I wrote to a fellow composer just recently that, having lived in the United States for the past sixteen years, I feel that I have built an entirely different set of Babel’s Tower within myself (the first one being the Japanese Tower.). I wrote it because I am now in the process of translating a lecture I delivered in Japanese into English for a rather imminent publication. Translating is much like delivering packages of items from one tower to another. Each tower has different labyrinthine structures, obliging me to navigate differently in each tower. Then unpacking the package and trying to place an item to an appropriate place is yet another challenge.
I have been thinking about the thought processes as carried in different languages. Thinking of a sentence, “This apple is red” in English, then 『このリンゴは赤い』in Japanese, is there any difference as to how I approach them?
Anyone who is keen on philosophy, semiotics or the likes, could say that each word carries different meanings and context, and that such contexts differ from one language to another, and such differences are arbitrary. In the translation work I have been embarking on, I find myself supplementing, more than translating. Perhaps in one language, an apple is nothing more than something to eat, but in another language, it is possible that it signifies something seasonal (harvesting season), or something geographical (the Big Apple). It can be sociological as well. Maybe a same apple bears different connotations from one social class to another.
Having learnt a few different languages, I find myself in an interesting mental situation. While I situate myself in any of these languages and elaborate my thoughts, I feel that it is actually a “mini-me” that is thinking, and that “mini-me” is operated by a “big-me.” So now I start to think: “what is the relationship between the mini-me and the big-me? Are they myself? Can I claim the ownership of them?” Then finally, “Who am I?”
- Happy Holidays
- Rest in Peace, Mr. Takahashi