Language is the basic tool people use to communicate with each other, including verbal language and non-verbal language. Language is used to announce, to persuade, to queries, to express emotions, to transmit complicated ideas or even to hurt people. Generally speaking, using the language correctly allows people to communicate better, compared with animals. However, we live in a big world, which has more than 6 billion people now. With the existence of many different languages, the issues of translation are generated.
After reading Alberto Rios essay – Translating Translation: Finding the Beginning, I know Rios understands languages and translation in complex and stratified ways, from cultures and manners. He writes “Language is more than what we say – it’s also how we say it, and whether or not we even understand what we are saying. ” in his short essay (508). It can be understood easily why Rios pays so much attention to languages and translation. He grew up on the southwestern borderlands, having a Mexican father and an English mother. (504) The place he grew up is a place where cultures of the United States and Mexico meet and collide.
Based on his own experience of dealing with different cultures and different languages, he points out how to say is more significant than what we say. The elements making his essay to be persuasive and compelling is worth to be analyzed, such as his personal background, the examples of his experience he gives, the way he arrange the examples and the his unique writing style. Rios’ personal background not only determine the topics he prefers to write about languages, but also make his writing on these topics become more convincing because he experiences many problems of languages and cultural conflicts by himself and it cannot been denied.
As I mentioned before, he grew up in a place where cultures of the United States and Mexico meet and collide. “My father was born in Mexico, on the border of Guatemala, and my mother was born in England. I had languages. ”(506) We can see that, because of his parents, he is doomed to face a lot of bi-languages problems. In order to understand both people speaking Spanish and people speaking English, he has to know how they say in different way rather than just know what the words mean in Spanish and English.
He needs to understand the ways of how people say for getting the real meanings beyond the simple words. Because of his experience of languages differences, he has special interests in figuring out how people use languages in different ways. That’s also why he is fond of topics on languages and translations between different languages. Due to the special background Rios has, he has some interesting experiences of translation problems. All three examples Rios gives help to make his writing persuasive since the examples are typical and are related to his idea of importance of how we say perfectly.
Through those three examples, Rios tries to demonstrate that translation incorporates understanding what it says and how it say, instead of explaining what is translation and how to move from one language to another. In order to claim his viewpoint, he picks up three typical examples. In the first example: “My mother when asked what color she wanted the kitchen, said to the workers who were all Mexican, and who spoke very little English, limon. But when we came back the next day, the kitchen was painted bright green, like a small jungle.
Mexican limones, my mother found out, are small and green that color exactly, no mistake. ” (506) Rios’s mother asks the workers to paint their kitchen in the color of limon, but the workers understand it as limones, which is different from limon. It’s a small understanding in the communication. The misunderstanding happens because author mother’s wrong pronunciation but the workers do not really understand what she wants. It’s quite normal for a new leaner to have incorrect pronunciations. But in native speakers’ ears, they will think that may be another word.
This is a small example that different understandings of words cause misunderstand between people who speak different languages. The second example tells a story that a man, who was arrested for illegally crossing the border from Mexico into the United States was arrested, and then was left in the jail without anyone coming to see him from a Thursday to a Saturday because of lack of understanding between the man and his jailers. (507) In that situation, everyone is supposed to say something even yell out when finding their own are forgotten by the jailers. But the man didn’t because he had manners.
This example let me think of an observation of mine. Americans say “can I have a…” when they order in the restaurant, but most Chinese are accustomed to say “I want a …” when ordering. This difference cannot jump to the conclusion that Chinese are impolite. The expression difference happens due to the difference manners of language. This kind of case is more complicated than the first example. People have the same understanding of words but different manners still cause misunderstandings. Rios select this example to tell people if you want to understand other completely, the manner behind word cannot be ignored.
The third example is interesting. The conversation took place between Rios and one of his students. “Hey,ese,” he said to me, with a small pointing of the right hand. “Hey” I said. He nodded his head. “You really like this poetry shit. ” He asked. “Yes. ” I said. And then he followed with the very best thing I could ever hoped for. ”So how many fights you had? ” (508) A student of Rios asks Rios “how many fights you had? ” Rios understands the student is using his way to communicate. The boy was just looking for an equation for something to understand instead of embarrassing the teacher.
If at that time, Rios didn’t understand what the boy really tried to do, Rios would be mad at the boy. This example perfectly shows that language is more than what we say, it’s also how we say it. If Rios just cares about the language that the boy says from his mouth, he will misapprehend the boy and have very bad impression of the boy. When we try to understand what others say, how can we only understand the words others say? We also should try to dig out the original meanings of the speaker in order to avoid the misunderstandings of verbal communication.
The author, Rios, tries to illustrate the idea that language is more than what we say and we need to understand the way of how we say it by these three examples step by step. There is a point deserved to highlight. Rios does not arrange these examples randomly. Rios organizes the examples in a progressive relation rather than choose three examples in the same layer. He puts his mother’s example in the first place because it was very small example but it’s also enough to let people have the first understanding of what translation problem can happen between different languages.
Compared with first example, the second example doesn’t only lead people to consider the issues of words, but also manners behind the words that different cultures hold. The progressive relation can be noticed here easily. The focus is moving from simple misunderstanding of words to misunderstand of manners because of different cultures. The feature of third example is more obvious. Rios add many action descriptions. For example, “Hey,ese,” he said to me, with a small pointing of the right hand. (508) Languages include body languages.
By adding action description, Rios leads the focus move again, to a higher layer – action expression. Perhaps “pointing of the right hand” shows nervous in this case, so Rios notices that his student was looking for an equation but he just didn’t know how to do that and felt nervous. Rios arranging the examples in this order makes his essay persuasive because readers can reach the main idea of the essay step by step which helps his main idea to be more acceptable. Apart from adopting three appropriate examples to express his idea, Rios also has his own unique writing style to make his essay compelling.
In an interview, he said “I would say that I write in Spanish – it just looks like English. ”(504) I found the entire interview from Internet, he says” I do occasionally write in Spanish, but when I do it’s from another time, from childhood, often, I listen hard for how ideas come to me, in what container they are being delivered, and I try to be true to it. Sometimes that container is Spanish. ” (Twenty-Four Questions: A conversation with Alberto Alvaro Rios) It means Rios sometimes form his ideas in Spanish although he writes in English.
As a non-English speaker who but lives in an English speaking country, I got a deep feeling for this. Although I live in America where I listen English and speak English everyday, I still think in Chinese. I form my ideas in Chinese way and then say it from my mouth in English. Rios grew up in a Spanish speaking environment, and he used to think in Spanish. As he says, Spanish sometime is the container which holds his ideas in his mind. So his poems and stories are written in English but flavored by the sensibilities of his first language, Spanish.
As Rios writes in his essay, “I often talk about the duality of language using the metaphor of binoculars, how by using two lenses one might see something better, closer, with more detail. ”(506) We can see Rios regards the duality of language as a significant part of translation. Rios claims that the body itself speaks a language differently, so that moving from one language to another is more than translate words. (506) He changes the expression method rather than just translate the words from Spanish to English in order to keep the original meanings expressed in Spanish.
Compared with other writers, this specialty of his writing makes his writing compelling. Language is the bridge of communication. According to Alberto Alvaro Rios, just understanding what we say is not enough. It’s necessary to know how we say it if we need to really understand what other say. Misunderstandings take place easily because of the unsuccessful translation of language or act. When a person says something or do something, but the listener misunderstand the person, it’s a unsuccessful translation. Especially in different languages, unsuccessful translations happen more frequently due to the different cultures.
Therefore, when we listen to others, we should consider the different cultural background, different manners and different way of using language. That’s also what Rios means by “Language is more than what we say – it’s also how we say it. ” Work Cited Bartholomae, David, and Tony Petrosky. “Short Talks. ” Ways of Reading: An Anthology for Writers. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins, 2011. 264. 67. Print. “Twenty-Four Questions: A Conversation with Alberto Alvaro Rios. ” Alberto Alvaro Rios. N. p. , n. d. Web. 25 Oct. 2013.
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