MORE THAN WORDS: Translating culture in language

Thursday, October 8, 2015 - 5:00pm to 6:00pm
UA Poetry Center, Rubel Room 1508 E. Helen Street Tucson, AZ 85721

MORE THAN WORDS: Translating culture in language

Presented by: Irene d’Almeida, Professor, French & Italian

 “To speak … means above all to assume a culture” the cultural and political critic Frantz Fanon said but in speaking, writing or translating a langue not our own, how do we assume the unfamiliar culture? Our language is so basic to our everyday lives that we rarely think about all the implications that the words we use might have.  However, when we speak a foreign language, we are likely to suddenly become more aware of these implications as we try to make our meaning clear. Are we really saying what we think we are saying?  This awareness becomes even more acute when we attempt to translate from one language to another and find we must consider not only the literal meaning of words but their cultural context. In colonial cultures these differences demonstrated how basic language is to human identity and how virtually impossible it is to suppress that identity. Using examples from Fon, one of her native tongues, d’Almeida will discuss the particular difficulties and challenges in trying to translate not only the correct meanings but also the cultural implications of words from one language to another.