Found in Translation
Exams passed, I blissfully forgot about languages until years later, I took up my first job in the media department of an animal rights NGO. Part of my profile included overseeing the translation of communication material into some nine regional languages. I would be faxing (ah yes, those good ole’ days) translated materials to volunteer proof readers across the country, waiting anxiously for them to check the language, grammar, and context.
situation struck me. I should be able to read this press release. I can understand the language; how hard
can it be to read it? I started teaching myself to read Gujarati. I began reading my parent’s newspapers,
starting haltingly with the headlines, and then moving on to the opening paragraphs, and finally an entire
article. My parents would point out difficult letters to me and explain the meaning of words to me
out Chandrakant Bakshi novels to me. When I travelled to meet my cousins in Gujarat, I could read shop
signs, instead of having them giggle at my ignorance. And of course, I could read Bakor Patel and
proofread basic communication material.
some evening with my parents – my mother curled up on a sofa and solving her Gujarati crossword
puzzle, her face creased with concentration. Every few minutes, she would look up and recite a clue to my
father. They would both think and then one of them would answer it and my mother would carefully print
the answer in the white boxes. And I listen carefully, reciting the words in my head, making sense of
them. After all, I am still learning.