Rachel Mordecai

NEH Summer Institute Project

Rachel L. Mordecai, University of Massachusetts Amherst

My project for the NEH Summer Institute “What is Found in Translation” is a lesson plan for one session of my upper-level undergraduate Caribbean Literature course; the goals for the lesson are:

1. To get the students to begin thinking about translation, and analyzing translated texts, because much of our reading list (up to two-thirds) will be in translation.

2. To bring them into an encounter with a Caribbean creole that (I hope) will foster the idea that these (at least, many of them) are distinct languages rather than secondary or degraded forms of European languages.

My primary text for the lesson is an extract from Di Jamiekan Nyuu Testiment (2012) – a translation of the New Testament (from the Greek texts) into Jamaican patwa.

The lesson begins with asking my students what they expect of a translation: what qualities they expect it to have, and what qualities would make it valuable to them. From there, the lesson moves into a brief lecture which 1) presents some central ideas about translation, 2) introduces them to the historical context and primary characteristics of Jamaican patwa, and 3) describes and shows an example of the Cassidy-JLU orthography for rendering patwa in print.

The lesson closes with an exercise in which the class examines a passage from Di Jamiekan Nyuu Testiment, along with versions of the same passage from other Bible translations (the King James, the New Jerusalem, and the New Revised Standard editions). Students will respond orally and in writing to prompts concerning the points at which the Jamaican text seems particularly close to, or particularly distant from, the English translations, and the benefits and drawbacks of using the Cassidy-JLU orthography to render the Jamaican translation.

View my presentation here.

Back to Participants