Lost in Translation

23 Nov

Reading a new blogpost from an enthusiastic teacher of Hebrew in Australia who connects her kids with the world on Skype: http://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/  I’m reminded of the Japanese pen-pal with whom I exchanged long letters when I was 13 years old. We were both learning English in school, but writing letters to an actual teenager on the other side of the world was such a thrill, we both improved our language skills! 


In the span of 5 years, once every 3 weeks or so, he would be teaching me such things as all there was to know about the cherry blossoms festival, sending me beautiful postcards, writing on delicate rice paper I could’nt find in Montreal. For his sake, I gathered as much information as I could about such things as the Native Indian tradition of cutting a slash into a maple tree to collect the sap to be boiled into a syrup and sent him pictures of my cat. Then, when I got 18, and he 19, he changed schools and started writing letters in exquisite French. I was  delighted at first, then my interest kind of waned: something was lost in translation. Reverting to my mother tongue, I didn’t feel as free-spirited.


When I got my first Internet home connection back in 1998, I wanted to connect with the world and didn’t know how. So I looked up his unusual japanese name and found out he was teaching architecture in Tokyo, after studies at the Fine Arts in Paris. I was still too awkward on Internet to try to get in touch and I forgot him for another 12 years. 


Then, this morning, after watching a bit of the video exchange between an Indian student and a class of Australian kids, I decided to google him again. This time, I found out much more. He is now teaching architecture in Paris and he too wrote books. Maybe this time, I will try to reconnect: I’m wondering what common interests we still have, besides cherry blossoms and maple syrup. But hey, I talk daily on Twitter with people I never shared more than 140 characters at a time!


I owe this lost friend from Japan to a sensible native language teacher who suggested we took pen-pals in the sixties—a time where French-Canadians were not yet called Quebecers and were slowly making their Quiet Revolution and opening themselves to the world after what we called «the great darkness», a time of resistance and making lots of babies to maintain our language and religion. I remember exchanging a few letters with youngsters from France, Germany and Switzerland as well. But with this cool boy from Tokyo, it just clicked. 

3 Réponses vers “Lost in Translation”

  1. Ed 25 novembre 2010 à 20 h 57 min #

    What a great post! Glad our interaction provoked those memories for you. I hope you will contact him and update us!


  2. Anonyme 26 novembre 2010 à 2 h 32 min #

    Thanks Edna. I will contact him and will keep you posted. I just need some time to muster a bit of courage. Bridging a gap between our teenage selves and our mature counterparts is quite a challenge but your wonderful blog reminds me how enthusiastic I was when I was opening up to the world, my arms extended, embracing all that came my way. The kids in your class are extremely lucky to have you helping them to connect.


  3. Ed 26 novembre 2010 à 2 h 43 min #

    Thanks. It’s not my class, actually. I have a new role that enables me (among other more boring things) to support all the classes and teachers in this kind of collaboration.


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