14 May 2010

Language - The reason of treason?

"Not on my watch"
- Ukraine's equivalent to Ian Paisley

The Greek debt crisis is rather bad. The British debt crisis is even worse.
So why, when Britain has twice the debt with even harsher spending cuts, that we don't take to the streets with pitchforks?

Different cultures - of course - but what led us to be the way we are?

Apparently we're all equal, according to modern-day leftist ideology. "Everyone is the same" children are taught. But let's face it, we're not all the same. Every land on the planet shares only one thing in common - that is, we all speak a language.

When Ukrainian parliament met last month to discuss the continuation of Russian naval presence in Ukrainian waters, let's just say, words were said. Some politicians even managed to verbalise their thoughts on the matter with eggs and smoke-bombs.

Indeed, it is fair to say from the view of 'civilised society', that the Ukraine is lacking mannered decorum. 

I wonder what Ukrainians would have done if a man called Gordon Brownski was made their premier tomorrow, despite not having been voted by the electorate.

Would they waken up the next morning to a bowl of cornflakes and go about the next 3 years, endless complaining and bickering over the specifics of the situation, or would they dawn their lynching gloves and go for a stroll to 10 Downingski Street?

Maybe they wouldn't be that hasty - but let's face it - they'd have done more than any English speaking country.

Really, when was the last time an English speaking country had a bust-up in Parliament?

And I think I may have an idea, why.

I'm by no means Angela Merkel, but I know enough about the German language to know that words, which when translated from German to English, lose a lot of the real meaning.
It's hard to say exactly what I mean here, but bare with me for the next few wild tangents, and hopefully I can mean what I say.

"My philosophy on life is..."

"Meine Philosophie am Leben ist..."

"My opinion on sport is..."

"Meine Meinung am Sport ist..."

"My feeling on Music is..."

Mein Gef├╝hl am Musik ist..."

"Meine Weltanschauung am die Volks ist..."

"My... something meaning all of the above, on the people is...

Pronounced "Velt-an-shau-ung", Weltanschauung means literally all the above English words and more. When translated to English, it will give 'opinion', although, so does Meinung... so while we have two or more words in English that mean opinion (which we do) they each have their own more subject specific meanings, whereas, opinion is kind of how you describe something in your eyes, philosophy is your outlook on the world and civilisation, feeling is how you sense the social acceptability of a topic.

Although they all mean much the same thing - they are all used in different ways - therefore, giving them each their own, what I will call, "perceived feelings".

What I mean by perceived feeling is, that even when two or more words mean the same thing, when perceived by the listener, depending on the listener's 'Weltanschauung', then that will depend on how the listener interprets the speaker's word.

So perhaps those who speak other languages have minor differences in what we consider to be the translated meaning.

For example, in English, when judging a thief in a court of law, the Jury may cry "let Justice be served".

This is a phrase which is safe to assume that it means the exact same thing in every language. And it does, supposedly. Justice looks very similar when you translate it to a lot of languages, such as German and French... so why does Justice mean 18 months in Wandsworth to a Londoner but hanging from a tree to an Afghanistani?

The reason I believe, is because the perceived feeling of Justice to an Afghanistani is very different to the perceived feeling of Justice to a Brit.

Things get lost in translation, surely, like our German word Weltanschauung. But why do different cultures and civilisations have such wild variances of the perceived feelings of words which are, when translated, of great likeness in either language?

There absolutely must be something at the absolute root of thinking which alters how we react to certain things and perceive the world around us and more importantly, understand, the world around us.

How do we perceive the world around us? By thinking. How do we think? We talk to ourselves inside our heads. So what is thought dependant on? Language. If languages change, will thoughts change?

The logical answer would be yes.

All of this to me is startling. At first I thought it perfectly logical, but then I thought in depth further and have pondered the potential implications of perceived feeling going awry when it is needed most.

Let's say, hypothetically and for talk's sake, a French person is arrested and imprisoned overnight for calling a police officer a dickhead.

To us, that's a bit of a faux pas. But to our unwitting Frenchman, dickhead could be 'along the same lines' but 'not even half' as harsh as the British perceived feeling of the word.

So when he was locked up, was that fair? Although the same word, the 'dickhead' the Frenchman used, was not the same 'Dickhead' the British policeofficer perceived.

To no fault of the Frenchman, he has found himself in jail for the night because the perceived feeling of a word was lost in translation.

Surely, you could argue that the Frenchman should abide by British culture - but how do you teach to someone else the differences of perceived feelings of words?

It's not like a moral conduct such as theft. If the Frenchman had have stolen from a shop, irrespective of where in the world he may be, then justice would be served. But one word to Tom isn't the same word to Harry.

Anyway, I can't explain it any better than that, so if I've failed, then it's not your fault, or mine, perhaps we just share different perceived feelings of words.

Or you're a dickhead.

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