Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Goals And Desires - For This Summer

I started reading Linda Dillow's What's it like to be married to me? because I had a hunch that re-reading and really thinking through this book would be a good idea.
And already from the first chapter I picked up at least one gold nugget I had forgotten: the distinction that Dillow makes between a goal and a desire:

A goal is something I want that I can also control.
A desire is something I want that I cannot control.

One of Dillow's examples is making "an intimate, sharing relationship with my husband" a goal. A relationship takes two people, and I cannot control my husband's part of it. Maybe he's not a talkative type? Maybe talking about his intimate feelings doesn't come easy to him? I can't make it my goal to make him talk to me. The more I strive to do that, the more he'll clam up. My "goal" needs to be all about my own part, for example to be such a listener that my husband can feel it's safe to talk, whenever he's ready to do that.

The distinction of goals and desires works out also in holiday planning.

I have lots of desires for the summer holiday. I want us all to have fun. I want us to share good times. I want us to connect better as family members. I want us all to grow in our relationships with God, too. And I certainly want to experience and enjoy the places and activities on our itinerary.

What I can make my goal is the part I'm responsible for. Myself.

So, my summer goals could look like this:
  • I choose a good attitude. I choose to enjoy the adventure, relax, have fun, let go, smile a lot.
  • I try to find ways to encourage others and choose to serve their needs with love.
  • I seek God in my life, consistently.
  • I avoid complaining and griping, whatever circumstances we encounter.
  • I tell others honestly about my needs, so they get a fair chance to take those into account. (My husband is a great guy, but he cannot read my mind - and shouldn't be expected to!)

I know from previous years that when we travel together, one person's mood affects all the others. We're in a small car together, stay in a tent or other small lodgings together, do activities together. As three introverts, each one of us also needs some 'alone time' to recharge, and in previous years, I have sometimes felt I didn't get enough. And when I get into a bad mood, everyone suffers.

I'm reading Dillow's book in preparation for our trip. And for the sake of the rest of our lives, too.

It's not going to be perfect, ever. I'll stumble and fall. Ask for forgiveness. Start again.

But I pray God that when the tough moments come, He'll remind me of what I have set as my goal, my responsibility. The strength to choose better comes from Him.

And I'm going to enjoy the process.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

June Books (Twitterature)

In May and June, it's all about easing into summertime. I've still been reading plenty in Finnish, but I won't go into those books here.

Linking with the lovely Modern Mrs Darcy's Twitterature link-up. Go there for more, and more, and more recommendations and short reviews of books.

First a couple of books in the category of "borrowed on an impulse from the e-library"...

Kathi Lipp: The Get Yourself Organized Project
I like Kathi Lipp's ideas for cleaning clutter and getting organized. My favourite thought in this book was looking for the way we naturally do things and going from there: for example, if you always open your mail in the kitchen, arrange the space for sorting out the mail in the kitchen, so it's easy to put things right where they belong.
I'm probably not quite the target audience - too "naturally organized" for that - but we have our clutter points, and I sorely need to develop better ways to deal with paperwork.

Rich Roll: Finding Ultra
From an alcoholic and an overweight couch potato to a competitive vegan triathlonist. Yes, his life has been quite a journey, and I did finish the book. But felt a bit blah. I guess that for me to really like a memoir, I need to somehow connect with the people in it, and that didn't happen with this one.

And then for the books that had been on my TBR list. Looks like Asperger was one of my reading themes... 

Daniel Tammet: Born on a Blue Day. A Memoir of Asperger's and an Extraordinary Mind
Daniel has Asperger's syndrome, synesthesia, and savant syndrome. His mind is truly extraordinary, and what is even more rare and extraordinary: he can describe his thought processes eloquently and vividly. Numbers are his "friends", and like a first language to him. And yet he loves words, too, and he can learn a new language in a week or so.
This is a fascinating book, and I really enjoyed reading it.

Fun detail: I looked at his surname and thought "That's not a typical English surname, it sounds Estonian." The book said nothing about his surname, but later I looked at his homepage and the Wikipedia page about him, and it turns out he has changed his surname himself, choosing the Estonian word. (The word tammet is also Finnish and means "oaks", but the plural form is not used as a name in Finnish.)

Mark Haddon: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Initially, I found it hard to get into the story. It was intriguing, though. Picking up the clues the narrator (a boy who is somewhere in the autism spectrum) didn't. Trying to piece together an idea of what the people in his life were like. A good read.
Thank you, Jeannie, for recommending this!

However. Reading Haddon's novel right after Tammet's memoir (and having read another memoir by a woman with Asperger's, not so long ago), made me ponder the limits of fiction. Haddon doesn't claim to be especially knowledgeable about autism/Asperger's. The novel is his impression of how a person with Asperger's (or somewhere on the autism spectrum) might think. It's a tool for telling the story and describing familiar things, like the London Underground, from a new and fresh viewpoint. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Authors need fresh viewpoints.

Perhaps Haddon's novel also helps some 'normal' people to have more empathy for someone with Asperger. How hard it is when the way you perceive things is so different from other people's. How overwhelming some situations can feel, and that's what causes the 'strange' behaviour. It's easier for many people, I suppose, to pick up Haddons novel rather than Tammet's memoir.

Yet, personally, I got more out of the real-life stories of Daniel Tammet and Paula Tilli. I guess that's just how my mind works. :)

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Mind The Gap - Living And Working Between Languages

I became a translator because I love languages.
I especially love the balancing act of getting a message in one language and relaying it in another language. It's a wonderful feeling when you get it just right. When you know that these words convey exactly the meaning you want. Yes, it happens, sometimes.

And sometimes a word or a concept in one language just doesn't fit neatly into the words of the other language. There is no equivalent. You can't translate, you need to think again, think differently.

As an example, we do not have a word for please in Finnish. Yes, there are ways of asking for things nicely and politely: "May I have..." or "Could I have..." But there is no single word that translates please.

Thank you,!
The result is that it's hard for a Finn learning English to remember to say please. She thinks she's asking politely when she says "May I have a drink?" because that's how it works in her own language. And the native English speaker waits for the please and gets the impression that the Finnish person is a bit abrupt, impolite, clumsy. "Didn't her mother teach her manners, like we teach our little ones to say please?"

(After 35 years of learning English as a second language, I think I've learned to remember saying please. Now I'm the one getting antsy if someone forgets to use it. I'll do my best to teach it to my son as he is learning English...)

Another example. We Finns don't say he and she. We have only one third person singular pronoun that goes for both genders: hän. So, if you have a Finnish text that speaks about the protagonist only as "hän" and nothing indicates the sex of this person, it's awfully difficult to translate it into English. If you start translating with he and after a while it turns out the text is talking about a woman, you have to go through everything again and fix all the pronouns. (And what if the text is purposefully written to be gender-neutral? How do you do it in English??)

Incidentally, this is also one more thing a Finnish learner of English finds hard. Because you suddenly need to start thinking differently. You have only one pronoun in your existing system, but now you need to remember to use a different word depending on the person you are talking about.

But I'm a translator because I enjoy the challenges of navigating the no man's land between languages and learning its pitfalls. I can never be entirely sure that I know all the cultural contexts, connotations and implications of my words, especially in my acquired languages. But it's OK as long as I'm aware of this and tread carefully, minding the gap. There is always more to learn, and sometimes we learn the hard way.

And sometimes you can get a good laugh from the gap. Like when I read Oliver Lutz Radke's books: Chinglish: Found in Translation and Chinglish 2: Speaking In Tongues.

Chinglish, as Radke defines it, is English words and Chinese grammar, reflecting a Chinese way of thinking.
Sometimes, it's poetry found in translation, like the sign which is apparently in a protected natural area:
"A rock longs for permanence
And a plant yearns love care"

Sometimes, the translation ends up with entirely garbled meaning, such as "Slip carefully."

But Radke is not collecting these in order to mock the Chinese translators' mistakes. It's because he's fascinated with what happens when there is a gap between two languages and cultures, and you can sort of see the Chinese thought behind the English words. Translations such as "Slip carefully" happen because Chinese grammar is different; the Chinese characters convey the message "be careful so you don't slip", but they do not need so many words to express it and the word order may also be different.

But sometimes awful (and funny) things happen because computer translation systems, such as Google Translate, cannot bridge the gap. When there are several possible meanings for a word, depending on the context, and the computer suggests the wrong alternative for this context, and there is no one to correct it before it's in print.

Not to mention the results of simple typing errors. You can guess what happens to a restaurant menu when someone accidentally spells 'crab' with a 'p'.

It's also an unfortunate fact that some words are similar, yet far apart in meaning. Like inconvenience and incontinence.

If language humour like this is your cup of tea, there is a lot more in and
(For the latter link, at least, I guess I should warn that there is a lot of unfortunate 'language' and innuendo. Like the example with crabs above. And worse. Much worse. Let's just say that by reading I have also increased my knowledge of American slang expressions. And I also wonder: where did someone get the text for this?
And what made someone think that stationery like this is a good idea?)

Mind the gap - and enjoy the trip between languages. You never know what you'll find there.