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Translation is a Cultural Conversation

བུ་མོ་ཆུང་འདྲིས་བྱམས་པ། །
bu mo chung ‘dris byams pa
སྤྱང་ཀིའི་རིགས་རྒྱུད་མིན་ནམ། །
spyang ki’i rigs rgyud min nam
ཤ་འདྲེས་པགས་འདྲེས་བྱུང་ཡང༌། །
sha ‘dres lpags ‘dres byung yang
རི་ལ་ཤོར་གྲབས་མཛད་གིས། །
ri la shor grabs mdzad gis

A short while ago, I traveled from Queens, the great hub of immigrants, taking the ancient, smelly, and artistic subway to Union Square and then walked through the bustling streets squeezed between those sky-touching buildings to Latse library, calmly located near the Hudson River, to see my friend Pema Bhum. While waiting for him to finish his work, I asked Kristina to retrieve for me some translation books of the 6th Dalai Lama’s “Love Songs”. Within an hour and a half, I had scanned through them and noticed quite a few translation errors in all the books. This spurred my desire to write a blog post about Tibetan translation. This post is neither to publicize their mistakes nor to embarrass the translators, but more about creating a conversational awareness amongst intellectuals and scholars who are drawn into doing translations from Tibetan into English or the other way around. Continue reading “Translation is a Cultural Conversation”

Respect: A Playful Word

Allow me to be a Tibetan wordsmith for a while. If I have a good command of Tibetan language, the credit must go to my father. He was my first Tibetan teacher who helped hone my linguistic skills from a tender age. My Tibetan language skills thus surpassed my peers and even students in higher grades when I was in Tibet. Through my extensive studies of Tibetan, I have been able to lay down a robust foundation of the language. Indeed, language is much more than simply grammar, syntax, and a means of verbal communication – it is often influenced by relative powers, unconscious emotions, and instinctual behaviors in various times and places. Thus, to be playful with language provides us a space in finding the subtle meaning and nuanced usage of the language. This ultimately gives us freedom. Continue reading “Respect: A Playful Word”

Politics is Everything

For Tibetans in exile, the way we approach Tibet is complex and varied. Tibet where some of us lived and still carry its memories. Tibet that is intertwined with both delightful and agonizing feelings for us to imagine persistently from a distance. Tibet that we celebrate as a nation through political symbols and social rituals at different times and places. Tibet, thus, is a multi-layered identity for us to retain with recollection, imagination, and symbols under everchanging circumstances. However, this all has its own origin in what happened to Tibet politically almost six decades ago, and we are the product of that history. When we lost our political freedom, our language, culture, and religion also began to lose its own autonomy and independence. As such, politics is the foundation of everything. Our ancestors foresaw that millennia ago. Continue reading “Politics is Everything”

Does sex kill language?

I grew up in a culture where it is taboo to discuss sex or an array of sex-related subjects in front of one’s parents, siblings, and relatives. People blush if someone accidentally utters anything about sex and intimate relationships. However, I have observed that the exile Tibetan community is quite advanced and open-minded about these topics. One apparent example would be blugs” (བླུགས།) which is even overused in their conversations. As you may know, blugs is slang for sex.  Continue reading “Does sex kill language?”