Balancing Act: Notes on Translating for Future Relevance

Future Relevance / 明天,谁说了算? opened today. I translated the exhibition catalogue. Below, I’ve uploaded my thoughts (and translation of said thoughts) on the importance of learning to listen across unsaid assumptions, even when we don’t depend on a translator.

In our native languages, we speak with the expectation that we will be understood and if not, that misunderstandings can be easily fixed. Moreover, we often emphasize speaking as the sign of linguistic competence, rather than listening, reading, or writing, or more generally, an ability to navigate shared histories and cultural assumptions, political exigencies and economic conditions; in short, we take for granted all the unspoken social infrastructure that enables communication. Indeed, we are often so oblivious to the contexts of meaningful dialogue that cross-cultural exchanges often degenerate into fumbling searches for the “right word”.

Take for example a simple comparison of cultural associations with the English word, translation and its Mandarin counterpart, fanyi (翻译). Continue reading