A Sociolinguistic Approach to the Translation of Children’s Literature: Exploring Identity Issues in the American English Translation of Manolito Gafotas

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Recent research into the translation of children’s literature has revealed the value of this text type as a site where intercultural conflicts play out. In fact, because the language used in children’s stories is ostensibly less abstract and nebulous than in literature for adults, translation shifts and the cultural and political motivations behind these shifts are more easily retrievable. The aim of this paper is to explore how a perceived political correctness motivated the censorship of Manolito Gafotas in the United States. Political correctness is here understood in accordance to Fairclough’s (2003:17) definition as a ‘cultural politics, as it focuses on representations, values and identities’.
The analysis takes a novel approach by applying a sociolinguistic framework – normally applied to spoken corpora to identify the co-construction of identity in interaction – to a written text, in this case, a children’s story. The application of this framework achieves two objectives: (1) it identifies shifts in the translation of the main character’s behaviour as culturally and morally motivated manipulations, and (2) it demonstrates how the context of translation becomes the very censorship machine that delegitimises the identity of the main character, and, concomitantly, the identity of the implied reader(s). If we take identity to be an intersubjective phenomenon, then any censorship of the identity of the main character necessarily shifts the identity of the implied reader(s), a double censorship carried out under the auspices of an intellectual colonisation of a Spanish text.
After reporting on the results of the analysis, the paper ends by raising the question of censorship in translation, and, more specifically, in children’s literature, in order to promote debate around this topic.
Period21 Nov 2019
Event titleIALIC: Translating Cultures - Cultures in Translation
Event typeConference
LocationValencia, Spain