An Incredibly Deep Translation Error

21 Dec

Every week I have my students write a small journal of 3-5 sentences so they can get more practice writing. Some choose to write more and actually get into it, while others write the bare minimum and show no concern of improving. I got an interesting journal this week.

One student wrote something that I’m not exactly sure is a mistake, or rather something incredibly deep and insightful that he meant to say. It’s something that one of the great writers would come up with. The sentence was, “My friend and I were fighting this week because we don’t understand ourselves.”

I’d have to assume that what he meant to say as someone learning the language is, “My friend and I were fighting this week because we don’t understand each other.” However, to look at it literally, it’s actually a pretty beautiful thing to say. How many times have people gotten into fights because they simply had a bad day and didn’t know how to deal with it? Or in another example, a person will project their own faults on to other people and blame them for other things which they themselves cannot fix or do well.

Now, it’s very well possible that he meant to say “understand each other,” but even if he didn’t, it’s still a powerful sentence. How often will someone willingly take half of the blame and admit, without prodding, that they are partly at fault? I think it shows extreme insight and intuitive behavior to question not only the fighting itself, but why you should be drawn into it. There are generally two sides to an argument, and as such there are generally two reasons for fault.

Perhaps the student accidentally said something so intelligent, but it’s nonetheless a great statement. If we all understood ourselves more clearly, there would probably be less friction in so many parts of our lives. That’s the nice thing about travel. It helps you understand yourself, and your world around you, a bit more truthfully. And I can see that happening around me all the time here. It’s a gift not everyone gets the chance to receive, but it’s certainly worth the struggle. Sometimes it’s a hassle being in a different country, and you just want to go home. But in the back of my mind, I always know it will pay off in the end. As the saying down here goes, “Vale la pena.” It’s worth the pain.


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