Filipiniana Books
Vicente Rafael: Contracting Colonialism

Filipiniana Books"Vicente Rafael's work on translation and conversion is statistically the most cited scholarly work in various studies of the Philippines. His work and its approach has been used in South east Asian studies on comparative colonialism and nationalism, language and power, translation and the historical imagination and the comparative formation of the post-colonial humanities." Masterclass Brochure, Center of South East Asian Studies, May 15, 2018

On Vicente Rafael's Contention that Translation is a Tool of the Empire
A Translator's Musings on the 
Final Text.

Soledad Reyes is translating some Tagalog classic novels into English. "Classic" here is a general description for novels and other literary works that are already considered part of the 'canon' of Philippine literature. But why translate those works into English? It is because this intervention is necessary to capture a great percentage of the population who are more fond of reading western fiction. 

As a regular supplier of interpreting and transposing texts the translator is expected to produce, for the target user, translations that should not deviate from the meaning of the source texts. In requiring a translation into a Tagalog equivalent, the source expects no less than faithfulness and accuracy, even in the intention, and to a lesser extent, the tone of the source. Failure to explain the choices or justifications that do not satisfy the source's expectations nullify the translation for target reader, or makes it wrong and unreliable.

But, keeping the translation accurate and faithful is not the bigger problem. More challenging is dealing with the Tagalog dialects [or regional preferences]. Five translators in Tagalog will yield five different translations. Native dialects will naturally resist a 'hybrid' that is "Manila Tagalog." But insisting on a Tagalog translation that is, say Batangueno, can also be taken as discriminatory.

Maybe, Batangas Tagalog has been constantly touted as "malalim" [deep Tagalog] with its "puntong ala eh." Therefore, in translation practice, it has always yielded to "Manila Tagalog," using "ano ba" instead of "ano ga", "punta ka rito," instead of "parine ka," among so many distinct differences.

Bulacan and Nueva Ecija may dominate the literary spectrum, somehow dictating how Tagalog should sound. Therefore, when a translation reviewer comes from these regions, even Manila Tagalog becomes suspect, and thus, a lot of adjustments happen in the text that has already been processed.

The translator's task is to allow a smooth communication of text as generated by the source, via a language that will yield a near-similar experience to the target. The translator as bridge in this process, annihilates personal preferences that ultimately registers culture, orientation, and idiomatic expressions. The translator allows 'the native' Tagalog dialect to become "assimilated" into the "imperialism" of Manila Tagalog simply because this is a crucial aspect of communication. In the process, a constant "war" against pride and ear for the native language is waged as the translation adopts other assimilated codes that progressively make up what is so called "Filipino." The translator, bends to the more learned choices, or to preferred equivalents touted as more correct in the light of new debates going on in the development of the target language. 

The translator naturally longs to go back to the tribe' and anchor herself in the originality of the native expressions. But yielding to this desire will result in confusion. Why do this at all? Why insist on the "I" when messages are always meant to be decoded, understood and applied beyond regional limits? 

Soledad Reyes translates into English because this language has indeed become, in Vicente Rafael's words, "the final text." All other texts have become "in-between" texts. For the Filipino reader who has got to also become part of the global interchange, interventions through an interpretation of the dialects and language variations simply become tedious and unnecessary.