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Lost in Translation Essay

Eva Hoffman tells an outstanding story of her family’s move from Poland to America in the late 1950s when Eva was a young 13 years old. Lost in Translation portrays Eva’s maturity through the growing pains of identity through her immigration experience. Language, culture, and perception are considered in Eva’s memoir of the immigrant experience. These are issues that most interpreters have encountered. When learning a new language we experienced a degree of the dislocation so eloquently described.

Many aspects of Eva’s life change when she moves to Canada. Eva’s first day of school in Canada immedately protrays the new lifestyle in which she encounters. The teacher is unable to properly pronounce her name, Ewa, and is quick to Americanize the name to Eva. Many immigrants, presumably, go through the same occurance. Words do not sound the same or are not easily pronounced in a different language so they are changed to something easier in the language. Not only is Eva’s language lost, at this point her entire identity is stripped from her.

Passion for the piano soon is lost with Eva’s new life in America. Culturally, the piano is not as prestigious of an occupation in Canada as it was in Poland. Writing becomes Eva’s new passion. Being able to completely grasp, understand, and articulate herself is what Eva wanted to express in life. Instead of expressing herself through music as she once had, she expressed herself through words.

Each section can be seen as a period of growth. Paradise is fantacy, childish, and naïve. Exile describes adolescences, where finding oneself and an understanding of the world is through growth. And finally, the New World portrays Eva’s maturity of life experiences. She is finally able to truly comprehend her past and present world. Concluding the story Eva says, “The way to jump over my Great Divide is to crawl back over it in English. It’s only when I retell my whole story, back to the beginning, and from the beginning onward, in one language, that I can reconcile the voices within me with each other.”

Lost in Translation gives an analogy of Eva being “lost”, referring to life as she immigrates into America. Eva also struggles with losing herself in the process of translation from Polish to English. As Eva matures and gains an understanding of the English language, culture, and life as a whole, she is able to go back in time to analyze and connect what really occurred throughout her life. Translation may be just as problematic as it pertains to the “self” introduced into a new language and culture as to linguistically understanding the language itself.

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