Monday, February 20, 2006

Did I have to learn Japanese to agree with the Buddha?

I have just had the strangest experience. I'm doing research on kitsune, fox spirits, for the last chapter of my book, which led me down a path of Buddhist history and thought in Japan that I've not encountered yet, and the oddest thing is, looking at Buddhist thought in Japanese, I mean looking at it written in Japanese, it all makes complete sense. Why does Buddhist thought seem like yet another system of man-made belief to me, full of fallacy even though it has good intentions, when I read about it in English, but when I read about it in Japanese I think, well duh, of course.

This may be the strangest experience I have ever had.



Blogger David Moles said...

Maybe in English you've been reading the wrong Buddhist thought.

12:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi from Tsuchiura! I found your blog from Endicott Studio, and thought I'd say hi. I'm not an expert on Buddhist thought, but it's possible that the words used in Japanese carry different units of meaning from their analogues in English. and those answer the "Huh?"s that pop up in the recesses of your brain when you read the English.

In any case, while both the English and Japanese phrasings are translations, I daresay the Japanese have had more practice :-)

8:02 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

David, you could be quite right.

Sylfien, wow, you're like literally living right next door to me, and you found me through the Endicott Studio? Small world. I agree with what you said too. I think the Japanese words are carrying different units of meaning than the English, but I find this is true in so many aspects of Japanese. A Japanese friend of mine who is a translator said she thinks English is good for communication and making things very logical and clear, but with Japanese it's almost like you're "displaying" language, and their is more responsibility on the listener's part to interpret than in English. It makes conversation in Japanese more intense and concentrated at times, and I find that Japanese words carry so many different shades of meaning that you have to get good at interpreting their varying shades depending on the context they're used in. This occurs at a certain level in English, but we modulate these shades of meaning more often with our tone of voice, whereas here it's like speaking in dreams, subtle and almost visual in nature. Of course that's only my experience of it.

Shoot me an email. Where are you working in Tsuchiura?

5:24 AM  
Blogger Nalo said...

So cool! I do find that when I'm studying a new language, I always find worldview differences that are new to me. But it hadn't occurred to me that it could have this effect.

4:58 PM  

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