‘I cannot translate my experience’

By Allana Rivera

 

These are the times I wish I were Ernest Hemingway. The times where I am feeling the grooves of the cobblestone beneath my feet as if the stones were braille and the streets a book. The times where the fresh smell of baked bread mixes with the crisp morning air, and I feel autumn in its truest form envelop me. These times, when I want to describe what home has become with flowing adjectives and run-on sentences that bring you here with me. These times, when I want to move the feast that is Spain to those who have not or may not ever know it the way I am beginning to, these are the times that I wish I could write it for you like Hemingway would.

These are the times I wish I were Ernest Hemingway. The times where I am feeling the grooves of the cobblestone beneath my feet as if the stones were braille and the streets a book. The times where the fresh smell of baked bread mixes with the crisp morning air, and I feel autumn in its truest form envelop me. These times, when I want to describe what home has become with flowing adjectives and run-on sentences that bring you here with me. These times, when I want to move the feast that is Spain to those who have not or may not ever know it the way I am beginning to, these are the times that I wish I could write it for you like Hemingway would.

I have started and restarted many times, doubling back on sentences that seemed dull and pointless, picking apart descriptions to fit a form that is most telling of my experience here. However, each time I fall embarrassingly short. I attribute most of this to my amateur writing ability, but I can only apportion so much of my lack of success to this fault.

I am then left with a painfully obvious conclusion: I cannot translate my experience. I could, perhaps, explain the unique beauty that Spain has to offer with its hidden castles amidst the country side. Or I could possibly attempt to generalize the fiery passion of Spaniards and their way of seeing the world. Some have and succeeded, but as much as I try, I feel I cannot achieve the same success.

I suppose what I mean to say, is the tired yet honest adage that things truly do become lost in translation.

The more I translate, the more I lose myself in the translation. The more I begin to slip away into the pages of English-Spanish dictionaries, the more my newfound knowledge and experience diminish in my trying to marginalize the culture of another into my own.

I understand at first it is necessary to use one’s own language as a guide through someone else’s. However, after a time, it becomes a crutch that inhibits one’s ability to fully become steeped in the intricacies of this new and beautiful idiom.

You cannot learn a language in a classroom, you can only learn its rules. To truly know a language, lose yourself in the culture of the language’s root. Extract yourself from the normal constructs of learning and place yourself wholly and fully into the language.

I have come to feel that this is the only way to truly learn, for in reality, language is a vast interplay of millions of cultural surfaces, all merging together to produce a series of sounds that allow us to connect with our fellow man.

This I have taken away above all, and this is the problem I run into when I try to relate some of my best moments here.

There have been Spanish moments and though they have their English equivalent, I feel it to be an injustice to cheat them of the magic of their own tongue.

So what have I truly experienced? What do I have to share about the core of my studies abroad? Well, I suppose I could tell you, but you would have to learn Spanish first.

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