One text, two varieties of German: fruitful directions for multilingual humour in “translation”
Languages of publication
A heterolingual text is characterised by the presence of two or more different languages, or two or more varieties of the same language (Corrius & Zabalbeascoa 2011: 115). This article discusses possible methods of translating into English of a text containing two varieties of German: Ottokar Domma’s Der brave Schüler Ottokar [The Good Schoolboy Ottokar]. In these stories, about a schoolboy growing up in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) in the 1960s, Domma creates a zone of friction between child narrator Ottokar’s everyday German and the language of GDR officialdom (“official discourse”). This article first shows that following a conventional method of translating a literary text into English does not allow this satire to be conveyed to the reader. It then presents two alternative translational methods - “thick” and creative - that demonstrate how it is helpful, indeed in some cases necessary, for the translator to adopt a broad understanding of “translation” in respect of texts that exploit multilingualism for humorous purposes. It is argued that methods of translating in which effect is privileged over form - which here included introducing multimodality - can serve well to open up heterolingual humour for speakers of other languages.
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