Language, Translation and the Promotion of National Identity: Two Test Cases

Judith Woodsworth
Concordia University

Abstract

This article examines two test cases involving the translation of works of literature into minority languages: the translation into contemporary Scots of Les belles-soeurs by Québec playwright Michel Tremblay and the translation into Romansch of The House at Pooh Corner by British children's author A. A. Milne. In both cases, translation is perceived as a means of exercising the language, developing its resources and thus ensuring its survival. In strengthening the minority language and culture, translation is seen as a way of promoting national identity.

Table of contents

Translators have helped stimulate and enrich their own cultures by introducing foreign values (Delisle and Woodsworth 1995). Cultures have interacted with one another through the exchange of religious, philosophical, scientific and literary texts. Periods of intense translation activity have generally occurred within the context of larger cultural "projects" such as the Baghdad School (ninth and tenth centuries) or the School of Toledo (twelfth and [ p. 212 ]thirteenth centuries). The late twentieth century has been a time of linguistic decolonization and a redefinition of traditional borders. Minority languages and vernaculars, or non-standard forms of major world languages, have taken on a new importance, and translation into these languages has often been associated with efforts to sustain and promote minority cultures.

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