A Cause Lost in Translation

Ashley Evans, GLN Leadership Fellow, and Sanjana Mahtani, GLN Intern, analyze the ways in which Global Language Network’s mission empowers people to reflect deeply on cultures through language. By learning to think immersively when studying a language, people are able to understand and embrace differences rather than to feel divided. How does GLN’s mission encourage change-making through language learning? 

Read more to find out:

Black Lives Matter. La Vidas Negras Importan. Mas’alat Hayat Alsuwd. Kaala Jeevan Maayane Rakhata Hai. In every language, city, country, and culture, this sentence can be understood as one that highlights the movement revolving around a societal problem with its epicenter in The United States. The phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ is one that holds a lot of sentiment that often gets lost in translation. According to the official website for the movement’s origins, “Black Lives Matter is an organized movement dedicated to non-violent civil disobedience in protest to police brutality.” The multiplicity of interpretations associated with the impact of this phrase provides an example of why the Global Language Network’s mission: ‘Use language as a tool to help fix our world’, is so important. Circumstances around the world that demonstrate the outpouring of related sentiment associated with the phrase “Black Lives Matter” demonstrates a perfect opportunity to help facilitate a cultural translation and break down barriers often created by the limitations in communication that using words alone creates. 

The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter circulating through social media and news outlets is very popular. Despite the stated intention of its creators for specific use against police brutality, it has been used and interpreted in different ways. A faulty perception that #blacklivesmatter creates a mutually exclusive meaning related to the value of one human’s life over another’s based on racial classification demonstrates that the original intention of the creator’s purpose has been distorted. For example, since the creation of #blacklivesmatter, #whitelivesmatter, and #alllivesmatter phrases were also generated on social media. Ultimately, the phenomenon demonstrates how every individual’s personal culture and environment influences his or her ideas, perception, and viewpoint of what is most valid. Language and cultural perceptions are each parts of the #blacklivesmatter political movement. Language aids us in expressing ideas and concepts. When we understand the cultural context used in expression of language, we can break down barriers of miscommunication between people and cultures. This is how culture and environments shape people’s ideas and perceptions on what they believe is correct. 

Especially for those in foreign nations who are being exposed to the #blacklivesmatter movement that originated in the United States, proper language comprehension provides the way we are able to understand how to translate the expression and the concepts associated with it. Our goal at The Global Language Network is to help break down linguistic and cultural barriers by engaging individuals through language and culture, inside and outside of the classroom. Most importantly, we hope to translate the shared experience and sense of culture that comes along with learning a new language so that we can truly help to fix our world. 

If you are someone who has a burning passion to make a difference in the world, but are unsure of how to do that, sign up for our summer program where we offer 100+ language classes. Make an impact in your community by connecting with a bigger world and exploring culture through languages. Register today at TheGLN.org



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