Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Little Translation

I've noticed how the translation stage in a child's life, unlike the unrolling stage (which can strain familial relationships) can bring closeness as families work through it together. The moment of translation is an ah-hah moment, the magical event of: someone really understands me. Even if it was only for a single word, if that word was very difficult to remember or pronounce, then the understanding becomes precious.

The first time I visited Germany, a little more than a year and a half ago, was the first time I had ever set foot in any country in which English was not the primary language. I was a little bit afraid to go in to town by myself-- not that I was afraid for my safety at all, but I was afraid that no one would understand my High School German, or that I would commit some sort of huge cultural faux paux, or something would happen that was so horrible or embarrassing that I hadn't even thought to worry about it. But I took a deep breath and went in to the old town on a tram, and I sketched a little at the gate to the old town, and then I wandered around window-shopping until dusk-- it was quite pretty. I hardly talked at all, and hardly needed to, and it was just right.

Right about the time I decided to head back to my friend's apartment, I heard a small child's voice behind me. "Licht," it said. ("Light," in German.) I glanced behind me.

"Ja, Licht," said the man who was holding the child. (Yes, [that's right,] light.)

In that moment, I was pulled in to the warmth of the interaction-- and, let's be honest, it was also that time of day when the light of the setting sun makes everything glow in that certain way and (this is strange but true) I somehow find it easier to believe in the Innate Goodness of Human Nature in such a light-- but suddenly I knew, rather than just believing, that even Germans who only spoke German were as completely human as I.

1 comment:

Day said...

That's beautiful.