Prior to our work in translation, we all had already encountered translations in our day-to-day lives. We did not fully understand the challenges and creativity involved in the process of translation until we were faced with the task ourselves.
José Revueltas (1914-1976), a Marxist political activist and writer involved in the 1968 student movement, is believed to have been one of the leaders of the protest at the Plaza de las Tres Culturas. After the massacre, he was imprisoned in the infamous, clandestine Lecumberri Prison. He spent three years at Lecumberri, keeping a diary that contained self-reflections, free writing, recounts of prison life, existential thoughts on the situation in Mexico and humanity as a whole, and even an unsent letter to his wife, María Tereza Retes.
My project was translating several articles written by a Russian socialist, Nikolai Avksentiev, during the First World War. Starting the translation was a daunting experience. Initially, a desire for accuracy and a fear of changing the source text too much led to a translation that was at times clumsy, stiff, unclear, and not quite right. In some of the passages, the problem stemmed from the authorial style. More often, however, the problem arose because what the author wrote can only be perfectly expressed in Russian.
While I was growing up, my family often told me stories of the Adelitas of the Mexican Revolution: the women who fought alongside men to liberate the country from an oppressive dictatorship. Whenever I visited Mexico during the celebration of any holiday, there never failed to be a couple of women dressed as Adelitas. These women dressed in their long, bright skirts, beautifully embroidered shirts, big hats, and bandoliers often left me in complete awe.
Both during and after my time in Korea, I’ve turned this seemingly accusatory comment over in my head, often to no avail. The challenge of deciphering the comment’s assumptions paralyzed me. What did it mean to speak Korean like it was “my” language? Could I ever claim full ownership over a language beyond my native English?
I was very excited to hear about Confluences for many reasons. Language is also culture, and having more resources at the College in a variety of languages is imperative for community representation and growth. I’m personally delighted because I’ve been working on learning Spanish for a long time, although I still wouldn’t call myself bilingual. (I know, this is embarrassing given my age and the opportunities afforded me to learn it.) I anxiously await that moment of discovering I’ve truly become bilingual that Min Cheng described in her article of April, 2018. It is thrilling to have a College publication now with articles in Spanish and English to help me work toward that goal.
I’m not sure if what I’m about to describe is a common experience for those who went from being monolingual to bilingual, but for me, there was a specific moment in time when I “discovered” that I had become truly bilingual. And here’s how it went: I was in the midst of a passionate argument with my partner (who is a native English speaker) regarding something so trivial that I can no longer remember what it was. All of a sudden, I paused; and I had this inner dialogue with myself (while my partner was bewildered by my temporary stupor): “Min, do you know that you are feeling, thinking, and arguing in English?! With a native speaker as your counterpart!! How cool is that?!”
My urgency to create in 2015 the First Year Seminar “Crossing Languages and Living in Translation” comes from my own language crossings: my own perils and triumphs as a translator and as a culture intermediary, a person straddling more than one otherness. There was a time when nothing in my schooling told me that my home language was a treasure. So, at Amherst I created a course to bring multilingual students to the realization that their home language is a treasure, and that they are not alone in feeling ambivalent, and perhaps even conflicted and depressed by the pressures of assimilation and linguistic suppression. There was a time when my own developing excellence in public, profitable, powerful mainstream English became the standard I would use to devalue and reject that dear home language I had put aside to focus on English acquisition. So, at Amherst, I created a course to make that mechanism of self-devaluation visible, and to invite students experiencing a similar pattern to rehearse and enact their own interruptions of the numbing spiral.
I have lost the habit of writing in Urdu ever since I left Pakistan, but in lieu of someone’s request and because of my love for the language, I begin this essay on the subject of Urdu language and literature. By language, I mean not only Urdu’s history, but also its colloquial use and its poetry and prose. According to my humble opinion, this Mughal tongue is plagued by difficulties today. Modern society has consigned Urdu’s past glory to oblivion. Its sweetness and its propriety, its refinement and its multiple literary forms, are all in decline, something which is blatantly attested to by today’s youth. The pearl-like forms of its words and its perfection of expression, the semantic neatness and richness of certain words, and the undulating flow of the language are some of its distinguishing characteristics. Read more…
I’ve always loved the story of how my Uncle Wilson chose his name. It only took a few months of living in America before he realized white people could never get “Woo Jin” right. The “W” always came out too harsh and their tongues would flop sloppily around the J – too loose to capture that sound somewhere in between a “Ch” and a “J.” Sometimes, he would correct them, slowly unfurling each syllable, careful to tap his tongue against the roof of his mouth just right. It never seemed to help, and he couldn’t tell whether it was for lack of trying on their part, or the English language itself to blame, its letters and sounds unable to reconcile themselves with his Korean ones.
Being an international student feels like
being a word translated
from one language to another,
When “mày” “cậu” “ấy” “bạn” “đằng ấy” “bạn gì ơi” are all cramped into the one-dimensional translation of “you” their musical tone muted, their social roots erased, their familiarity
dissolved on the tip of the mother tongue. Read More…