We talk about culture and how it is defined by language. And we talk about the difference between languages and culture. We talk about how things get lost in Translation but here is living proof that the difference between languages can be measured in millimeters or pages! My latest book ‘Transition’ is considerably fatter in its German form than in its original English, nearly 20% fatter in fact! The German version had the most pages with 191, then the French with 183, the Dutch was third with 177 and the English had a mere 161 pages. But what does this mean in reality? Do Germans need more time to tell the same story as the English or..?
In all my international projects, translations have always been a challenge. Even when you use professional translators and then have their work edited by local employees, there are always complaints, and when they come in, they can be very severe. Nothing seems to raise deep seated passion more than the misuse of language it seems. And my latest book is certainly no exception.
What is it about language that upsets us so? Surely if we can understand one another that should be enough for all communication, except for possibly poetry and intimate conversations over candle light?
I remember when I first started to learn Dutch, my wife (whose is Flemish) agreed that to help me get underway we would only speak Dutch but it didn’t last long. Our relationship had begun in English. I had had the upper-hand, I could play with words and make her laugh or cry with them, as the mood suited. While in my forced Dutch our conversation became dry and inflexible; nuances were missed and subtle suggestions became hard instructions, leading to upset and frustration. . But in those early days of our relationship the words we spoke formed only a part of our communication, we had so much to explore that we were totally focused on each other and the depth of the content of what we were saying.
With Valentine day just around the corner, perhaps it’s a good time to remind ourselves that it’s the message behind the words and actions that count for most and not quite how many words it takes to say it?
Have a good week,