Happiness, paraphrased (part II)

 Dear students,

Multi-lingualism may be overrated, but there really must be some reason (besides pragmatic/economic ones) why we do place value on abilities to translate. Yes, this is a follow-up on the previous post about the correlation between Translation (from one language to another) and Understanding:

Let’s take the example of the term “Happiness“. To translate/ convey the nuances of term ‘happiness’ to a non-native speaker (and let’s assume for the purposes of this post that you’re attempting to convey the nuances this term to a Mandarin speaker). The Chinese character that you would choose very much depends on your personal (philosophical) beliefs on what constitutes “Happiness”, no?

So, given most of you are effectively bilingual, which of these translations would you choose? Which one do you think most accurately conveys the nuances of the term ‘Happiness’, as you understand it?

1. Instant gratification?

kuai le

For example, you might choose the term “(‘kuai4 le4’)” which curiously suggests that happiness involves an instant/ quick gratification. Further, this is one of most commonly used translations today – think “新年快乐”!

2. Double/ Singular Joy?

double happinessThis character is ubiquitous in Chinese-speaking wedding ceremonies. This translation of ‘Happiness’ seems to imply that happiness involves two parties ie you can double your happiness levels when you find your better half in life 🙂

And if all else fails in the marriage department, then you still can settle for happiness (urm,, singular) in the form of 喜 (xi3).– which is commonly translated to mean joy. How is ‘joy’ then different from Contentment/Satisfaction (next section)?


3. Contentment/ Satisfaction?

Literally paraphrased, 满足(man3 zu2) = Fulfillment (满 ) of Goals (足). Quite different from the first translation (乐). 

This translation suggests that happiness is a long-term, enduring concept, as opposed to a fleeting and instant gratification. Think about it: to consider yourself “contented/ satisfied” implies that you have given quite some thought to (a) what your goals in life are; and (b) how successful you are in meeting these goals.


4. Being kind/ empathetic/ open-hearted?

The term 开心 (kai1 xin1) is also perhaps one of the most commonly-used translation of Happiness. Paraphrased word-for-word, it implies that happiness involves the ability to be open/ receptive/ empathetic. Quite interesting, no? 🙂 Do email/ Whatsapp me on your thoughts; I would be interested to hear what you have to say!

Anyway, the point of this post was to get you thinking about two concepts – (a) the value in being able to translate and how this demonstrates understanding; (b) well, what is happiness to you, la 🙂

Yes, you are in the midst of Promos. You prioritize and you are trying to grasp laws of thermodynamics and characteristics of geometric progressions. But here’s the thing – reading and being exposed to different opinions is so integral in being able to do well in GP.  You cannot “mug” GP.   To be able to do reasonably well, you need to exposed to differing viewpoints, which does not happen overnight. So although the GP promos may be over, individual consultations are still encouraged 🙂

This entry was posted in Additional Notes, Opinion pieces, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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