Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pattberg: Translations reduce the world to what we already know

Thorsten Pattberg, Peking University, 2013
This article appeared in Trouw, a Dutch newspaper, on Aug 17, 2013

"Translations reduce the world to what we already know" reads a provocative quote in a recent opinion article entitled ‘Learning about China using the correct words’ published by Trouw newspaper on August 17. The quote originates from the German linguist Thorsten Pattberg who works at Peking University. His plea to let some Chinese words untranslated is defended by the Hong Kong-based communications specialist Adrienne Simons. –Hans van der Gaarden

“China is unloved and unknown. This is primarily a communication and language problem. What the West sees in China, it often sees through English language glasses. That obscures the view more than we think.”

“Talking past each other results in a relationship based on misunderstanding, mistrust and removal. It’s no different between countries. But China has become too big and too influential to be kept at a distance.”

“This means that Asian academics, artists and journalists cultural should introduce Chinese concepts using the original terms, instead of thinking about how Americans would call those things. It also means that Western opinion makers should do likewise and make an effort to understand China in the future, and what better way is there than learning Chinese words.”

The original op-ed is written in Dutch. It can be READ HERE.