Dilemmas in translating a minoritized language

METM 06, Barcelona
27-28 October 2006

Susan DiGiacomo
Saturday 28, 10:20-11:30, Room 3

Translation, for speakers and writers of a minoritized language, is a double-edged sword. Depending on its use in any particular case, it may extend the reach of a literature beyond the boundaries of its own language community to audiences that otherwise would have remained oblivious to its existence; or, alternatively, it may further weaken an already endangered cultural and linguistic system. Caught between two hegemonic languages—Castilian and English—Catalan scientists, scholars and writers live daily with such ambivalence, but in different ways. In the case of medical and scientific translation, the pressure to publish in English increases the international visibility of Catalan researchers (although they are generally perceived as “Spanish”) while it reduces the use of an entire linguistic domain in Catalan. While the demand for scientific translation into English is high, the demand for literary translation into English is low, and the redirection of the Catalan “cultural river” into the stream of “Spanish” cultural production before it flows into the ocean of literature available in English has the effect of obscuring its source. These considerations add a further dimension to the much-quoted saying traduttore, tradittore; to the issues of validity and fidelity is added the problem of potential erasure. The Catalan case provides an opportunity to explore the ambiguities of translation and the translator’s role, and the nexus of translation and power.

Susan M. DiGiacomo received her PhD in cultural anthropology in 1985. An adjunct faculty member in the anthropology departments of the Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Tarragona (Catalonia) and University of Massachusetts at Amherst (USA), she is also a professional translator working from Catalan and Castilian to English, and from English to Catalan.