Lost in Translation | Teen Ink

Lost in Translation

June 21, 2018
By biscuitlevitation BRONZE, Washington, District Of Columbia
biscuitlevitation BRONZE, Washington, District Of Columbia
1 article 11 photos 29 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Besides, I can't get to where I want to go by conscious or unconscious suicide. I've got my strange little life to lead. Leading it the best I can -- that's how I buy the ticket to where I want to be." - Forever Odd, by Dean Koontz

Goya is an Urdu word meaning the complete transportation and suspension of disbelief when a fantasy seems so realistic that it temporarily becomes your reality. It is usually associated with skilled storytelling. While this concept is one that everyone who regularly consumes works of fiction has experienced, it has no equivalent in the English language.

For having such a complex meaning, the word itself is remarkably simple; only two syllables, both of which are easy to pronounce, together or separately. Any number of children just learning to talk could say it, perhaps even of their own accord, without any idea of what it signifies. This simplicity, in part, is what makes goya stand out amongst its peers. There are many “untranslatable” words in the world’s many different languages, but almost all of them are lengthy, and made up of individual parts with unique standalone meanings, or even a more literal translation.

However, to Urdu-speaking peoples, goya is such an intrinsic concept that they had no need to mash two simpler words together to convey the meaning they were trying to capture. And what is language, what are linguistics, but a way of telling a story? It does not have to be your story; it does not even have to be fictional. However, the greatest purpose and use of language is to convey a narrative. When it comes to words, there is no such thing as objectivity. The very vocabulary you use and the structure of your sentences influence the meaning that the speaker or writer or even signer tells to others. Even so, we think and interact almost entirely with language. Every person tells a story whenever they open their mouths, and that story is, for at least a moment, the listener’s reality. And what is that but the greatest goya of all?

Because of the inherently biased, perhaps even fictional, nature of language, it is impossible to truly translate anything, when words themselves have no absolute meaning. When it comes to words like goya, which are so perfectly encapsulatory, and yet untrue in the way that all words are untrue, translation is almost a diminishment.

I feel that we all make each other feel goya, but it never stops. How well can you truly know another person? How well can another person truly know you? Would you even want to truly know another person, or vice versa? Is the “translation” of the self a diminishment?

In many ways, I want to be a storyteller that induces goya in my listeners, with the fantasy being myself. I want to always present my best self, to be the best that I can be, even if, in my heart of hearts, I am not as confident or patient or generous as I seem. I want their truth, their perception of me, to be different -- to be better -- than my own. This is partially due to my own self-esteem and struggles with loving myself, because if everyone perceived my relatively minor flaws the way that I did, they would be the only things they ever noticed about me. Is my own self image, my own form of impostor syndrome, yet another facet of goya? I suppose that I cannot know; I suppose that goya is universal.

The author's comments:

A college essay that my counselor vetoed.

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