Translating into Oral Language: The Case of Hong Kong-Style Cantonese

Gloria Kwok Kan Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Orality, often contrasted with the concept of literacy, refers to the communication of thought in cultures “untouched by any knowledge of writing or print” (Ong, 2012, p. 11). Following an oral tradition, texts are created to be memorized and delivered by way of live performance. In the context of translation studies, the discussion usually centres on how distinctive features of oral literature are preserved in a written translation. In this paper, however, I propose to address the topic from a different perspective, that is, translating a text into an oral language in its written form. In the light of Walter Ong’s (2012) concepts of ‘secondary orality’ and ‘psychodynamics of orality’, I use Hong Kong-style Cantonese as a case in point to explore the dynamics in the translation process.

Quite different from the translation of oral literature which aims to produce a permanent record that captures aspects of an oral text or performance, translating into an oral language serves to explore the meaning potential of the original by exploiting specific features of the oral language that reflect current social situations of the target community. The translation, though transient, invites the target readers to ‘perform’ in their act of reading, and strengthens a sense of cultural identity through.
their active participation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-48
Number of pages40
JournalJournal of Translational and Interpretation Thailand (JTIT)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018

User-Defined Keywords

  • orality
  • translating into dialects
  • Hong Kong-style Cantonese
  • cultural identity and translation


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