languages matter

just reading a book about language and one of the issues brought up is if we should care about decreasing language diversity. They’re disappearing with frantic speed. The obvious, politically correct answer, is yes (diversity is good! bio diversity, cultural diversity, you name it…). What’s my answer? Does it matter? not really, but that’s true for most pontificating on issues like this.

Anyway (the Dutch equivalent of which is afijn, a word that seems to be disappearing according to the earlier mentioned book – still using it, as I regularly do, identifies me an elderly, for those of you who might not know, not an enviable category to belong to in my culture, which is why I would strongly argue for the importance of cultural diversity, I like the respect allegedly accorded to elders in other cultures much better), my answer is yes, because I know for sure that too much is lost in translation for us not to care. I could point to stuff like Le Ton beau de Marot by Douglas Hofstadter, because that makes the case beautifully, but I’ll choose another, hopefully more effective route (who really reads stuff like that? and for the cynics amongst you: I can confirm your suspicion that the reference has a meta purpose, boosting my intellectual credentials, which is now busted, so fuggedaboudit, as one of my favorite authors would say).

Listen to the following three songs and tell me they can be rendered in another language without turning them into something else. Unfortunately, you have to be at least somewhat fluent in any of the tongues of these songs to appreciate the impossibility. But if you are, I’m sure any one of them is going to convince you.

Couldn’t start with my own language, because so few have any fluency in Dutch but it’s got so much untranslatable beauty:

Same for my mother tongue, and the beauty of this clip is that it shows that it doesn’t matter if one throws in some English. The English only adds to the German character of the song.


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1 Response to languages matter

  1. Pingback: language and poetry | roger henke's fancies

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