Your Foreignisation

Felipe Martins
6 min readJan 4, 2021


Originally published at

What is that?

By googling the term foreignisation, you will find out that this word is used to name a translation style.

Translation work is much more than just converting words from a language into another one just by using a dictionary. Let’s take this text from the web:

“Every morning, I walk through the nearby forest to pick up the cherries on the ground.”

Cherries are not common in Brazil, so in a domestic approach the translator could translate “cherries” into “pitangas” (a very Brazilian fruit) without any content loss, prioritizing the target culture and audience. In the foreignizing approach “cherries” would be literally translated into “cerejas” (cherries in Portuguese) although most Brazilians never saw a cherry tree. The cultural gap would outweigh the audience’s culture in the translator’s preference.

Yet another text from the web gives us a more disgested definition:

[…] translators divided into two translation groups: those who opted for foreignisation and those who supported domestication.

The best distinguished difference between these two main translation strategies was made by Lawrence Venuti, who explained that “you can bring the author back home” or just “sending the reader abroad”.

Many of you there are just like me and have decided at some point to leave your country of birth. Many others have already returned, others are still dreaming about it, and few might be packing just right now (few… well, this text was written within corona times).

The word Your in the title is probably even more significant since it is indeed very personal. Your foreignisation, which are composed of the steps you’ve taken in the past and the ones you will take in the future, is highly attached to you, to your goals, to your feelings, to your experiences, to the opportunities which were offered to you, your choices… it is your path.

Moving to an European country sounds exciting and many are jealous of me, but they don’t realize the entire thing is also:

A process of losing your identity.

Buhhh! Get out of the stage! This is so negative!

Okay… okay… for this world demanding positiveness from us all the time, let’s pretend to be positive and formulate your foreignisation as:

A process of rebuilding your identity.

Come on, what are you talking about?

First of all, let me introduce myself.

The very first thing you need to know about me is: everybody calls me fefas (well, except my dad). I am a Brazilian software developer currently living in Berlin. I am 31. I am more exactly from São Paulo city; a huge metropole. My background is Physics and I somehow got very much interested in software. I started learning it during my Bachelor’s degree. I love music, especially rock. I spend a lot of my free time playing my acoustic guitar. I am also into cycling, chess, photography, skating, tattoos. I enjoy getting drunk sometimes. Recently I have become more interested in history as well (not unexpected for someone living in Berlin). Ahh… you will hardly be able to square me in any well known standard stereotype. Living in Berlin was a dream. I am a happy and optimistic person, but very melancholy at the same time… well, it is not that hard giving all this sh&! happening around us every day.

Having this all, you start understanding my path. It is important to know who I am since this post is a result of my so-far-foreignisation.

Mh… what is your point then?

It is hard to explain.

Let’s ask the expats: your foreignisation is being harder than you expected, or am I mistaking? At least mine is being much harder than I expected.

Another important thing to mention is once you did it, there is no turn back. The song My My Hey Hey from Neil Young says:

Once you’re gone, you can never come back
When you’re out of the blue and into the black

Back in 2015, I and my dad were talking about these very same lyrics. I still remember like it was yesterday he telling me his interpretation of this passage:

It is just like when you read a book. Once you did it, you cannot unread it. You are now yourself plus this book forever.

Well, moving to a country with a different culture changes you. I mean… a lot!

Have you noticed I am using “country of birth” instead of “home country”? Why? For the expats I ask: which is your home country? Where is your home? Is it hard to find an answer? What kind of feelings did you have while trying to find an answer?

It is hard to describe your foreignisation with words. It is a feeling you have in there: some days it makes you feel like a stranger in a very wrong place, some other days it makes you feel like conquering the entire world.

Each time I am back in Brazil, I am happy and relieved, I feel just back home… but not really. After some days I start missing my place, my home. A friend of mine which has a very particular path once told me:

What I have here, I don’t have there. What I don’t have here, I have there.

Is moving abroad that bad?

Don’t get me wrong! It is fu&!ing incredible!

Putting yourself in such a challenge requires a lot of courage and brings outstanding experiences. Just thinking how much I have learned and how many times my life has completely changed since Aug 2017 is mind-blowing.

I have worked at two companies in Germany so far. The first one is huge and my team of ten was composed of seven different nationalities, while my team at the second company had six people from four different countries.

Another interesting stat: I have worked with people from Germany, Brazil, India, England, Poland, Serbia, Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Turkmenistan, Nigeria, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, and others I can’t remember right now… this has been being quite a culture exchange.

Even though now I want to create some roots and reduce the number of crazy changes in my life, I can do it with confidence just now. I mean… in the past, it was impossible to see myself living in São Paulo, and nowadays it seems natural to just settle in Berlin.

That all was possible only because I moved out.

Quitting my job, canceling my rent and all other contracts, selling/donating everything I had, packing the rest into two bags, applying for a visa, saying goodbye to friends, family, and girlfriend… that all to get into a plane in less than 30 days and never walk back… that was a thing! It changed my life in such a manner that I would never imagine back there. Here I also want to thank everyone who supported me somehow.

So, what then?

I don’t wanna bring any bad mood to anyone. If you do consider moving, don’t think too much about the negative parts, otherwise, you might even give up.

My goal after sharing this all is to let everyone aware it is hard! Be prepared for hard times. Be resilient and don’t give up. It will be normal to struggle for basic stuff and it is fine to make mistakes.

Just go through it and find your place! If you feel something is wrong, don’t be afraid to move again, or don’t be ashamed if you ever decide to return. After all it is your path.

Pack, go, enjoy, and be proud of your achievements. Great things will happen.

I hope this open letter helps you :)



Felipe Martins

Clean Coder and TDD evangelist delivering software ASAP (as simple as possible)