Motherless Tongues: The Insurgency of Language amid Wars of Translation
Vicente L. Rafael is Professor of History at the University of Washington. His books include
Interview: Translation Speaks with Vicente Rafael
Siri Nergaard, editor of Translation: A Transdisciplinary Journal, interviewed Vicente Rafael in May 2013 at the Nida School of Translation Studies in Misano Adriatico, Italy. Rafael explains how he became interested in translation when he came upon the deep connection between translation, colonization, and conversion in his study of the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. He sees language as a historical agent of colonization and explains the role played by translation. “Translation is always at war,” he says; it has to do with a struggle to maintain control over linguistic plurality. But at the same time translation also means playing with the potential of undoing and reconfiguring discourses of power, and so it can be part of emancipatory projects. The conversation ends with considerations of translation in connection with colonial language education and the persistence of accents, which reveal the existence of another language within the language one speaks, and so mark and unmark identity. To speak with an accent, as we all do, is already to move between one language and another and so to translate from the very start.