Home > Art, communication, Food for Thought, Human Nature > How Avatar reveals secrets about translation and human communication

How Avatar reveals secrets about translation and human communication

Being theBlockbuster film of 2009, surpassing Titanic as the top-grossing film in North America and worldwide, then becoming the top-selling Blue-Ray disc of all time, the story underlying Avatar is one known to many people around the world.  It not only solidified its director James Cameron as the paramount director of his time, it won three (of nine) Academy Awards, though it lost the glamorous accolades of Best Picture and Best Director.

One of the most important unanswered questions in the movie is, of course, “Is Jake, in the end, one of them or one of us?”

It is with this in mind that David Bellos, a renowned translator and finalist for the 2012 National Book Critics Circle Award, makes the following observation in an interview for Big Think.

David Bellos on Big Think

In a nutshell, what Bellos raises is a question always raised in translation.  Is it possible to move between two cultures and languages competently and meaningfully?  This is always exacerbated in interpretation.  As an interpreter, you are constantly having to fight through the perception that the true meaning of one is not being conveyed in the other; which, in fact, it isn’t, when the one is something deeply ingrained in its own culture and language.  The interpreter is “making do”, but not “making up”.  Compromise is often the only way of fulfilling the needs of the two parties to understand each other.

For a bilingual person, it is a constant struggle to find peace with the differences of understanding imposed by another language and culture.  The truth, underlying meaning, and wisdom contained in concepts in one language can become false, imperfect, and deceitful in another.  And in this dilemma is a mystery that will remain one of the plights and delights for all time…

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