Bilingualism in Literature: Where do we find it? 2


Help me out!

My research, as you know if you’ve been here before, is in Puerto Rican literature written in the States. None of the books I worked on for my dissertation were 100% monolingual. I’m working with a definition of bilingual on a continuum where one extreme of the continuum is a text that has a roughly 50/50 language split, OR where lack of knowledge of either language prevents reading the book with comprehension. On this end of the continuum, I place Giannina Braschi’s Yo-Yo Boing! I don’t think that book can be read successfully by anyone who doesn’t read both English and Spanish relatively fluently.

On the other end of the continuum are books that are primarily monolingual, with occasional code-switching, loan words, or other types of inclusion. These books are bilingual to the extent that someone not knowing the less common language can read the book with comprehension but will also miss out on shades of meaning. Having just taught Down These Mean Streets, by Piri Thomas to two classes of students in which I only had one student who spoke English and Spanish, I can say that shades of meaning are lost, but the book as a whole can be read successfully.

So, for now, what about a 3 point scale?

  1. Can be read successfully by a monolingual reader. Slight shades or nuances of meaning lost because of lack of knowledge of secondary language. Minor glossing can reduce or eliminate difficulty. E.g. Piri Thomas, Down These Mean Streets
  2. Very difficult for monolingual reader. Can be read only with significant glossing or other apparatus, or by skipping/missing large segments of meaning. E.g. Cherríe Moraga, Loving in the War Years: Lo Que Nunca Pasó Por Sus Labios
  3. Impossible for monolingual reader–fluency (or near-fluency) in both languages required. E.g. Giannina Braschi, Yo-Yo Boing!

So, I ask you: Where else in the world do we find texts on this continuum? I am looking to compile a list of texts (books, poetry, drama, fiction, especially) that reside somewhere on this continuum. Submit your suggestions! Individual texts, authors, locations, periods–all welcome. Flanders? Quebec? South Africa? Indonesia?

Some suggestions I’ve heard from Twitter:

Via @muziejus: [Lithuanian] literature (from LT) of the XIXth C. is now printed with glossaries to cover all the Polish terms that have been expelled.

—–Well, czarist Russian lit has plenty of French, often untranslated.

Via @runlolarun: In Western Poland– until recently Germany– it’s common to see German & Polish translations in pub space instead of Pol/Eng