisciplinary work. I also enjoy living in the graduate student accomodations at the Signal Hill Campus. I’ve placed my desk in front of my window and from there I can see the whole harbor and the city. I couldn’t ask for a better place to sit to write!
What do you hope to do after completing your graduate degree?
I hope to eventually do a PhD, probably in the field of translation studies and with a focus on bilingualism. For now, I would like to continue doing some work in theatre, either onstage or backstage, in Nova Scotia, and explore the possibility of continuing to teach French as a second language. I also have a few literary translation projects that should keep me busy!