On bilingualism and the language of the unconscious

In psychoanalysis, as the talking cure, language asserts itself pre-eminently as the mode of treatment. Formations of the unconscious, like symptoms, dreams and slips of the tongue, can be interpreted on the basis of their underlying linguistic structure. Bilingual analysands, however, possess more than one language code by means of which they can put such manifestations of the unconscious into words.. This raises the question of how the ‘language of the unconscious’ finds its expression through the discourse of the bilingual subject. Starting with Freud’s conceptualisation of the psyche based on word- and thing-representations, the author examines the status of the mother tongue and a second, later-learned language in the bilingual analysand‘s communication, on the basis of the following questions: (i) Are there any differences in transference, depending on the language in which the analysand expresses himself?; (ii) To what extent are the mother tongue and a language learned later in life interrelated and what does this tell us about verbal processes like repression?; (iii) What value should be attached to the initial choice of language and the language switch, if any, in relation to the process of transference?; and (iv) What conclusions can be drawn with regard to the required language competency of the psychoanalyst conducting an analysis in more than one language?

Sign Languages, Oral Expression and Writing. On the Writing of a Sign Language – French Bilingual Book

Sign languages, and among them French Belgian Sign Language (LSFB), illustrate that the embodiment of language can take different forms. Sign languages demonstrate that sound does not define linguistic ability and that a phoneme is not a sound. The gaze that the signer addresses to an interlocutor organizes the signer’s body and the surrounding space into a grammatical space. A recent experience of editing a bilingual book (in LSFB and in French) devoted to the linguistic issues of teaching in sign language raises several questions: about the status similarity/difference (oral vs. written?) between sign language and sign language video; about the heterogeneity of written practices by Deaf people; and about the particularity of translating a written text into a signed discourse.

When a bilingual creation enriches a language Bilingual tales (French – Sign Language) and the linguistic consciousness of Deaf signers

Two storytellers (one deaf, the other hearing) relate their tales simultaneously in Sign Language (the Sign Language of Southern Belgium) and in French. This experience reveals how important it is for the linguistic consciousness of Deaf signers that they encounter stories. This is very often, even for Deaf adults, where they discover that their language, a signed language, is constructed according to a network of rules, just like any other language. And further that the signer or the speaker can play with these rules. Sign language then is not merely a communication tool: it is a symbolic structure that opens the way for creativity. This experience of storytelling also highlights the differences between these languages: neither the rules, nor the infinite array of possible plays on these rules, are identical in French and in Sign Language. The storytellers’ work is to translate, to negotiate between the languages. It is significant that these discoveries arise from encountering the stories in French. Signers seem to need first to follow the example given by the works in the dominant language which is then translated into Sign Language, before they feel allowed to create in their own language with its own specific rules.