Lost in Translation | Teen Ink

Lost in Translation

September 14, 2015
By waltzing_wishes SILVER, Belmont, Massachusetts
waltzing_wishes SILVER, Belmont, Massachusetts
9 articles 1 photo 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Success is not final; Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts" - Winston Churchill

I believe that language is beautiful.

There are so many nuances between each language that are lost in translation, rendering the most well-crafted prose flat and lifeless. Often, the most beautiful words are the ones with no easy translation, or even any translation. Sometimes they’re cultural idiosyncrasies, or quirks that we all share, or phenomenons of nature. Jayus is an Indonesian word for a joke told so poorly you can’t help but laugh. The Japanese have a word, Komorebi, for the sunlight filtering through trees. There’s even a word for the overwhelming urge to squeeze or pinch something very cute - it’s Gigil in Filipino.

My own fascination with language began early. I was forced to adapt to two cultures, two languages, two words for everything… Until there was only one word because it didn’t exist in the other language. Baozi. Diu Lian. Yuan fen. What happened was an awkward mishmash of language, switching abruptly from one language to another, sometimes in the same sentence. Somewhere along the way the original meaning was lost, diluted. That was my first experience with the vagaries of words and language.

Then I fell in love with books. Language touches our emotions and toys with it in an unique way. Who hasn’t crumpled into tears at a powerfully written passage? Who hasn’t felt a little part of themselves reverberate in agreement with a poem? I certainly have. Staying up too late for just one more chapter. Cursing in frustration at a cliffhanger. Throwing the book at the wall in anger because a character just died, then picking it back up gingerly and apologizing profusely to the spine. I cycle through these emotions on a regular basis.

Eventually I discovered the joys of being a writer. A blank universe lies at my fingertips, the characters inhabiting them waiting for me to breathe life into them. Only I know their fears, their secrets, their dreams. Spending a suspicious amount of time on baby planning websites trying to pick names, fighting the giant beast known as a plot hole, resisting the urge to delete the entire document- it’s all part of the process. But when the story’s finished? There’s an entire world, built from nothing but words.

But language has power beyond individual, personal connections. A speech, delivered with charisma can send crowds roaring to their feet. It can turn people against each other, bringing us from the height of virtue to the worst. Wars, persecution, genocide-- all of these things can be attributed to words. We’ve seen it happen in history over and over. And when we’re sick and tired of destruction, we repair the damage with treaties and laws. More words. Language touches our lives every single day, in ways we may not expect or notice. But we should. It’s part of what makes us human.

I conclude this with one last word. It’s meraki - Greek for when you leave a little piece of your soul in your work. I hope I’ve achieved it in this piece.

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