Article Review: Translation through the Macaronic: Gearóid Mac Lochlainn's Sruth Teangacha / Stream of Tongues
The article “Translation through the Macaronic: Gearóid Mac Lochlainn's Sruth Teangacha / Stream of Tongues” primarily addresses the struggle that Gaelic poets face in deciding whether to translate their works into English or to publish their works exclusively in Irish. This issue is analyzed through the scope of Mac Lochlainn’s work as an author and his decision to offer English translations with some of his later works.
The primary argument that is made in favour of offering English translations to the works of Irish authors is that the potential readership is expanded greatly by using a more widespread language. By utilizing the English language to gain popularity and readership of their work, many Irish authors are worried that their work will lose authenticity by accepting “the colonial tongue that has almost supplanted their language.” However, in using English translations and publishing their works in dual-language editions, authors can appeal to readers who have some level of competency in Irish and those learning the language who would otherwise be incapable of accessing such work due to their level of Irish. This trade off that faces poets, such as Mac Lochlainn, who choose to write in Irish and contemplate providing English translations is frequently referred to as their “Catch 22”. As a result of evaluating this issue, modern Gaelic poets commonly incorporate the English language, and even go so far as to alternate languages, in their readings of their works. This is due to these authors acknowledging the benefits of the exposure and inclusion of those who are not fluent in Irish. There remains a high degree of caution exercised in this practice amongst the Gaelic poets. This issue has been addressed specifically by Mac Lochlainn by incorporating the English language into his performances so as to create a form of artwork which draws from a variety of other foreign traditions and cultures in an effort to incorporate the use of the English language in a more meaningful and artistic way. However, like many other Gaelic poets, Mac Lochlainn faces still faces issues of writing in a language that is not his first language, despite the fact that he embraced Irish relatively early in his life. Additionally, Mac Lochlainn finds value in the combination of various traditions which have been historically oppressed, more specifically in his fusion of the Gaelic poetry and Reggae music traditions. Lastly, Mac Lochlainn is also faced with the issue of how to address the movement of music and performance onto a more digital platform. The struggle that he faces in this realm is the manner in which he wishes his performances to be experienced as he is opposed to the idea of having silence in the background of his work and wishes instead for the atmosphere to be more encompassing. To combat this, he records his work in areas in which in would be traditionally performed, such as on the streets of Belfast or in a pub, as opposed to in a typical recording studio.
Ultimately, Mac Lohlainn establishes and differentiates himself from other artists not only in his utilization of the Irish language and incorporating of English translation, but also in the variety of ways in which he incorporates other traditions and uses uncommon techniques in his performances, in addition to performing in areas which he believes lend more authenticity to the works that he creates. However, the struggle that Irish authors face in their limited following of fluent Irish speakers remains as one that must be addressed on an individual basis.
Gearóid Mac Lochlainn