Intercultural Translation in Classroom-based Multilingual Educational Research


  • Gabriela Borge Janetti


intercultural translation, multilingualism, writing research, equivocation


The article presents an appraisal of instances of intercultural translation whereby different processes of cross-language interaction and interpretation take place, and through which incommensurable forms are juxtaposed. The juxtaposition resulting from these practices highlights equivalence assumptions and draws attention to what remains equivocal—mainly, how intercultural translation interrogates equivalences and acknowledges equivocation as a transformative source. Viveiros de Castro (2004) introduced the concept of equivocation to include the sorts of conceptual relations that emerge in translation offering different perspectival positions. One goal is to recognize that understandings are not the same and that mutual incommensurability is what enables comparability through a difference in perspectives. Based on a one-year ethnographic study at an intercultural university in Mexico the article presents two examples of how intercultural translation works as a means and end of language socialization in classroom interactions. The first example illustrates the juxtaposition of greeting structures in the three languages and the different meanings of the word beel in Yucatec Maya. The second example focuses on the use of the standardized version of the question particle wáaj in Yucatec Maya, contrasting it to the use of questions marks in Spanish and to one of its contracted forms. Both examples demonstrate how lecturers and students engage in intercultural translation as a pedagogical practice. Findings show how the study of intercultural translation informs research practice, specifically, how we come to know other ways of doing, knowing, and being in multilingual contexts.

Author Biography

Gabriela Borge Janetti

Borge Janetti is a PhD Candidate in Education in the Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Berkeley, working to understand the social and cognitive sensibilities present in educational contexts of multilingualism and sociocultural difference. Her research interests engage cross-cultural education, including the notion of intercultural translation. She has two Bachelors degrees, one in English Language Teaching and another in International Relations; and two master degrees, one in Development Studies from the University of East Anglia, and one in Education from the University of California, Berkeley. She recently published an article entitled “Intercultural translation and indigenous articulation in higher education.”