A Collision of Cultures:
Translating the ‘Two Faces’ of
Georgina Collins
15 October 2009
• to relate the concepts ‘East’ and ‘West’ to Senegal
• to examine related, seemingly ‘bipolar’ categories
• to investigate the translator’s need to understand
the multi-faceted nature of Senegal
• to link this to the translator as mediator
• to question Western ideologies and literary norms
• to break down stereotypes and assumptions that
define ‘developing’ countries such as Senegal
My thesis
• Key themes
 a culture of change
 power games
 issues of gender
 hybridity, mediation and local languages
 the influence of orature
• Resources
 source texts
 theories and models
 primary research
East and West
• a perpetually evolving concept
• dated perspective:
• West often implying modernity and capitalism
• East frequently related to tradition and socialism
• no longer possible to make such a binary
Bipolar categories
• African tradition – Western modernity
• Senegal – the Coloniser
• Islam – Christianity
• Northern region – Southern Casamance
• French – Wolof
• Male – Female
• Orature – Literature
• Independence – Assimilation
A multi-faceted Senegal
“This specific use of colonial languages to express
African sociocultural reality is neither the result of
an entirely foreignizing nor a domesticating
strategy. Rather, it is the product of a search for a
compromise between African and European
language expression, a middle passage, a blend of
source and target language translation strategies,
fine-tuned and adapted to deal with the linguistic
and cultural hybridity, or métissage, characteristic
of the postcolonial text” (Bandia, Translation 5)
Translation and mediation
• postcolonial texts have already been translated
• the translator of the postcolonial text must be
multilingual and multicultural (not bi-)
• and must work with her own cultures/languages
• to what extent should she become a piece of the
work she is translating?
Colonising the text
“A translated text, whether prose or poetry, fiction
or nonfiction, is judged acceptable by most
publishers, reviewers, and readers when it reads
fluently, when the absence of any linguistic or
stylistic peculiarities makes it seem transparent,
giving the appearance that it reflects the foreign
writer’s personality or intention or the essential
meaning of the foreign text – the appearance, in
other words, that the translation is not in fact a
translation, but the ‘original’” (Venuti, Translator’s
The translator’s visibility
• Venuti – current usage, continuous syntax, precise
• Semantic translation – aesthetic value, cultural
• Senegalese writing:
• fluency in translation = compromise on details of
the source text
• adhering to non-standard nature of source text
can be mistaken for the translator’s visibility
Non-standard language
“There is no escaping the subversive nature of the
use of a non-standard language, which is almost
always directed against the prevailing norm. When
translated into a dominant language, however, the
very nature of that political act is also transformed”
(Collie, Patois 181).
Translating non-standard languages
• translating a patois:
• the quality of language may be reduced or
• In Senegal:
• a language variant
• a danger of diminishing language quality in
• “a distortion of the cultural fields of force”
• the translator – live and learn multiple cultures
and non-standard languages
Postcolonial writing strategies
“The first, the abrogation or denial of the privilege
of ‘English’ involves a rejection of the metropolitan
power over the means of communication. The
second, the appropriation and reconstitution of the
language of the centre, the process of capturing
and remoulding the language to new usages,
marks a separation from the site of colonial
privilege” (Ashcroft, Empire 37)
Preserving cultural capital
“We need to find out how to translate the cultural
capital of other civilisations in a way that preserves
at least part of their own nature, without producing
translations that are so low on the entertainment
factor that they appeal only to those who read for
professional reasons” (Lefevere, Where 11)
Translation traditions
• French translation tradition
• interlingual translation dates back to 11th century
• Dolet burned at the stake for mistranslating Plato
• 16th century - translation credited for introducing
new words / debates on the creativity of translation
• African translation tradition
• the griot – mediating between kings and people,
narrating history and culture
• creative interpretation, flexible original
• drum language, tone, rhythm, pictoral signs
translated into written language
Translation traditions
• French translation tradition
• recently – faithfulness, foreignisation, ST/TT
• translator/author important, high output of
translated texts
• African translation tradition
• hindered by slavery and colonial past
• translation poorly paid
• many under-qualified practitioners
• In Senegal
• excess of professional translators
• Cheikh Anta Diop – highly respected translator
Western ideologies and norms
• move away from ‘Western’ tradition and trends
• lack of regulations and restrictions means African
linguists were ‘ahead of their time’
• an inter-media approach to the representation of
the voice
• the fluctuating nature of the original text
• a more relaxed approach to the rewriting of texts
• in Senegal – respect comes from ingenuity not ‘rigid
fidelity’ to rules/regulations
• multiplicity of cultures/languages in postcolonial
• depart from traditional translation theory based on
binary oppositions
• translator – multilingual and multicultural
• embrace non-standard nature of the TT
• ignoring cultural layering = flattening in language
• translator – preserve cultural capital
• move beyond Western ideologies / a less rigid
Questions and
Contact: georgina.collins@warwick.ac.uk
Website: http://go.warwick.ac.uk/georginacollins

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