Lost in Translation

“The best thing on translation was said by Cervantes: translation is the other side of a tapestry.” ~ Leonardo Sciascia

In his recent Yoga International article (Winter 2011-2012), “The Subtle Language”, Peter Bonnici writes about certain English translations of the Bhagavad Gita and how at times, they fell short of truly imbuing the full meaning of Lord Krishna’s  words of wisdom to Arjuna. He related that with just a basic high school level knowledge of Sanskrit and a really good dictionary, his understanding broadened as the “subtle language” better conveyed and distilled the inherently powerful message of this ancient epic text. This beautiful language, impressively systematic and refined, is what technologists turned to when searching for a linguistic basis for artificial intelligence.

So often, especially in the shorthand with which we communicate in today’s technology driven culture, what we are trying to impart can often be lost in translation. Language is so rich and nuanced, filled with chocolate words and phrasings. You have the Godiva variety, velvet, dark and exotic on one hand and on the other you have the M&M variety, bright, fun and colorful. A carefully chosen word or well-turned phrase can more fully express our most exhilarating joy or deepest sorrow. It can even evoke a hidden treasure, that umami flavor that you know but can’t quite put your finger on.

One’s experiences and perspective influence how a message is received or interpreted. However, stated well, that which we are hoping to get across will be well understood when we say what we mean and mean what we say with a well woven communique. We have a responsibility to use our words wisely, especially now that they are often emblazoned in digital memory for the world to see.

Perhaps even in its lack of flair, modern communication roars its message.

What messages are you sending that seem to get lost in translation?


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