An Analysis of “Translations” by Brian Friel
Introduction: Language Barrier
The tragic collapse of the Irish language and the subsequent loss of Irish identity caused by the language barrier are the subjects of Brian Friel’s drama Translations. This topic is a major one throughout the play, and the audience is made aware of it through the experiences of the O’Donnel family.
The Irish Maire struggles to speak English at the play’s beginning. Only a few phrases and the phrase “In Norfolk, we bespot ourselves around the maypole” are known to her (Friel,8). Jimmy is in a comparable circumstance, except Maire is more outspoken about her ignorance. Jimmy exclusively speaks Irish, and the only English word he is familiar with is “bo-som,” which he finds challenging to say (Friel. 8-9).
Throughout the play, they get better at it, and at the conclusion, Maire is working hard to learn the language. She believes that learning the language is essential for her future prosperity and that continuing to speak only Irish would be disastrous.
Her opinions contrast with the character Hugh, who considers English a rudimentary commercial and industrial language. Although he is not a traditionalist regarding his native tongue, he thinks that it must change for the Irish to exist.
He says they must learn the new names and compares it to learning a new language and home (Friel. 66). He sees maintaining the ancient language as a hindrance to advancement in Irish Homes, which is related to Jimmy, who cannot keep the proper Greek and Latin languages.
The most exciting aspect of Owen’s personality is how much he enjoys using words to his amusement and advantage. He deliberately translates incorrectly for Greek speakers, which enrages his brother. When examined closely, we can see that Owen is removing the whim from the text he is translating to show the strength of the Irish language.
Due to the refusal of many Irish people to learn English, one of the few English-only speakers in the play experiences alienation (Friel, 39). Manus, who saw the imperial English Language as a threat, represents a similar negative on the opposing side. Even talking to Yolland is off-limits to him due to his language. Given the shutdown of Irish schools to make room for the British educational system, his rage might be well-founded.
Friel, Brian. Translations.