TM2: Remy Attig

Judeo-Spanish and Spanglish: Common Considerations for the English Translator of Two Peripheral Lects

Remy Attig

University of Ottawa

Abstract: In the natural order of language development orality precedes literary production, but elements of the oral tradition do often appear in literature. In this presentation I will look at orality in some Judeo-Spanish and Spanglish texts to see how the study of these two lects together may better inform the translator. Though both are lects of Spanish-speaking communities in the diaspora, Judeo-Spanish and Spanglish may, at first glance, seem to have little else in common. The former is a dying tongue spoken predominantly in Israel. Though the literary tradition in Judeo-Spanish dates back centuries, language preservationists are now in a race against the clock to collect its folktales and oral tradition in writing while the population slowly dwindles. Spanglish, on the other hand, is gaining ever more prestige and attention. While early written evidence of Spanish-English code-switching appeared in personal correspondence in the mid-19th century, the lect had been largely confined to the oral sphere until the late 1990s. The emergence of music and literature in Spanglish marked a turning point for the lect as it began to appear not only as a nod to Hispanic-American culture in an otherwise English or Spanish text, but as main lect of the entirety of the texts. Despite these differences, from the perspective of the English translator of these texts there is a great deal of similarities, particularly insofar as the role that orality plays in the literature of these communities. Rather than isolating each lect, the translator can benefit greatly when considering both when deciding how to translate the work from its position in the periphery of the Spanish literary sphere into English.

Keywords: Spanglish, Judeo-Spanish, diaspora, postcolonialism, orality

Bio: Remy is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Ottawa in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures where he focuses on issues of identity and language use of the Judeo-Spanish and Spanglish communities. His thesis focuses on how to translate Judeo-Spanish and Spanglish texts into English. In addition to his academic work, Remy has worked and volunteered around the world with a variety of environmental and social change NGOs.

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