I woke up this morning with an odd phrase in my head: “Tribes have many ways to find the way to the roof.” There was no context, no dream to accompany it, but I realized (extrapolating from my own experience) that it should be: “The people need to know there is only one way to heaven.”

Anyone has learned a second language the hard way, not from birth but by the application of intense effort to discover the rules of a novel grammar, peculiar modes of expression, awkward arrangements of vowels and consonants and, of course, a seemingly endless store of foreign vocabulary can certainly relate to the mistranslation above. Early in our language learning, our limited word hoard supplies only poor substitutes for the rich variety of our native tongue and we sound laughable.

So it is when we write. Our imagination paints us vivid living pictures and spells out a brilliant narrative. Our need is to translate that onto paper, into words understood by our readers. Unfortunately, we find no automated translator that can peruse our thoughts and transcribe them.

Oleg Semerikov has written a post on five things translators could teach the rest of the world,(1) and his points apply equally to writing: precision and good judgment matter, so study to be an expert and to speak the language of your audience. He ends by saying that other cultures (read, other people) are cool, too.

Remembering the other, putting your own frustrations aside: surely that will help keep your focus where it should be, reading the story as it is written, with untaught eyes hearing the message in words found outside the ethereal images and brilliant luminescence of your own intellect.

Footnote: (1) https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/five-things-translators-could-teach-rest-world-oleg-semerikov/