Where Languages Meet: Translingualism in South American Decolonial Literature
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The practice of writing in various languages within a single text has increased considerably, as a new form of expression for minority cultures. Because most of these minorities have been assimilated within the dominant culture, to retrieve their own linguistic knowledge is a complex endeavor. Literature has become a tool for the expression of suppressed cultural identities, especially for second and third generation immigrants. I will focus on the way writing is used by immigrants in the American continent as they try to reconnect with their origins. More specifically, I will study Junot Díaz’s novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Gloria Anzaldúa’s text Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza. Both authors write in a combination of English and Spanish. Anzaldúa also includes the Chicano dialect, representing the cultural crossovers at the heart of Chicano identity. Díaz focuses on the Dominican diaspora in the US by including specific Dominican vocabulary and historical references. These texts refuse to be translated and assimilated within mainstream literary practices, which would silence a part of their cultural identity. These authors provide an alternative for expressing and portraying multilingual lives. The study of these translingual texts’ effects on reading practices has seldom been researched. I will, therefore, study translingual texts and their decolonial influence as an alternative to translation. A translingual text creates an environment where certain reading strategies need to be practiced, the reader is forced to translate themselves and do additional research. This is necessary in order to engage with and understand the text, thus involving the reader in a close study of other languages and cultures. A translingual text creates an experience of foreignness and highlights the power relations between languages and cultures. Consequently, it reverses the cultural perspectives of the text’s readership to reveal the issues of power at the root of decolonial discourse. These aspects participate in a decolonial effort by making the reading experience challenging.