Friday, June 17, 2011

Lost in Translation

I haven't been writing in a long time and although many things are going on they did not pass through my fingers onto the keyboard to appear in this blog. But I have been pondering a lot, almost getting myself to the desk and starting to type (at the least I did not want to be the bed bug post my last post). In the end writing a blog is as doing so many things, you have to do it and more or less things will fall in place. So once again I have to thank my friends to scream out for me to write!

It just crossed my mind, that one of the many things I did not catch up with is a book my brother recently gave to me. It is a book attempting to teach me how to take pictures like Ansel Adams with a digital camera. For all of you who do not know Ansel Adams, he is an American photographer who developed the zonal system. His work is spectacular, but I also admirer him for his relation to nature and envy him for all the time that he took to spend in Americas wilderness.

However, I did not really want to write about Ansel Adams, but about what happened to me reading the book my brother gave to me. Although from an American author the copy I have is in German and while I was reading it occurred to me that everything was so easy to understand. It was so liberating.

I assume my English is not so bad. I usually can understand the most texts and thanks to my passion for NPR (National Public Radio) but also my addiction for TV shows and movies it became also relatively easy to listen. But speaking and in particular writing myself is still a struggle at times. Humor is particularly difficult both in understanding and being humorous myself. Also being in the middle of a conversation with native speakers still can be somewhat challenging. Whereas in personal conversations everybody usually speaks slower and more simple, in the temper of a discussion amongst native speakers I am the lame duck hardly following the argument. Not being a blabber mouth by nature only potentiates the problem.

Going through the terror of fellowship applications for the past two years somewhat elevated my writing and I have to be thankful to my supervisor, who is not only a wonderful PI but also a good English teacher for her foreign postdocs (and I even got awarded with a fellowship just recently). Concluding that practice is the only way to improve and make my life easier. Sometimes my inability to speak my mind takes a hard toll on my self confidence. I used to have the motto that only actions but not words count, but growing older I have to realize that many things in this world are done with words and a good speaker can make all the difference. Maybe still being far away from being a master of rhetoric, I once again pledge to write more often just to become a better person.


  1. You are already a good person. Maybe read some Ian McEwan (English) or HS Thompson (American) in order to get that vernacular.. ;) I think you use lots of interesting words in your blogposts (like potentiate, or blabbermouth). Congrats on the Fellowship!!

  2. but I am cheating with the dictionary next to me:) of course I want to do a good job:) but thanks. I actually listen to 2 books of Ian McEwan, Solar and Atonement. very nice! I haven't read him though. I should check out HS Thompson. And what the heck does vernacular mean?

  3. A vernacular, mother tongue and mother language, and less frequently one sense of idiom[1] and dialect,[2] is the native language of a population located in a country or in an area defined on some other basis, such as a locality.

    I sometimes think that all the English we learned in school doesn't have to do anything with the British or American vernacular.

    thanks for that word.

  4. i think so too. whatever we learned at school were just the basics. so in that way it was good. but in no way was it the language as it is actually spoken. but i guess thats very difficult, as that constantly changes....
    actually, the german lessons i had at school were more aimed at "regular language as it is spoken in the real world", but i dont remember much of it.. :) aside from Nase popeln...

  5. Nase popeln, hahahaha, wat is dat dan in Nederlands?

  6. I guess I missed many of your (Sylvie & Catje) blogs. But I always enjoy to read them! Thanks and a big hug to all of you, Per