Last Thursday, we discussed the topic of translation and how no two languages can be perfectly translated. I found Quine’s idea interesting; that we should think that the correct translation is impossible. This made me think of the history of translation. When did we start translating the different languages correctly? How long did it take? What if we are still missing the mark with our translations and have yet to make the proper connections with other cultures? Easy access to translation is something society takes for granted. If we did not have such access to it today, would society still be as advanced as we are? How would our lives look different?
In one scene of Arrival, Louise talks to her colleges about the structure and the nature of a question. For example, the question, “What is your purpose on Earth?” can potentially be taken in multiple ways. First, the recipient of the question must be able to understand what a question is. Without the initial understanding and the background of what a question is and how it differs from a regular statement or demand, the purpose will never get fulfilled. The recipient must also be able to conceptualize the meanings of each word asked in the question, basic vocabulary. They must be able to distinguish between the different meanings of who, what, where, why, how, etc. They must also understand the difference between a collective “you” and not an individual “you,” which could change the dynamic of the whole question. Without this background knowledge from both sides, no one will gain any advantages from asking the question. This scene made me think about the way we ask questions today. We take for granted the idea that everyone knows what people are talking about all the time and that everyone at our age knows how to answer basic questions. I wonder what is like to teach this concept to a whole other species.