Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

Language Justice: Narrative Therapy on the Fringes of Colombian Magical Realism 1

Academic journal article The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work

Language Justice: Narrative Therapy on the Fringes of Colombian Magical Realism 1

Article excerpt

Narrative therapy on the fanges

The subject of this paper: How do I convey that the message I want to deliver does not belong to English (Perez Firmat, 1994), and, in my translation of it from my Colombian Spanish, unwillingly I had to surrender it, leaving it behind. I had to do so after engaging for longer than the longest river in Colombia, the Magdalena River, with a futile task of attempting to bring the message to English intact and original as I know and understand it in Spanish. I have finally succumbed to the conspicuous conclusion that the message I hoped to convey was after all untranslatable. Only by reaching such a conclusion could I honor it and do it language justice. I had to accept, with the moral dignity it calls for, that what belongs to my Colombian Spanish, belongs to my Colombian Spanish and what belongs to my immigrant English, belongs to my immigrant English - and only when standing in the space in between these two distinct and particular visions of life, I could find new ways to utter it in a form other than the one that originated and shaped it.

I often wonder if this conclusion about the untranslatability of my languages may be mind-blowing for monolinguals and even for bilinguals. I consider this because even as a bilingual, when I realised at first that a particular vision of my life in one language was untranslatable to the other, it blew my mind - fortunately, the blow up was not as violent as the unfortunate and frequent blow ups my country has been a witness to during a state of civil war. I spent a few years after looking all over the place to find those blown up pieces of my mind. When I found them, I had to put each piece back together like a puzzle. Only until then I could proceed to make some sense of what seemed at the time a nonsensical discovery. This is, the fact that what I learn and experience in one language often becomes inaccessible or untranslatable to be performed in the other, having to leave their vocabularies and meanings behind. Unexpectedly, this nonsensical lesson about language did not come from the theories I was learning at the time by Wittgenstein, Locke, Gadamer, Foucault, or Deleuze. Instead this lesson came from what chicana scholars call a theory in the flesh (Moraga & Anzaldúa, 1983) - in this case, my own flesh and blood. It was a lesson from love (in English) and amor (in Spanish). After migrating to the U.S. from my native country Colombia, I learned that loving in English is not the same as amar in Spanish. I found myself arriving to English to learn all over again what love was about, because I only knew how to amar - even though the broken hearts of some of my former Colombian lovers may dispute my statement with very good reasons of their own.

So, this untranslatable message I am writing about, which belongs neither to my Spanish, nor my English, is directed to those whom, like the message itself, I left behind. They are:

* Those who can't hear me since their current conditions limit their access of participation in contexts like this one in English;

* Those who can't read me or hear me since they learned to know the world instead in wiser terms by the color of the earth, the sound of the wind, the flow of a river, or the taste of their spirits. Perhaps to their good fortune;

* Those who prefer to use the walls in the street to put their colorful thoughts and to read the thoughts of others instead than in the pages of the colorless publishing industry;

* Those who could not meet me because the social classes that divide us gave us amnesia, making us forget who is on the other side of the divide, and

* Those whose biological and historical existence was taken from them without their consent in the name of the greed of power

To begin to write about my untranslatable message, I will start by its name. I have named it a 'betweener' message (Diversity and Moreira, 2009). It belongs neither to Spanish, nor to English but to the space in between where they meet in a Spanglish sort of way. …

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