Linking Translanguaging and Translation

This month we published Translanguaging in Translation by Eriko Sato. In this post the author explains why she chose to study translation in relation to translanguaging. 

In this book I wanted to show the long-term, often invisible contributions of translanguaging to the development of our languages and societies through the analysis of translated texts. Why translated texts? Think about who the translators are and what they do. Translators are bilinguals who stand right at the boundary between two languages and cultures to help two groups of people understand each other. Their criticality and creativity as bilinguals are crucial for overcoming linguistic and cultural barriers to convey their own interpretation of a text to a new audience. Accordingly, the traces of translanguaging in translation can give us insight into bilinguals’ pivotal language practices. Translated texts can indeed serve as valuable primary data for applied linguists who study translanguaging, language contact, and historical development of languages that reflect surrounding sociocultural contexts.

I examined Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Hindi and English texts with focus on script types, onomatopoeias, pronouns, names, metaphors, puns and other context-sensitive linguistic elements. The analysis shows that translators’ translanguaging is often ideologically driven and motivated by implicit agendas such as:

  • to respect/adopt the culture of the source text (ST);
  • to achieve intercultural communication, rather than cross-cultural communication;
  • to create new concepts, sensitivities and rhetorical tools;
  • to resist the dominant socio-political power of the culture of the target text (TT);
  • to manipulate the perception of historical events.

Translators push or pull linguistic boundaries as needed, and their translanguaging actions consequently shape and reshape our languages, both vocabulary and grammar, and our societies and cultures.

My study sheds light on the problems caused by monolingualizing forces in translation and brings a new dimension to the field of applied linguistics, in particular, sociolinguistics. It is very rare to find features of the source language (SL) in English translations published in Anglophone societies to the extent that translations appear as originals as claimed by Lawrence Venuti. However, SL words and morphemes are scattered across pages in English translations published in highly multilingual societies such as India. Translation practices indeed mirror each society’s dominant attitude toward multilingualism.

The implication of my study extends to language teaching. Translation activities and the use of languages other than the target language (TL) have been unfairly banned or highly discouraged in many language classrooms over decades. The monolingualizing language teaching is effective in forcing  novice language learners to utter words and phrases in the TL but is not effective in fostering their competence in intercultural communication. Language learners, especially novice learners, need to use their “full” linguistic repertoire to approach unfamiliar words and unknown cultural concepts, compare them with those in their own culture, connect them to other subjects that are relevant to them, and start engaging in the community of TL speakers, and communicate with them based on their renewed identity. Translanguaging liberates language learners and emerging bilinguals from linguistic intimidation and allows them to engage in meaningful intercultural communication, the ultimate goal of language learning.

Eriko Sato
Stony Brook University

For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting, you might like Translanguaging as Transformation edited by Emilee Moore, Jessica Bradley and James Simpson.

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