Lost In Translation

I have spent the last couple weeks in the country of Honduras working on some projects building homes, while also building relationships with fellow CSP staff from Honduras. And let me tell you, although I know quite a bit of Spanish and can have a conversation, I cannot honestly find any other way to describe my experience other than Lost In Translation.

In my work, I focus a lot on language and how it serves to define an experience in a way that is perceived by most as lucid. WHat I mean by this is that when we describe a situation, we often think that the words that we used are perfectly clear; that they accurately represent what we are trying to convey. That if we were to word something exactly the same at a different time and in a different place, it would always mean the same thing.

However, in language, there is a lot of subtext contained, most of which is never neutral, that is shaping our perceptions of the situation unfolding. Hence the fluidity of language that causes us to not speak as clearly as we think we are being.  I have worked a lot with the repetition of phrases, which actually, instead of serving to solidify a concept, serves to obliterate it solely because it becomes impossible to decipher where the statement actually begins, and even though the words are always in the same order, determining which is first can often times dictate what the perceived message is really talking about.

FOR EXAMPLE: If i were to say “something I could never say”. This resonates differently if all of a sudden, within the mass repetition, one is to read “I could never say something”. The perceived message then is altered. In a similar way, “it is” can structurally change to read “is it”, etc. The word order has not changed. However, suddenly the message is received differently.

It leads me to wonder if my entire life experience has been shaped by the fact that I am, primarily, an English speaker. Do the way I think about things become dictated by the English words I use to describe them? How can my ability to communicate be limited by words that I do, or do not, know; by words that I do, or do not, use. Would I see the world differently if my vernacular was different?

Anyways, just some things I have been considering have been re-solidified in my mind given my recent experience trying to communicate with people who do not speak the same language.

Best,

MP

“Language is the liquid that we’re all dissolved in–great for solving problems after we create a problem.” (Modest Mouse)

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