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Truthful Translations, Insightful Interpretations

Translators have always been in demand because there are many languages in the world, and we all desire to trade and raise our value, or riches, together. That is our espoused view. The truth is that we wish for everyone to grow richer, but we wish that we ourselves will grow richer faster than everyone else. That is why there are songs such as “Everybody wants to rule the world.” That’s human nature. Not a very nice picture, to be sure, but it is a fact, and we need to work with what we have. One of the ways is to work towards shared interests, not whether there are friends or foes. Truthful Translations and Insightful Interpretations are one way to go forward.

Of course, Translations and Interpretations ought to go hand-in-hand. This is because there is no such thing as a “Universal Root Language” from which all others have sprung. As far as I know, all attempts to search for this “Universal Root Language” have proved futile. Therefore, there can be no “perfect” translations simply because of the wide variety of contexts, both vocal as well as verbal nuance, and the simple fact that people living in different geographical localities live very different lives and have very different experiences. These all show up when a “perfect” translation of any script is attempted. Explanatory notes must invariably be added for clarity.

Interpretations attempt to convey what the message is, rather than trying to be as accurate as possible, word-for-word. It is trying to read the soul of the writer, speaker, painter or whatever medium was used conveying the message. It goes more into the feelings, worldviews and attitudes of the originator of the message. Although translations do the same things, of course, translations focus more on the verbal portion of the message – the words.

Hence the title of this post. As far as possible, Translations ought to be Truthful. Interpretations, however, need to exercise great Discernment in order to obtain greater Insights into what is actually being conveyed. In Erin Meyer’s classic book, “The Culture Map”, she relates how the Japanese man reflects on how, having “read the air” for so long in the working environment he was in, whether he was, in fact, “reading the air” rightly. Had he been “reading the air” wrongly because he was “reading the air” in an environment that was not Japanese? I think we ought to also pause and ask ourselves the same question. Do we not all “read the air” all the time, regardless of what our cultural persuasions are?

Therefore, what is important, whether we are focusing on Translations or Interpretations, is this thing we all know about but seldom practice – Engagement. Making the effort to get to know the people and cultures we are dealing with. Having in our hearts the genuine desire to contribute to their success, not focusing on our own. For when we Engage with a heart to enrich and not extort, then Translation and Interpretation become so much the easier, and we can appreciate better the value in one another.

What are you going to do about this?

See also the following, which have enriched me immensely. Click on the titles to go to the articles.

How Deaf Children in Nicaragua Created a New Language

Children create new sign language

You might also like this video, which I embed here from YouTube:

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