Translanguaging in literary texts: an advantage or a handicap? The translation of contemporary French literature featuring urban youth language

Stella Linn (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen)

The recent concept of translanguaging as a social practice applied in multilingual environments seems to be mainly associated with positive qualities, such as flexibility and dynamism (García 2009). However, in educational systems, the varying linguistic abilities of pupils with a multilingual background, such as second or third generation immigrant youths, may also be framed in negative terms, particularly connected with insufficient ‘cultural capital’ and educational failure. This holds especially true for France, where the hierarchical schooling system tends to stigmatise any deviation from the standard language, such as the use of urban youth slang in the banlieues. This language use is heavily influenced by immigrant languages, thus giving rise to frequent code switching and mixing. When applied to literary texts, the concept of heterolingualism is preferred (Grutman 2006). How does this heterolingual code manifest itself in recent French novels and what connotations does it convey? Moreover, when translation of these novels is considered, what kind of problems does this youth discourse entail, and how can they be dealt with? I will draw on a small corpus of French novels featuring urban slang speakers to address these questions and dwell on possible translation strategies.