is hosting a discussion for the creation of a non-English language fest
. I'm not quite on board with a couple of their points or the way some points are articulated, but I love the basic idea of flexing our non-English-speaking muscles.
Ever since I moved back to the Philippines, I've been pondering the monolingual bias more. I've talked about it on my LJ before, so bear with me if I'm being repetitive. In Manila, people switch back and forth between Tagalog and English pretty much all the time (and then there is Taglish!), so if I were to write a story in English that was set here, how would I deal with the multilingual aspect? Not everyone in Manila is equally fluent in both languages, but it's still not just a matter of slipping into one language for a while; it's both the languages all the time. Someone on my flist was talking about a book -- the title escapes me, forgive me -- where the whole story is in English, but one language uses regular quotes, the other language uses italics, etc. in order to show the way the different languages interact in the protagonist's story. This strategy has the right idea. The thing about compressing everything down to one language, no matter what language it is, is that it stunts the nuances of codeswitching and social cues.
For example, let's approach it from the opposite side: I tried writing SPN fic in Indonesian one time. Not Indochesters -- just canon Winchesters and Jimmy!Castiel, except it was in Indonesian. A thing that stuck out to me was that whenever Dean cursed, I felt an impulse to switch to Sundanese (a language in West Java). My family slips into Sundanese from Indonesian when they're excited or surprised, so it's become a language I associate with high emotion and intimacy. There are systemic reasons for this association. Indonesian is the language of commerce/government/media in the country, and this keeps regional languages like Sundanese to the informal spheres, such as between family and friends, or traditional spheres, often shorthand for 'folk'.
In the USA, this kind of multilingualism seems to be associated almost exclusively with immigrant/multicultural families. In Indonesia, people who also speak Sundanese, Javanese, Balinese, Batak, etc. are not immigrants but have been there for like forever. However, their language has been minoritized and deemed informal anyway. When I write in Indonesian about American Dean cursing, can I switch to Sundanese for these couple of sentences? The sociolinguistic foundations between Indonesia and the USA aren't the same, and the implications of being multilingual are different.
As far as writing in one language about characters who don't always do goes, my favorite solution thus far is alt-text. The first fic I've seen that does this is Promise of the पुरवाई
, which is about racebent Mary Poppins. She uses alt-text for transliteration in the fic, but I used it for straight-up English translations in my Indonesian!Novaks fic
. It makes translations available for those who only do English, but also keeps the nuances for those who also understand Indonesian. This is one more argument for e-publishing also, I think. Modifying alt-text in e-pub technology to help popularize multilingual writing, y/n?