NaBloPoMo Day 19: Lost in Translations

“If you could instantly know any language in the world, which one would it be?”

All of them? Actually, what I really want is not the words, but the cultural download that comes with learning how other cultures communicate. Especially when it comes to food.

There are plenty of cross-cultural cookbooks available in English, but there is always something lost in translation. Whether it’s decisions about commonly available ingredients, assumptions about palate preferences, or even assumptions about aversions (to offal, for example), it is very hard to determine how close I am getting to the “real” thing.

The best solution would be to learn a language and talk to cooks about their most beloved dishes. But which one?

Mandarin and Cantonese are fun to speak and culturally fascinating, but without soya sauce, I find my interest is flagging. Maybe I should be a bit more practical, using practice as an incentive, so I asked at work what would be the most useful language for me to learn. The boss suggested Malay, his second-in-command Tagalog, and there were a few votes for Tamil.

Faced with this polyglot glut, I wish I knew them all. Then I could talk to everyone about what they are cooking and how they are cooking it. In the meantime, I’ll have to rely on translations.

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