Cultural and Linguistic Translation of the Self: A Case Study of Multicultural Identity Based on Eva Hoffman’s Lost in Translation

Francesca Maria Frittella

Published Online: 2017-12-14 | DOI:


The present article explores the profound impact of intercultural contact on identity, a topic that is gaining in relevance as multicultural experiences become increasingly common in globalised societies. The focus of the investigation is on the impact of culture and language upon the process of migrant identity (re) building in interaction with the new environment. Theory is applied to the analysis of Eva Hoffman’s memoir Lost in Translation-A Life in a New Language (1998), which offers a profound insight into these complex dynamics. In the first section, intercultural contact is investigated as a bidirectional translation process with both a disruptive and a reinforcing influence on individual identity, as shown through the concepts of hybridity and triangulation. The first section also highlights the points of contact between self-translation and interlingual translation to enhance understanding of their shared challenges. The second section focuses on the interconnection between language and migrant identity and argues that L2 proficiency may be regarded as the fundamental competence to accomplish successful self-translation. The depth of this impact is shown at multiple levels of identity: personal, enacted and social.

Keywords: intercultural contactidentitypsychologylinguisticstranslation studies

Featured Image Credits: Patrick Tomasso


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