Working across languages is a work of art. There are few rules. There are principles and disciplines that help, but nothing is guaranteed. One often starts conversations with an idea of the destination. Where one ends up is often very different.
The past few days in Taipei and Shanghai has reminded me of two old truths. First, I wish I had the gift of languages! Knowing how to talk in a way that the other easily understood would open our conversations to More. In the main, the senior managers I have been working with speak English. I would prefer to have a conversation where s/he did not have to think about how to say, just what to say. Additionally, I wish I knew what words naturally translated into her/his natural language. The goal is to focus on exchanging ideas.
Secondly, art requires an echo. When I made my second sculpture, I went to a friend for his opinion. He challenged me. “Why are you expressing yourself? If you are doing it so that others can approve, stop before you begin. If you are expressing because you must, then keep going.”
I need to communicate. I would note that it is important to communicate with someone! It is never a one-way process. Even if it is to my soul, a clarification process needs to occur. When I am bridging the gap across languages, it is critical. When one assumes that English is the bridge, candidly, one is being foolish.
An old conversation reminded me this week of what I needed to do. In that case, one party’s request seemed to contradict their agreement. A clarification statement, the request was put into context. “In asking you to do this, we’re not going back on our agreement regarding non-Jews who have become believers.” (Acts 21.25a)
This trip has brought clarification back into my work. I find myself filled with hope, knowing that there are more art to come. I am confident the dialogue that began will continue. I will confirm my hope. It marks the beginning of walking together.