Lost and found in self-translation : author-translator’s re-encounter with the past, self, inner voice, and hidden creativity

2017-05-17T01:39:58Z (GMT) by Takahashi, Tomoko Tracy
This study is an exploration of the self-translation process I experienced while translating my autobiography/memoir, originally written in Japanese, my native and first language (L1), into English, my second language (L2). Entitled Samurai and Cotton: A Story of Two Life Journeys in Japan and America, the English edition was published in the United States in November of 2011. Prior to that, the original work in Japanese was published in Japan in June of 2010. The study is unique in that the process of self-translation is examined by the author-translator herself, who is an applied linguist by training. Moreover, the story, being autobiographical in nature and narrated by the translingual writer and protagonist, serves as metanarrative providing clues about the author-translator’s psyche and transformation as she transitions through geographical, cultural, and linguistic changes. Another uniqueness lies in the fact that the book was translated from Japanese to English. Self-translation between languages as typologically distant as those is extremely rare, whereas self-translation is commonly practiced be-tween Indo-European languages. Japanese and English being so different, linguistically and culturally, translation between these two languages is uniquely challenging. The present study is also significant in that it investigates the dynamic process of self-translation, being one of the pioneering works in self-translation research, a newly emerging branch of translation studies, while focusing on a theme that has not received much attention in the field—loss and gain. As reflected in the title of the study, "Lost and Found in Self-Translation," the main question being asked is: What is lost and gained in self-translation, especially from L1 to L2 and between languages as remote as Japanese and English? While asking this question, the study investigates the process of self-translation that was experienced by the author-translator, in search of an answer to the broader and more fundamental question: What is self-translation? As suggested by its subtitle, "Author-Translator’s Re-encounter with the Past, Self, Inner Voice, and Hidden Creativity," this study also explores the hidden creativity fighting against, and creating value out of, the multiplicity of constraints in self-translation as the author-translator re-encounters the past, self, and inner voice through the mirror of self-translation reflecting the dual selves. Centering upon the main goal of unveiling the dynamics of loss and gain in self-translation, the present study examines the aforementioned topics and questions from interdisciplinary perspectives—not only linguistic, but also textual (e.g., original and second original), motivational (e.g., pain and pleasure), and sociocultural or social psychological (e.g., loss and gain of self-identity). By so doing, this study attempts to “bind” these issues in self-translation by examining the relation-ship between the creativity and the multiplicity of constraints that are linguistic and cultural (e.g., untranslatability), textual (e.g., fidelity, audience), interlingual (e.g., L1 interference), sociolinguistic (e.g., transfer, L1 sociolinguistic norms), rhetorical (e.g., L1 norms), sociocultural or social psychological (e.g., identity crisis), sociopolit-ical (e.g., displacement, immigration), and spatiotemporal (e.g., distance). Each topic is explored and discussed closely with examples drawn from the original and the translated text of Samurai and Cotton.