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Amherst Colege Supplemental Essay
“Translation is the art of bridging cultures. It’s about interpreting the essence of a text, transporting its rhythms and becoming intimate with its meaning… Translation, however, doesn’t only occur across languages: mentally putting any idea into words is an act of translation; so is composing a symphony, doing business in the global market, understanding the roots of terrorism. No citizen, especially today, can exist in isolation– that is, I untranslated.”
RESPONSE: Having a bilingual experience throughout my childhood and teenage years, and with significant involvement in the Humanities, I have had the experience of both the kinds of translation mentioned here. I have read the translations of Tagore’s poems, originally in Bengali, in Hindi and English. I have learned that translating mere words of these poems was not much of a problem if a person is well-versed with the languages used. Similar was the case with Rumi and Kabir, both stellar poets who used the vernacular and conveyed meanings much deeper than the words of their couplets contained. After translating the words, their deep meanings and imports were to be debated, discussed, and thoughtfully arrived at. So yes, we can say that translation is an extended process.
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And this extended process is not just limited to language and literature. As mentioned, because translation essentially implies ‘deciphering’ and understanding something in context, understanding concepts or composing music is essentially translation. I have had the first-hand experience with composing. Developing interest in music in the early teens, I was initially limited to popular music and some punk rock. I tried to compose and self-learn, my primary inspiration being these musical styles. But over the years, I have realized that to decipher this wonderful art and indeed, a science called music, it is important that we take inspiration from, and explore other genres. I became a voracious listener and started taking inspiration from Jazz and classical music and even Indian styles became so much more enlightened and arrived at fantastic results. I can say that as far as music is concerned, to effectively understand it, one must have a constant hunger to learn to use unusual thinking strategies for inspiration, because to be a highly functional and effective composer, one must not simply understand scales and chords; one must be able to understand entire cultural contexts and musical styles to create the strongest and the most innovative compositions.
We can thus understand that innovation implies translation, but going further, I would say understand oneself, his or her role in the world, and understanding the life one wants to lead is also translation. Personally, I am still discovering more and more wonderful things, I still want to learn and I have not discovered my true calling. But I can say that whatever interests I have, I have done my best to explore them and learn from them, and not just treated them casually. I can confidently say that I am on the right path to translation, to understanding the higher cause of my being, even though I have a long way to go.