The piece below was originally written for my IB Diploma HL English A Language & Literature Internal Assessment 2017
Every time I visit a foreign country, I try to keep in mind Andrew Zimmern’s advice: “Be a traveller, not a tourist.”
Being a traveller, specifically a culture traveller, emphasises experiencing life within a foreign culture. And one of the most integral aspects of a nation’s culture is their language. Without the local language, you can’t go through day-to-day activities because concepts and objects are all called in the local names. We’d be experiencing the country through a foreigner’s lens and not through the actual reality of what people living there experience.
Having grown up with the English language throughout my entire life, I always tried to understand foreign cultures through my tongue. When my local tour guide tries to explain to me certain phrases or expressions, I’m always trying to find “English equivalents” of the words they are describing. Yet these untranslatable words exposes an aspect of a country’s culture. Oftentimes, they settle for the basic translation in order to continue explaining. But very soon I realised that I was missing out on the nuances embedded within the words, and with that, a jigsaw piece of the culture.
Reflecting on my two most recent trips to Japan in March-April (which you can read the complete adventures here) and Germany over the summer (travel adventures here) earlier this year, I’d just like to share with all of you a few of my favourite words I learned from both countries.
I’ll start off with the words from the land of the rising sun: