Research article
Issue: № 1 (1), 2015


The author of the article considers the contemporary sociocultural situation in the Altai Mountains as a trilingual one. The article deals with the translated folklore texts training the communicative competence of the bilingual children (the Altai and the Russian languages are mentioned) in diachronic and synchronic aspects.

The linguistic situation of cross-cultural communication can be appreciated as a cultural dialog which supposes understanding and cooperation of different cultures members. A multicultural space is a space where diverse languages always interact and sometimes intermingle. The basis and the main aim of the cultural dialog is “understanding in all its aspects – linguistic, socio-cultural, axiological (considering and apprehension of the other culture values when this culture is understood as a communication partner)” [16, 16]. The process of translation is conceived in the research paper as a type of a text interpretation, though these two terms can be opposites. The peculiarities of a text as an object opened for the interpretation in the cross-cultural communication are given in one of the most renowned works by Umberto Eco: “A work of art, therefore, is a complete and closed form in its uniqueness as a balanced organic whole, while at the same time constituting an open product on account of its susceptibility to countless different interpretations which do not impinge on its unadulterable specificity” [2, 4; see also: 12]. It deals with the translator’s discourse and axiological strategies used by the translator [4; 6]. Mary Snell-Hornby, when studying translation as a cross-cultural communication event [15, 38], thinks that the intermediary of this event is sure the professional translator though s/he is not a natural bilingual: “The idea that anyone is qualified to translate is all the more absurd when one considers that in theory a translator is expected to be bilingual and bicultural” [15,132]. Being in between of two or more semiosheres, the translator, as a participant of the cross-cultural communication act, works inevitably in different cultural spheres [5]. But when the translator is a bilingual person consciously aiming to form the basic communicative competence of a child reader and listener, the pragmatic effect of the target text multiplies obviously (cf. the discussion questions of different types of communication competence forming and different communicative products in the situations of teaching and natural bilingualism in [17]).

Firstly, we should speak of the bilingual situation with children speaking the Altai and the Russian languages in the diachronic aspect. In the late 1890s and the early 1900s it was possible to study Russian only in the newly-built schools of the Altai Christian missionaries. The Altai written language was used only to spread Christian religion through the Altai Mountains aborigines. The first written translations of the Altai folklore tales into Russian, widely spread through all the region of the Altai Mountains, were made by Pavel Kuchiyak (with famous children’s writer Anna Garf as his co-author) in the 1920-30s. Considering the oral folklore poetry of the Altai people one of the main sources to create the Altai literature (Russian literature is thought of to be the second source) [10, 12], the scientists point out the very important role of the folklore texts (songs, legends, folk tales) in polylinguistic culture of the Altai region. The successful introduction of an Altai child into the Russian culture had followed the appearance of the Altai folk tales, finely and elaborately translated into Russian by Pavel Kuchiyak and Anna Garf. There is no doubt those folk tales were addressed to the Russian children, too, when they started studying Russian.

In the simultaneous bilingual situation, as A. A. Zalevskaya thinks, “it is formed the coordinate or mixed type of a bilingualism” [17, 38]. In such a situation, we should mention the prevalence (dominance) of any of the languages (cf. [8; 14]). N. Ringblom supposes “the majority of bilinguals are dominant in one or two languages. …However, language develops all the time and dominance can shift in response to changes caused by interaction with the environment such as schooling, traveling or spending more time in a particular language environment. …Moreover, when dominance is measured in one language, it should also be specified how it corresponds to proficiency in the other, since the concept of dominance implies two entities: if a child is dominant in one language, his/her other language is automatically weaker” [13, 394-395]. Pavel Kuchiyak was a simultaneous bilingual; he was born in the Altai shaman family, and became one of the first professional bilingual Altai writers. He tended to regard much the Russian language and Russian literature [9; 11].

It was probably the key why Pavel Kuchiyak and Anna Garf, while translating Altai folk tales into Russian, used strategically correct basic words for the Altai children to recognize well-known proper names and realities. The translators transferred those words with the help of transcription or dubbing Russian and Altai word forms: Жила-была девочка, звали ее Шелковая КисточкаТорко-Чачак; Мое имя РыстуСчастливый; кам жил в берестяном аиле; покатилась в костер чочойка; еще не успели в стойбище расстелить на полу белую кошму, еще не заквасили чегеня для араки (the quotes are taken from [1]). The translators of the Altai folk tales often used the adaptation strategy while transcribed the communication fragments in the Altai language incorporated into the Russian text: Посмотрел большой медведь на свою бурую мохнатую шерсть: как огнем опаленная, пожелтела. «Э-э-э, ма-а-аш, как я похудел!» (the folk tale «An Elegant Chipmunk»); – О-о, яйла! Вот гостеприимная птица! Спасибо тебе! – От этой похвалы кедровка совсем счастливая стала (the folk tale «A Kind Nutcracker»); Старичок погладил свой костыль, поправил усы; глаза его совсем узкими стали. – А ты, сынок, когда захочешь лечь, скажи коровам: «Пып!» Побегать захочешь – скажи коровам: «Тап-Тажлан» (the folk tale «Happy Rystu»). Recognizing of the well-known communication fragments and known-by-ear proper names lets a child perceive the text easier though s/he could not know the Russian language well yet. It also helps a child to take the text into his or her cultural fund. But this translators’ strategy can be appreciated as code-switching. “Code-switching has also been suggested as a criterion for dominance. Yet, code-switching should also be discussed in relation to identity, not just from the perspective of limited proficiency” [13, 394].

When taking into consideration the synchronic aspect of the problem discussed, we should mention the socio-cultural situation in the Altai Republic as not only bilingual, but as a trilingual one. The third language, English, is very important in this touristic region, too. In most of the contemporary pedagogical works in the Altai region bilingualism (see: [3]), the researches speak of the trilingualism problems studying from the linguistic and psycholinguistic points of view.  In such a case the translation of the Altai folk tales into English, made for the trilingual children of the Altai region, can be appreciated as one of the most acute works.  Such a practical research was defended as a diploma project at Altai State University in June, 2014 by Anastasiya Lisova, the student of German Linguistics and Foreign Languages Chair of Mass Communications, Philology and Political Science Department (the preliminary results see in: [7]). The translation of the Altai folk tales will be published in a local Internet site to be accessed by all the three languages (Altai, Russian, English) speakers. We see it as a unique possibility for trilingual children to train their communicative competence in Altai, Russian, and English, and to socialize successfully in the contemporary multicultural space.


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