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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The idea of translation : exploring linguistic and cultural interstices in educational contexts Nishizawa, Sumiko


The number of overseas and immigrant students enrolled in post-secondary institutions has been increasing throughout North America, resulting in culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms. In response to this major social change, Canadian college and university educators seek ways to integrate students of diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds and nurture mutual understanding. The challenge of educators, as well as both native English-speaking and English language learning students, is to understand how norms and values shaped by language and embedded in texts, classroom tasks, and interpersonal relationships are translated across cultures. This idea of translation offers a lens through which the intersections of languages and cultures may be richly explored. This study examines how different conceptions of translation operate in socioculturally diverse classroom spaces, while pointing to strategies for reducing barriers to productive and harmonious learning. The study first analyzes various conceptions of translation. It focuses on a hermeneutic concept of language as interpretation, helping us perceive an emerging new space where languages and cultures meet and interrelate. The study also analyzes sociocultural and political effects of translation, in particular, approaches derived from cultural studies and postcolonial studies. Using translations between Japanese and English as examples, the study examines how asymmetrical relations of power construct national identities. Then the focus shifts to post- secondary education. The study examines and interprets the conceptions of translation reflected in textbooks and literature in two curricula areas—college preparatory ELL courses, and first-year English literature courses—in order to clarify how these texts embody particular educational principles and values. As applied in this study, the hermeneutic conceptions of translation illuminate the educational potentialities of texts. Conceptions of translation derived from postcolonial and cultural studies demonstrate how texts can manipulate representation of power and historicity, and hinder opportunities to embrace differences and to create inclusive learning environments. Conceptions of translation with hermeneutic interest, on the other hand, suggest that texts can open up a border world—a third, in-between space—where newness can emerge. The study illustrates how this space, a borderless generative space and a locus to share and appreciate difference, can enrich the educational experience of students and teachers alike.

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