Responding to the Panel:
I felt trapped after listening to that panel, trapped within my own language. I have always wanted to be able to dream or think in another language. I feel bound by English and my monolingualism. The panel emphasized how a language is not just the flavor in which we communicate, but rather it shapes our cognitive structure and the way we view the world. Someone fluent in Greek or Arabic understands the world in a different way than I do, they don’t live in the same world. I assume the important part of an object is based on the framework of English. Another language might be interested in the essence of the object, the parts of an object as opposed to the whole, or maybe less interested in the object itself but what the object isn’t. There is an arrogance in a single language in that it forces you to assume there is only one way of thinking. In this sense, even reason isn’t elevated above perception as thought by Plato. For reason is bound by the biased nature of linguistics. Our linguistics shape our framework of the world. Does anything’s true form exist outside of our language? How are we trapped by language?
My roommate, Nick, is from Greece and a result I often help him translate between Greek and English while he is writing. We have discovered that Greek is a more expressive and emotional language than English so the direct translation of the word he is looking for in English, often loses a lot of meaning or is awkward. This is usually where I come in to help him find a better replacement. The other night, he was trying to find an English translation for the Greek word “πατρίδα”(patrída). It is a noun similar in nature to a “sense of patriotism for Greece” or “The essence of Greece”. The direct translation to English is the word “Homeland”. This word conveys none of the emotional meaning. A simple google search proved this for us. The word homeland brings up the TV show, while πατρίδα brings up a lot of greek imagery. The closest noun equivalent we found for the United States was the word “Liberty”. Liberty has a closer social context to πατρίδα than homeland.