Friday, January 9, 2009

From The Archives: Lost In Translation

Last year (or 10 days ago) I posted my reaction to my first experience with translators and meetings at the EU. I thought it high time that I post my second experience equipped with fresh new blatherings from yours truly. There is a third post lying around here somewhere which I plan to bring to you in the future, just not yet. Enjoy!

As always this color delineates a new comment.

Yesterday was my first foray into the committee meeting realm and to be honest there was so much shit going on in there I don't even remember what the meeting was about.

First off the fact that someone can translate from one language to another amazes me. You have to translate while at the same time remember what is being said so you can continue to translate. I would imagine that this would be incredibly exhausting and strenuous for the mind and can't even begin to comprehend the pressure that they feel. (I would like to add that every translator that I heard was always amazingly calm and spoke perfectly clear, no matter how heated the conversation would get)

Now that being said I was even more amazed when the first six speakers in the meeting, who all spoke different languages, were translated by a single translator. How does one know 6 languages fluently and not go crazy? I mean I struggled for 6 years to learn Italian and I know next to nothing and this guy knows 6?

Now the funniest part of the meeting was the effects that translation had on the attempts at humor made by the MEPs.

Every time an English speaker would begin to talk, I would take off the translation headphones for obvious reasons. In the front there was this Irish guy who was a fucking riot (looking back on it, it could have been mostly the Irish accent), but every time he made a joke I was the only one who would laugh right away, but then 4 seconds later the whole room would start laughing because of the translation delay. And some times people wouldn't laugh at all which confused me until I found my self on the other side of the situation.

There was this Czech guy who kept making the room burst out laughing every time he would talk except when it translated for me there wasn't any humor in the statement which puzzled me. Was my humor just that much different than European humor? Then it hit me, humor just doesn't always translate, certain words and sayings have different meanings from language to language so if the translator translates it literally then the humor will be lost.

It never really hit me until that moment that so much from culture to culture is lost simply because we can not express the true meaning adequately in any language other than our own. But then again that is what makes our cultures so different even if we do not have political borders (such as the EU is becoming) we have the borders of language to restarain us.

At this point I had been in Belgium for well over a month and it surprises me that it took this long to realize this about language when now it makes perfect sense to me. I envy those who speak multiple languages for it becomes increasingly apparent as I attend my Spanish class this semester that I am not all that adept at learning a second language. I took years of Italian only to come away with a minimal understanding of the language, and took a final my senior year to which my teacher said, I shit you not, "What am I supposed to do with this? And you took my class for 3 years?" But we'll see how it goes now that I have seen how many languages average Europeans know.

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