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Translation and linguistic landscapes part 2

Watch Professor Rita Wilson of Monash University talk about the connection between migration and language.

In this video, Professor Rita Wilson talks about the connection between migration and language.

She uses the image of migrants as ‘translated men’, first suggested by the writer Salman Rushdie.

She also talks about how writers represent the experience of crossing linguistic boundaries and writing in a language other than their mother tongue.

Rita Wilson stresses the polyphonic (consisting of two or more simultaneous voices or sounds) nature of our cities. Linguists use the notion of ‘linguistic landscape’ to describe the way in which different languages are displayed, mixed, perceived or contested in public spaces (Tufi and Blackwood, 2015). And scholars of translation are also interested in the way in which languages face each other, overlap, or mix in multilingual cities (Simon, 2012).

The images below give us a sense of the complexity of such landscapes.

Image of a street in San Francisco with a variety of signs A San Francisco street (Click to expand)

A sign with Chinese translated into Italian

The first photo was taken in San Francisco, in an area which used to be the local ‘little Italy’, but where other languages and cultures now also mix with Italian and English. The image also shows how creative people can get when translating and mixing languages.

Tip: Did you spot the word ‘Oysteria’: a mixture of the English Oyster and the Italian ‘Osteria’ (a small, informal restaurant)?

Polyphonic cities are cities in which translation and multilingualism sit side by side, and are often mixed through forms of ‘translanguaging’ (Garcia and Wei, Translanguaging. Language, Bilingualism and Education, 2014).

The second photograph is an example of this continuity and contiguity: it tells customers in Chinese and Italian that the shop on whose window it appears will be closed to allow the owners to vote in the elections for Milan’s mayor. By juxtaposing the two languages, the sign is making visible both multilingualism and the translation practices associated with it.

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Working with Translation: Theory and Practice

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