Meaning-Making in the Untranslatability: A Translanguaging Analysis of the Film Love After Love


  • Lili Han Macao Polytechnic University



translanguaging, AVTs in the film, meaning-making, untranslatability, Eileen Chang


Films have been held for a long-term tradition as a meaning-making practice in visual and audio play, in the hybridization of language, image and sound, as well as in interactive symphonization with the audience/viewers. Through the emerging theoretical lens of translanguaging, this article analyzes the translingual practices, performance, instances in a Chinese film entitled Love After Love (adapted from Eileen Chang’s short story and directed by the Hong Kong Director Anne Hui), in which a Portuguese sonnet lyrical poem (Rimas) is delicately crafted in the film and projected in the trailer. Through this analysis, we aim to examine how translanguaging aesthetics transcend language boundaries, transforming from the seeming untranslatability to communicative meaning-making practice. The film presents a situated and embodied poem recital scene that encompasses untranslatable moments of imagination, thus transcending the Mandarin-English-Portuguese divide. The encounter and intertwining of heterogeneous languages and registers create a transformative space replete with tensions between reality and imagination, between lucidity and ambiguity, between resistance and compliance, interrogating the underlying discourses beyond languages and rendering the untranslatability meaningful. This translanguaging-informed film review thus offers an insightful autopsy of the literary aesthetics of the novel by Eileen Chang.

Author Biography

Lili Han, Macao Polytechnic University

Faculty of Languages and Translation


Chang, Eileen. (2006). Chen Xiang Xie: Di Yi Lu Xiang [Crumbs of Ligumaloes - the First Incense Burnt]. In Zhang Ailing Xuan Ji [Collections of Eileen Chang] (pp. 247-304). Beijing October Literature and Art Publishing House.

Corrigan, T., & White, P. (2012). The film experience: An introduction. Macmillan.

Jakobson, R. (1966). On Linguistic Aspects of Translation. In Reuben A. Brower (Ed.), On Translation (pp. 233-235). Galaxy.

Large, D. (2018). The untranslatable in philosophy. In K. Lateef-Jan & S. J. Levine (Eds.), Untranslatability (pp. 50-63). Routledge.

Li, W. (2011a). Multilinguality, Multimodality and Multicompetence: Code- and Mode-Switching by Minority Ethnic Children in Complementary Schools. Modern Language Journal, 95(3),370–384.

Li, W. (2011b). Moment Analysis and Translanguaging Space: Discursive Construction of Identities by Multilingual Chinese Youth in Britain. Journal of Pragmatics, 43, 1222–1235.

Li, W. (2018). Translanguaging as a practical theory of language. Applied Linguistics, 39(1), 9-30.

Martinelli, D. (2020). What you see is what you hear. Springer International Publishing.

Prince, S. (2014). Movies and meaning: an introduction to film (6th ed.). Pearson Education Limited.

Shams, L., Kamitani, Y., & Shimojo, S. (2000). What you see is what you hear. Nature, 408(6814), 788-788.

Zhu, H. & Li, W. (2016). Transnational experience, aspiration and family language policy. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 37(7), 655-666.

Zhu, H. & Li, W. (2020). Translanguaging, identity, and migration. In J. Jackson (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Language and Intercultural Communication (pp. 234-248). Routledge.