When the news broke on Wednesday & twitter fell silent I turned to John Berger’s ‘Confabulations ‘ on translating into other languages:
“We read and reread the words of the original text in order to penetrate through them, to reach, to touch the vision or experience which prompted them. We then gather up what we have found there and take this quivering almost wordless ‘thing’ and place it behind the language into which it needs to be translated. And now the principal task is to persuade the host language to take in and welcome the ‘thing’ which is waiting to be articulated.
This practice reminds us that a language cannot be reduced to a dictionary or stock of words or phrases. Nor can it be reduced to a warehouse of the works written in it.
A spoken language is a body, a living creature whose physiognomy is verbal and whose visceral functions are linguistic. And this creature’s home is the inarticulate as well as the articulate.”
Our language is far more complicated than political soundbites. People who use them are more than their skin colour, religion,politics or culture.