Monday, 12 August 2013

Beyond the Mother Tongue; Or Translation to Live with

Your trip lasts until you reach home. This is something I heard when I was little, in Japan. This saying, or something like a saying, means that you need to be aware of your journey until you get home. It appears to me when things are about to reach their end. My MA year is about to finish. Over the course of the year, translation and literature have been stuck in my mind – I was thinking about both of them from morning until midnight, even in my dreams. The thing is, this is what I expected before coming to the UK. Indeed, now is the end of the MA, and I am writing my MA dissertation at the moment (as of 5th Aug.).
For my MA dissertation I am working on exophony, a literary phenomenon, where writers choose to write in a language other than their mother tongue. I have been fascinated by this word ever since I came across Yoko Tawada’s collection of essays, Exofonii: bogono soto ni deru tabi [エクソフォニー:母語の外に出る旅] (Exophony: Traveling Outward from One’s Mother Tongue) (2003), several years ago. Tawada is a Japanese writer, but she writes novels and poems in German as well as Japanese. Although there are many exophonic writers such as Vladimir Nabokov, Joseph Brodsky and Joseph Conrad, I am looking at Hideo Levy, an American writer who uses Japanese in his texts. Needless to say, last September I did not have any clues about analysing exophony or having it linked to translation. I have found them, instead, over the course of the year studying the MA in Literary Translation at UEA. This MA has provided me with solid research skills and knowledge in all aspects of translation studies, giving me a new perspective on translation and removing the old. Indeed, I am writing my dissertation with insight I have acquired from four modules: Translation Theory; Stylistics for Translator; Case Studies and Process and Product in Translation. After starting research for my dissertation, I felt translation studies has never paid much attention to the anthropological and ethnographic dimensions of 'foreignness', even though these might provide new kinds of creative exploration, new cross-overs of style and form and genre. Exophony is at the center of these areas; but though my researching of it, however, I also found that it has not been much dealt with in translation studies. Then, I approached some academics outside of my MA, and they kindly advised me about my dissertation. As Google Scholar says, I felt like standing ‘on the shoulders of giants’. I would like to thank Dr. Chantal Wright, Dr. Christopher D. Scott, and Prof. Clive Scott.
In spite of still writing my dissertation, I have come up with many interesting topics apart from that of my dissertation. I think this is because, as an international student, a non-native English speaker, studying and living here is inevitable when thinking of two languages. Every time I read text written in both English and Japanese, I think how such text is translated into one of two languages, just as a translator would. It seems that even my personality has been changed by the MA. Studying in bilingual condition reminds me of the  concept of ‘pure language’ (Benjamin 1923), provoking my monolingual mind. What I have leant best though the MA is that exploring between languages is one of the most pleasurable things in life. 
Hiromitsu Koiso translates from English into Japanese. His literary interests include world literature, exophony and translation as a creative form of text making. Contact:

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