European Society for Translation Studies

Professor Miriam Shlesinger died on 10 November 2012

It is with great sadness that we announce that our friend and colleague Miriam Shlesinger has passed away.

Miriam played a key role in the development of the EST. In 2000 she set up and then ran the EST Working Group on Training; she was a member of the EST Executive Board from 2001 to 2004, then co-editor of the Proceedings of the 4th EST Congress in 2004, and a keynote speaker at the 6th EST Congress in Leuven in 2010. In 2002 (Newsletter 20) the EST expressed its condemnation of her exclusion from St Jerome Publishing.

Miriam was a practising translator and interpreter, a teacher of translation and interpreting, one of the leading international scholars of interpreting, a brilliant self-effacing style-editor, a tireless co-editor of journals and collective publications, and a staunch defender of human rights, at one stage serving as President of Amnesty International Israel.

Miriam received her BA in Musicology and English Linguistics from the Hebrew University, her MA in Poetics and Literary Studies from Tel Aviv University, and her PhD from the English Department at Bar-Ilan University.

Miriam was Professor at Bar Ilan University, Israel, where she taught from 1978 and was Chair of the Department of Translation and Interpreting Studies and Director of the Language Policy Research Center. In recent years she taught Community Interpreting, a year-long elective course that empowers speakers of minority languages to play an active role in interlingual and intercultural mediation in hospitals.

Miriam’s Masters dissertation broke new ground in the study of translation universals, while her doctoral research centered on cognitive processes in simultaneous interpreting. She worked as co-editor, with Franz Pöchhacker, of the Interpreting Studies Reader (Routledge 2002) and, from 2003, of the journal Interpreting  (John Benjamins), as well as Associate Editor of the Benjamins Translation Library. In recent years her interests came to include corpus-based translation studies, community interpreting, sign language interpreting, the sociology of translators and interpreters as professional groups, and the self-representation of translators and interpreters.

Miriam was CETRA Professor in 2007, the same year in which Franz Pöchhacker, Arnt L. Jakobsen and Inger Mees edited Interpreting Studies and Beyond: A Tribute to Miriam Shlesinger. Copenhagen: Samfundslitteratur Press.

Miriam held an Honorary Doctorate from the Copenhagen Business School (2001), the 2010 Danica Seleskovitch Prize, and the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Israel Translators Association (2011).

She is much missed.

Interview with Miriam Shlesinger
Miriam Shlesinger, Lecture on signed languages
Miriam Shlesinger, Lecture on corpus studies of interpreting (2008). Part 1, Part 2.


CBS Honorary Doctor Miriam Shlesinger


It is with great sorrow that we have received information that Professor Miriam Shlesinger, Bar Ilan University, Israel, died of lung cancer on 10 November, aged 65. In 2001, CBS awarded her an honorary doctorate in recognition of her outstanding contribution to interpreting and translation studies. This led to her making many subsequent visits to CBS, all of which were characterised by her inspiring generosity. In 2007, in further acknowledgement of her work, CBS took the initiative of publishing a well-deserved Festschrift in her honour, Interpreting Studies and Beyond. During her stays at CBS, Miriam always insisted on ‘earning her keep’ by guest lecturing, collaborating on research projects, running seminars, and eagerly and enthusiastically sharing knowledge with students and faculty in Dalgas Have. Here, she said, she felt as close to heaven as she would ever get. We are grateful for having known her and will always cherish and honour the memory of a wonderful colleague.
Arnt Lykke Jakobsen

From the AIIC Extrranet:

Miriam Shlesinger

Miriam Shlesinger passed away on November 10, 2012 in Tel Aviv, Israel. We have lost a vital colleague and a beloved friend. Much has been said about her achievements and her remarkable contribution to our field as an interpreter, interpreter trainer, scholar and humanitarian, but to many people whose lives she had touched, she was also an incredibly courageous woman, and an extremely kind person who loved working with people and for people. Simply put, Miriam was an exceptional human being.

I had the fortune to get to know Miriam through our work on the AIIC Research Committee. Aside from being a significant force and an extremely devoted member of the committee, she has inspired me by her devotion and drive to further our knowledge of interpreting and to increase equality and civility in the world.

For people who know Miriam, we have all been entranced and humbled by her intellect, sense of humor, kindness and compassion. But it is her courage and powerful love of life that made her unforgettable. In her last days, she insisted on continuing to be useful and living her life as fully as possible, despite her failing health and diminishing strength.

Among Miriam’s numerous roles, what made her the proudest was probably her role as a teacher. In one of her letters, she wrote that she only had a few “good hours” in a day and needed to be stingy in using them for different tasks. The one task she wanted to devote her time to was teaching. And she did. On October 24, a group of MA students at Bar Ilan University would see the legendary Miriam Shlesinger enter the classroom in a wheelchair, connected to an oxygen tank. After briefly talking about her lung cancer, she went on to teach for 90 minutes. An observer described how much Miriam was energized in the presence of her students and in one of her letters, Miriam cheerfully wrote, “Just give me a classroom of students every day and I’ll live forever.” The following week, on Oct. 31, she went to teach her second class.
And this is Miriam Shlesinger’s greatest gift to this world – her love of giving.

Minhua Liu
12 November 2012

From the AIIC Extrranet:

Miriam Shlesinger

Words and deeds never to be forgotten

Our beloved friend and colleague Miriam Shlesinger has left us, after a most heroic fight against cancer.

Miriam had, and always will have, a stature much larger than her physical self. She was all in one: an accomplished interpreter with rare qualities which had won her worldwide recognition, from the U.S. White House and the State Department to many European institutions and all the echelons of government and academia in Israel; a committed citizen with the strongest sense of justice, former Amnesty Chairman in Israel and long time fighter for the rights of minorities; the first to academize sign language and community interpreting and embrace them as an academic field on its own merit in the Interpreters’ School of the Bar-Ilan University where she taught and served as Head of the Department for Interpreting and Translation; but first and foremost, Miriam was a teacher and a mentor to generations of students and her impact on them is indelible.

Hailed by presidents and scholars, Miriam was always attentive to the needs of the poor, destitute and needy. She would move heaven and earth to ensure that suspects and prisoners be questioned through an interpreter into their own language, and have full understanding of the proceedings, lest justice be sacrificed; she would do the same to safeguard rights of minorities; she gave a tremendous push to the opening of various institutions to catering to the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

But her greatest love was her students. For her, teaching and mentoring was a holy mission. On her deathbed she still said: “Just give me students, and I will be fine.” The many generations of students she has taught and trained will all remember her as a teacher who made a big difference in their lives, a teacher in the old sense of the term, a teacher with a mission who marked her students forever.

Beloved Miriam, to use your own favorite phrase always said with a twinkle in the eye: “It was an honor and a privilege” to have known you, worked with you and learnt from you. I and all your friends, colleagues and students will treasure the gifts of knowledge and friendship you gave them.

May you rest in peace.

Haya Shavit-Kedar
Israel Region


Professor Miriam Shlesinger passed away on 10 November 2012. As the news of her untimely death is spreading, the extent of the loss is beginning to sink in.

Many alumni and staff members at CETRA have had the tremendous privilege of meeting her and working with her. Miriam was CETRA professor in 2007 and remained a supervisor since, showing unwavering loyalty to CETRA’s project of research training.

Her presence at the 2012 session was one of the things that made it into a memorable occasion, and it sums up so much of what Professor Shlesinger has come to stand for within the Translation and Interpreting Studies community more generally. Miriam had been weakened by her illness and needed help to get about. We realized that this would be her last CETRA session. And yet, this knowledge was never more than a subtle subtext to her presence and active involvement in the programme. Hugs were exchanged at the end of the session, knowingly and gratefully, but without sentimentality. Tributes were made during the session, but with the delicate indirectness that poetry and humour afford. The most wonderful thing was to see how Miriam just kept going, making the trip to Leuven, giving the best of herself in many tutorials and leading a seminar on “Corpus-based Studies – What can they tell us about translation and interpreting?”. Her commitment, intellectual vigour, didactic lucidity and rhetorical verve were as strong as ever.

Professor Shlesinger was a very influential scholar. Posterity will remember her for her countless publications, as well as for her achievements as a top interpreter, human-rights campaigner and in other fields. Those who knew Miriam personally will remember the sparkle of her intelligence, her passion for research and justice, her belief in the power of communication, her generosity and deep humanity. Her star will continue to shine for us.

Reine Meylaerts (KU Leuven), Director of CETRA
José Lambert (UFSC Florianόpolis & KU Leuven), Honorary President of CETRA
Elke Brems (Hogeschool-Universiteit Brussel)
Andrew Chesterman (University of Helsinki)
Dirk Delabastita (FUNDP Namur)
Lieven D’hulst (KU Leuven)
Peter Flynn (KU Leuven, campus Antwerp)
Yves Gambier (University of Turku)
Franz Pöchhacker (University of Vienna)
Heidi Salaets (KU Leuven, campus Antwerp)
Christina Schaeffner (Aston University)
Luc van Doorslaer (KU Leuven, campus Antwerp & Stellenbosch University)

From the editors of the journal Target:

Professor Miriam Shlesinger

At the time of writing this, and even more so, as you read this, there have been very many tributes to Miriam Shlesinger, who died from cancer on the 10th of November 2012. The community of Translation and Interpreting Studies scholars has come together in its grief at her loss, and in appreciation of all that she did for our discipline and for so many of its members.

One aspect of Miriam’s work that has not been widely cited is the tremendous contribution that she made to Target as its style editor, from its first issue in 1989, until the second issue of Volume 20 in 2008 – 20 years and 20 volumes’ worth of close reading and editing, ensuring that the quality of expression in the journal matched the quality of its contents. From Volume 21, Miriam moved onto the Advisory Board of Target, continuing to support the work of the journal with her wit and wisdom. We have been honoured to know her; and we shall miss her very much indeed.

The Editors and Board of Target.


In addition to her international standing, Miriam was part and parcel of the Department of Translation and Interpreting Studies at Bar-Ilan University. Here her departure will be especially noted. I sadly realize that the department will no longer be the same. I shall miss her deep involvement in our everyday routine; her intellectual vigor; her wise advice, so generously given; her concern for everyone and everything in the department – the students, the teachers, the library (no new publication missed her eye), and even the students’ coffee corner; as well as her helpfulness whenever a new challenge emerged.

I admire her commitment to pursue her academic work to the very end. Until her last days she read student assignments, gave her wise input to theses and continued to counsel students.  The new academic year commenced in October 2012. Miriam was eager to teach, if only one course. After the first class (she managed to come to two), she wrote to me: “It was magnificent. All fears and physical problems disappeared the moment I entered class. I just have to teach, teach, teach … In short, I am happy.” She was thankful for the opportunity “to feel 100% healthy,” as she said; she praised her assistants and the students for their good will and understanding, and followed her words with a smiley.

I am glad that she had the opportunity to leave us with a smile. We were lucky to hold a farewell event when she was still able to participate with almost no indication of her illness and hear all the praise that she so rightly deserved.

We in her department are proud that we had the opportunity of working with her all these wonderful years.

Ye-hi zikhra barukh (May her memory be blessed).

Rachel Weissbrod


In Homage to Miriam Shlesinger…

I am one of those lucky persons who had the privilege of collaborating and communicating with Professor Miriam Shlesinger. Together we co-edited a volume and peer-reviewed several articles. She kindly accepted to be a member in the advisory board of a Romanian journal and of a publishing house translation series of which I am an editor. To me she was a model on how to go about this (frequently difficult and delicate) job, showing me through the high quality of her own reviews that a professional in this kind of activity works to the author’s advantage, with creative suggestions and inspiring stylistic solutions, instead of devastating criticism. She joined me enthusiastically and whole-heartedly in what we used to call “the Nida project” and we took part in the book launching in Brussels together. She was friendly, modest, and genuinely happy to meet Nida and talk to him on the occasion of what was probably his last public appearance. In fact, 30th September 2009 (The Translator’s Day, for that matter) was, for me, the day when I last saw both of them.

Circumstances were such that in the period that followed I became increasingly acquainted with the very diverse aspects of Miriam’s remarkable professional activity that spanned 35 years. I discovered that her research covered a larger variety of areas than I had initially presumed: Cognitive processes in [simultaneous] interpreting, Literary translation, Translation theory, Corpus-based translation/interpreting studies, Pedagogy of translator/interpreter training, Translation from and into Hebrew and Translation from and into English. To this could be added, in the last couple of years,  a number of other socially significant topics of investigation: Community interpreting, Court interpreting, Self-representation in the translational professions, Language policy and language rights, Signed-language interpreting, Simultaneous interpreting of theatrical performances and Relay interpreting. In her acceptance speech delivered on the occasion of being awarded the Danica Seleskovitch Prize for outstanding contribution to research and practice in interpreting (2010), Miriam Shlesinger described herself as “A translator-interpreter who practices her profession while also imparting it as a teacher and observing it as a researcher”, thus summarizing in the limpid, clear and concise style that was unmistakably hers, a lifetime of highly diverse professional concerns.

I think that the strength and the validity of Miriam Shlesinger’s research comes precisely from the tight interconnection, in her personal – and moral – profile, between the rigorous researcher, the accomplished professional and the fully committed member of the socio-professional community to which she belonged.

Miriam chose to include me in the group with whom she stayed in virtual touch until the end and I feel privileged and grateful for it in view of the deep respect I have always had for her. She said good bye to me in an allusive manner, which was all the more heartbreaking. Her messages showed not only how brave she was until the end, but also that she was fully aware of her state of health, and that she had gathered plenty of medical information with regard to her disease in her determination to defeat it. Unfortunately, the miracle we were all hoping for did not happen.

Besides her impressive professional achievements, I will always remember Miriam for the wonderful person she was, for the quality of the relationships she knew how to establish with the people she was in contact with, for her modesty and human warmth.

In the Foreword to the volume we edited in Nida’s honour, Miriam said: “We pray that he will find in this book the homage he so richly deserves”. In my turn, I pray that Miriam will find in these lines the heartfelt homage that she so richly deserves.

Rodica Dimitriu
Universitatea “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” Iasi, Romania


Chercheuse, enseignante, interprète, toujours engagée dans toutes ses activités, Miriam a été aussi éditrice pour la collection Benjamins Translation Library (BTL) (à partir de 1999) et la revue Interpreting  (à partir de 1998 comme Review Editor, et 2004 comme coéditrice). Infatigable, elle a lu, évalué, révisé, corrigé, édité des dizaines et des dizaines d’articles, de chapitres – concourant ainsi à la promotion de notre discipline, incluant à la fois traduction et interprétation. Son souci d’extrême qualité dans la teneur et la rédaction des publications et son ouverture interdisciplinaire ont contribué au développement de la traductologie. Nous lui devons toute notre reconnaissance pour son travail méticuleux – bien éloigné de la logique qui voudrait s’imposer de publier à tour de bras, en toute hâte, sans rigueur scientifique.

Merci, Miriam, pour ta lucidité, ta générosité, tes exigences, ta patience souvent teintée d’humour!

Yves Gambier


I forget when I first met Miriam in person, but during the past few decades, in different contexts and countries, I have come to appreciate her hugely as a colleague and friend. Our conversation has ranged far and wide, covering much more than academic and translational matters. Miriam was someone with whom one could talk about anything, including love and friendship, family, suffering, and death. Politics, of course. And even diet – several of us had been trying to to get her off Diet Coke for some time…

One occasion I cherish was in 2001, when Miriam and I were both privileged to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the Copenhagen Business School. I remember the friendly amusement with which we watched each other learning how to put on the lovely blue-grey robes and hat before the ceremony. Inger Mees gave an entertaining talk comparing one of us to Isaiah Berlin’s fox, who knows many little things, and the other to the hedgehog, who knows one big thing. I recall that Miriam was the hedgehog: a reference to her command of everything and anything to do with interpreting. But in retrospect now, I think Miriam was both fox and hedgehog: she knew a great many things, and she knew them deeply. The breadth of her academic work and her thorough professionalism in everything she did, marked her out as someone exceptional. And not just in the academic world.

She was (in)famous for working on her laptop at all hours of the day and night – even, I have occasionally noted, while listening to a less-than-totally-absorbing lecture. There was always a manuscript to be assessed, an issue of Target or Interpreting to be checked and style-edited, a thesis or student essay to be graded, and a hundred emails to answer.

The last email I received from her was a couple of weeks before her death. I had sent her some haiku poems, and she had responded at once with some sensitive comments and a self-deprecating joke. So typical!

During her last months she approached the end of her life with openness, courage and humour, keeping in touch with colleagues and friends to the very end. In this too, life’s final challenge, she was exemplary. She was much loved, and will be long remembered.

Andrew Chesterman


Miriam In Memoriam from Germersheim

Whoever got to know Miriam was immediately impressed by her unassuming manner, her kindness, her willingness to answer questions with patience, her curiosity, her sense of humour and her engaging personality. Of her many publications, what has become especially important for her colleagues in Germersheim are her studies of cognitive processes in translation and interpreting and her work on community interpreting. In her teaching, the struggle for the rights of minorities was successfully put into action when she prepared students for their role as interlingual and intercultural mediators in hospitals. Her co-editorship of Interpreting: International Journal of Research and Practice in Interpreting and of Benjamins Translation Library is a sign of her broad knowledge on the field of translation and interpreting theory as well as on corpus-based research and cross-cultural studies.

Miriam had planned to visit Germersheim this December and, among other things, take part in a round-table talk with interpreters and PhD candidates to discuss their work. A few months ago she still hoped to be able to come. Sadly, this plan could not be realised.

We are grateful for having known her. She was a wonderful colleague. She will be much missed.

Dörte Andres
Sebnem Bahadir
Dilek Dizdar
Silvia Hansen-Schirra
Andreas Kelletat
Don Kiraly
Sigrid Kupsch-Losereit
Paul Kussmaul
Michael Schreiber


Another great mind and great heart is now silent in the Translation and Interpreting Community. What a terrible loss.

Miriam was an infinite source of inspiration.

Our EPIC corpus was born thanks to her on the spur of her vision in the late 1990s for corpus-based interpreting studies. It was a privilege having her stay with us a whole week in Forlí, humbly insightful and humanly and intellectually generous as only great souls can be. Her friendship was one of the best gifts of life.

We will always miss her energy and enthusiasm, but keeping her memory and legacy alive will help us advance research and teaching, as she would have tirelessly done.

Mariachiara Russo


In honor of Professor Shlesinger

I am shocked at the news of Prof.Shlesinger’s death. Our meeting at the 2012 CETRA Research seminar remains fresh in my mind.

She is a humanist with a strong passion for defending universal human rights, which was reflected in her keynote speech on Interpreting and Human Rights at the Chengdu Interpreting forum in 2010.

When I told her in Leuven that sign language interpreting has been incorporated into China’s interpreting studies agenda, she was overjoyed.

May her enjoy peace and happiness in heaven.

Jie Liu


The editors of Translation Studies would like to express their sorrow at the death of Professor Miriam Shlesinger of Bar-Ilan University, Israel. Professor Shlesinger was a Consultant Editor on the journal’s advisory board from the journal’s launch in 2008. Her staunch support for the journal’s work and her intellectual contribution to the discipline were and are warmly appreciated by the editors. The founding editors, Kate Sturge and Michaela Wolf, and the new editorial team incoming in 2013, Valerie Henitiuk, Red Chan and Carol O’Sullivan, extend their heartfelt sympathy to Miriam’s family and colleagues.

Kate Sturge
Michaela Wolf
Valerie Henitiuk
Red Chan
Carol O’Sullivan


I find it difficult that someone so dynamic and alive as Miriam is no longer with us. I got to know her last year at a conference she co-organised in Tel Aviv. The time, personal attention she dedicated to me, and her quiet, objective, untiring explanation of the political situation – and of her own with St. Jerome, was humbling. Highly gifted but with an extraordinary focus on the needs of others. A truly good person who I feel very honoured to have known. My thoughts also go out to her daughters who also looked after me exquisitely during my time of need in Tel Aviv.

David Katan


It was a privilige to have known you. Last week I asked my colleague whether she knows somebody who has researched translation versus paraphrase and she said perhaps we could e-mail Prof. Miriam Shlesinger and ask if she knows. With great sadness I learnt that it is no longer possible. Remembering you, although sad we have to ‘get on with the show’. I used this quote from you only a week ago. Condolences to your nearest family and colleagues.

Boguslawa Whyatt


I had the opportunity to attend Professor Shlesinger’s lecture on interpreting corpora in Forlì in 2010. While my research investigates a different field of TS, I was instantly drawn to Mrs. Shlesinger’s approach and her ability to engage a heterogeneous audience with various degrees of background knowledge. It is a true loss for academia, and I am sure I would say the same of her as a person, had I been lucky enough to meet her directly.

Alice Casarini


It is a true honour to have known Miriam Shlesinger. Since the publication of the special issue of Meta in 1998, where Miriam launched her corpus-based research project in interpreting studies, I
have been inspired by her breadth of scholarly knowledge, generosity, kindness and dedication to her students and colleagues. She was always available to answer any type of query and her clear thinking and deep insights into translation studies made you really understand and love this fascinating discipline. Miriam will be greatly missed.

Sara Laviosa

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