Adapting the Unfamiliar… Through Translation.

Category: Human Nature, Poetry
Last Updated: 26 Jan 2021
Pages: 3 Views: 22

The inspiring narrative, Always living in Spanish, by Dr. Marjorie Agosin, originally written in Spanish, tells of Dr. Agosin’s Chilean childhood and her continuing struggle to embrace the change that came with moving to America. “Destiny and the always ambiguous nature of history continued my family’s enforced migration… (Agosin, 22)” she states. Her story uses personal details to bring her childhood in Chile to life. It is her clear love for her people and the constant battle to not let go of her identity that inspires her poetry all of which is written in Spanish.

For her, like many others, writing and thinking in Spanish is a “gesture of survival” through her journey from Chile to Georgia, as from her Chilean childhood to American adulthood. Philosophers often say that it is important to find yourself, to identify who you are. But the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates through the process of change. The Encarta Dictionary: English (North America) defines identity as “the name or essential character that identifies somebody or something” (def. 1). We all have sets of characteristics that we recognize as belonging uniquely to ourselves.

This constitutes his or her individual personality for life. The concept of identity in Dr. Agosin's essay is shown best when she states “Daily, I felt the need to translate myself for the strangers living all around me, to tell them why we were in Georgia, why we are different, why we had fled, why my accent was so thick, and why I did not look Hipic. Only at night, writing poems in Spanish, could I return to my senses, and soothe my own sorrow over what I had left behind. ”(Agosin, 22) For a while Marjorie was at a loss; the loss of the familiar, and more importantly, the loss of her identity.

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She found a way to reconnect herself with her identity by doing something that reminded her of language, culture and history she was born with. Bringing all of her characteristics together in a consolidated place where she can let go and just remember herself as she is intact with her identity. In America, when we hear someone’s poor spoken English with a thick accent or when we see someone not getting an American Sarcasm, we may not know what their ethnicity is, but we are sure that the person is an outsider.

That is because of the shape of someone’s identity is by the usage and understanding of a language. A Korean- American novelist, Chang-Rae Lee narrates this thought particularly well in her short story Mute in English-only World. She talks about her Korean mother’s mental struggle in an English speaking world by saying, “In Korean she could be fiery, stern, deeply funny, and ironic, in English just slightly less so” (Lee, 801). All languages have their distinct ways of expressing happiness, sadness and other feelings.

Those differences decide how one translates themselves in the society they live in. As Dr. Agosin says, “Translators are not traitors, as the proverb says, but rather splendid friends in this great human community of language” (Agosin, 24). It is hard to adapt and accept the changes that language barriers bring to our lives when we leave our homes. But that is what brings us one step closure to our true selves and how we were made.

Despite of more than seven billion of our own kind on the planet earth, there are times we feel shipwrecked and alone when we are away from the familiar, because as a social animal we have grouped ourselves into ethnicity, cultures and countries. It is where we currently are that has to be our new home away from home. We all secretly desire a perfect life, a perfect family or a perfect boss. After all if a pair of shoes wouldn’t have changed Cinderella’s life then she would be one of us. She would have moved for a better life, learned English, and gotten a better job with a healthcare package.


  1. Agosin, Marjorie. "Always Living in Spanish: Recovering the Familiar through Language. " The Norton Field Guide to Writing with Readings and Handbook 2nd Edition. New York: W. W. Norton ;, 2009. 21-24.
  2. Print. Lee, Chang-Rae. "Mute in an Enlgish-Only World. " Everything's an Arguement. 4th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007. 800-02. Print.
  3. "Encarta Dictionary(Online College Dictionary)Review. " Encarta Dictionary (Online College Dictionary). N. p. , n. d. Web. 11 July 2012. ;http://www. really-learn-english. com/encarta-dictionary-online-college-dictionary. html;.

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Adapting the Unfamiliar… Through Translation.. (2016, Dec 11). Retrieved from

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