Developing and Delivering a Multilingual Narrative

17 September 2018 | Brussels, Belgium

In the House of European History’s permanent exhibition, no text labels or panels can be found. All interpretative text is available through a multimedia tablet in the 24 languages of the European Union.

On 17 September 2018, the House of European History team delivered a day-long training on multilingual narratives, for 8 museum professionals from the NEMO network. The participants came from 5 different countries and learned about the approaches and tools used to make a museum in 24 languages.

The day kicked-off with an inspiring panel discussion bringing together the voices of curators, translators and copywriters involved in the museum’s multilingual interpretation development and delivery. Afterwards, participants went on a guided tour which covered a variety of topics, from the mythological origins of the European alphabets to the current challenges faced by the European Union to function as a multilingual political institution. In other words, they saw how language diversity is not only a work practice but also an integral part of the museum’s contents. Participants also visited the exhibition on their own with the multimedia and multilingual tablet, and then gave informed feedback to the museum team. The day concluded with a lively discussion where participants contributed and compared their own experiences of multilingual museum interpretation in various museological and linguistic contexts.

During the training, the concept of ”transcreation” was acknowledged by all as a proper and interesting way to describe the multifaceted process of conceiving, translating, correcting and adjusting text for visitors in multiple languages. The term suggested both the importance of a shared ownership of the texts among the various actors involved and the need for a careful balance between accurate and context-sensitive language when it comes to devising content in various languages and for various audiences. All participants and organisers appreciated the varied programme and rich conversations of the day and felt inspired to pursue the reflection and exchange beyond the discussion table.