The Language of The Empire

Translated  by Katrina Hassan

I’ve always wanted to learn French so that I could read Nausea and The Words in Sartre’s language. In translations, no matter how good they are, at some point, the essence is lost. Purity of the text is retained if read in the language in which it was originally written.  

More than anything, I’d love to listen to the great Edith Piaf’s songs in their original language. It’s not the same to listen to a song and not understand what is being said. The language of the heart is universal, and Edith’s is a pure soul.

I’ve also wanted to learn Portuguese so that I could read the great Clarice Lispector and Carolina Maria de Jesus. I don’t believe it would be the same to read them translated.

It is not the same to read Whitman in Spanish rather than in English. Nina Simone’s charm is lost whey you don’t understand the language in which she sang. What is left to be said about Martin Luther King and Rosa Park’s speeches?

With this I would like to add that we should not fight against languages. Languages have nothing to do with the oligarchies nor with borders that are imposed. They have nothing to do with dictators or genocides. On the contrary, languages unite us like villages. Someone somewhere had to learn English in order to translate Martin Luther King’s speeches to Spanish.

Someone had to learn French to translate to English the work of Sartre. Or the other way around, English was learned in order to translate them to French. However the case, someone had to learn another language to bring us words, poetry and music in form of intercommunication that is very valid and necessary.

I have given literature and music as an example but I refer to all that surrounds humanity. I would love to walk through the streets of Mongolia and greet the vegetable seller in his language. I’d love to know how to ask for water or directions in Japanese. Even better, understand it perfectly so I could read Hayasi Rumiko in her own language, not in Spanish. In translation I bet a hamlet, a fateful night or a single tear from the author of Diary of a Vagabond was lost.

I would love to learn at least one language from the native people of Latin America or anywhere else in the world. I would learn it well, not leaving any loose ends. When we say “the empire’s language’’  referring to the USA, we blame the people and the English language for dictatorships and interferences. We erroneously blame the English language based on stereotypes, ignorance and a mistaken identity.

We already speak  “the empire’s language” to put it simply. Unless we speak a one hundred percent of the time in a native language, we refer to Spanish as our mother tongue. There remains a large incongruency and a history that is unknown, the stubborn reason to have borders where there aren’t any. There are also those who point out others for not speaking “the empire’s language.” 

If we learn another language, whatever that may be, we open our mind to other cultures that are different to ours. Just because they are different, it doesn’t mean that they’re completely alien to us. Human beings have a marrowthat unites us. However different that it is, that is what we call diversity. We grow up with stereotypes, yes. Ignorant, yes.

We grow up with dogmas, all imposed by a system looking to divide us. This, conveniently, for those that we have elected into power. These are ways of massively dominating that are very subtle, yet powerful. They are imperceptible because we think of it as a social norm, or the way we grew up. This reflects on our way we stereotype. For example, the borders we have and the reasons we refuse to learn languages thanks to dogmas.

Opening the mind we open our hearts. There is no individual or collective benefit to clash with languages and to blame those who hate and exterminate from their position of power. That power, we have been giving them for millennia. That too is our responsibility. What we do or don’t do is also political.  War and hate have not won against culture, brotherhood, knowledge and socializing of the people. Therein lies our power, and we don’t know it or pretend not to know.

The language of the empire doesn’t really exist. Language exists on its own. Languages are the doors that let us see other worlds. They let us fraternize with the rest of humanity. There are political actions that are very subtle, they form an inexorable resistance.

Knowledge is one of those forms of resistance. Enjoying life is also one. The human spirit’s thirst is quenched when it is full of joy. Getting to know other cultures helps us understand each other better. We understand each others steps. We understand the thread that holds us all together. Instead of creating borders. we learn to shorten distances between each other. In the end, we all walk in the same direction, we just take different roads.

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Ilka Oliva Corado @ilkaolivacorado

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