I went to the theatre the other night. The play was in French. Impressed? You shouldn’t be; I don’t speak French.
Luckily there were subtitles projected onto the back of the set. Quite distracting for the French speaking audience I imagine, but possibly great for forgetful actors.
My wife, who does speak French, informed me that not everything was translated; but I still managed to get the drift of the play. Which leads me to this: how much is enough to get the general idea?
I am constantly confused and maybe a little suspicious whenever I get on a Chinese airline. A recent trip had the flight attendant rambling on for a good 3 to 4 minutes in her native tongue. Then the switch to English: “Fasten your seatbelt, have a nice flight”
What were the secret minutes the Chinese got and I didn’t? What was said that was not worth translating? As an avowed conspiracy theorist (man landed on the moon… As if!) I was intrigued. My initial thoughts were parachutes. Did she say: “Comrades, apart from the lifejacket under your seat, or in the armrest if you are in business class, here is where the parachutes are kept… Just don’t tell the western pig-dog in 27E.”
Or was she just cracking jokes?
“Good evening folks, my dog has no nose,”
“ how does it smell?”
Does this happen at the United Nations? When leaders meet, do the interpreters just give them an abridged version? “Welcome to our humble country Your Esteemed Excellency. My people wonder at your majesty and warmly greet you. Our country is your country” – “Hello there, the toilet is down the hall, first on the left”
Our lives are surrounded by shortcuts. Texting is a major offender – I got this the other day “t2ul8r” I thought the person was swearing at me. I personally don’t think saving 8 seconds while texting is of much use. What do people do with all this time? I’ll tell you – they make up new shorthand texting signs, or spend the time trying to decipher one that has been sent to them. Apparently: “ |-| ” means “I’m asleep” Now seriously, do I have to spell out the many flaws in that shortcut?
In Hong Kong the ultimate dream is to find a quicker way to drive somewhere. Endless discussions can be had about the best way to drive from Mid-Levels to Central to get there in 2 minutes rather than 2 minutes, 47 seconds. Over the mountain or through the Aberdeen tunnel can occupy a dinner party for a good hour.
Sorry, but I just don’t buy into it all. I still text longhand, I drive through the Aberdeen tunnel in peak hour and I happily attend the theatre where I get just enough of the plot to keep me awake. I don’t need the potential minutes I could save each day by taking shortcuts. What I do need is to find out where those damn parachutes are kept.