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George Trail Translation Services Asks: How Much Can We Really Learn From Foreign Language Content?

George Trail discusses learning from foreign language content.


United Kingdom, 16 July 2022—The war in Ukraine continues to force us all to accept uncomfortable realities and raises difficult questions, and not just “Just how long are food, petrol and gas going to remain as expensive as they are right now?” and “What economic sanctions against Russia will actually visibly deter Putin?” and all that.

Haven’t you ever wondered what’s on Putin’s mind right now, or what he really hopes to gain from this war? Perhaps the truly pressing questions we should be dealing with are “What is Putin knowingly keeping from us?” and “How could he hope to get away with all this carnage?” – among others.

How could any normal person hope to suggest earnest reasons for that one without a desire to go into the backstory at, some might say, a “most unusual” depth? I can already imagine people responding to that one thus: “But he hasn’t got away with it!

Look at all the sanctions against Russia and all the mass worldwide condemnation against Putin!” …Right. But I tell you: of course Putin was expecting it. Before his political career he studied law at university, and he worked as a KGB foreign intelligence officer for 16 years, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

He may be dangerous and cruel but, for everything there is that supports the idea that he’s insane, he’s definitely not stupid. We should insist on bringing details of his agenda to light wherever possible – however hard or ugly it may be to do so.

But I’m a self-employed translator, and in that capacity, I write about language all the time – that said, the thing that really drove me to write this article was the old Latin adage “Si vis pacem, para bellum” – If you want peace, prepare for war.”

If you think you are smart enough to get its meaning straight away, read this article on the saying and double-check:

The article lists a far wider scope of how it is interpreted; not just “learn how to fight, all to get stronger, so that you may fight well in times of war, and this should deter nations from attacking you,” as you are probably thinking.

Don’t underestimate the educational value of this article. It certainly offered me original information I absorbed willingly. It certainly makes a compelling point where it says, “Peace is not given free.” It comes at a great cost, and the creators of the film 300 certainly never forgot to get that across.

If we’re being honest, that point is capable of leaving plenty of us as individuals uncomfortably questioning our own self-worth… including how much we deserve peace in the real world, which all seems a million miles away from being able to enjoy “peace” in our minds for free… or is it all empty fantasy, all marked by views and beliefs that have no substantial moral weight?

Like it or hate it, quotes like “peace is not given free” have the potential to be the first step in teaching us things about ourselves – there’s just no escaping it. I think in particular of conceit and hubris; in the case of hubris, remember how, in the film 300, mentioned above, Xerxes is shown to be possessed by hubris.

Hopefully, it invites one to ponder a full understanding of “hubris” that’s not just limited to examples defined by specific kinds of scenarios already ingrained in our minds. After all, which is more important: winning arguments or understanding? And have you ever been involved in a heated argument which you are today glad took place, regardless of who “won” it, for what it would bring to light? (A truly important argument, if you will?) And how many of us have lived by nothing more than excuses at some point?

But my point here is that this enjoyment of “peace” in our minds for free does in fact have the potential to be, in a nutshell, psychologically distracting… with sometimes terrible consequences (not necessarily in the short term).

In other words, it has the potential to help impair our understanding of reality before we even know it (if you ask me). This is the point where I bring up the subject of so-called “woke culture” in Western society, which (at least in my experience) just didn’t exist until I was in my mid-30s.

This same culture is held in contempt and derided by many, who attack those who uphold it as overly sensitive, ignorant and cowardly “snowflake” types; the kind of people who are overly inclined to ban people from speaking in universities and who label objectively harmless words as “distressing” or “triggering” simply because “they know better” and are desperate for credit for expressing original opinions on moral subjects, all while undermining freedom of speech.

For this they are often, rightly, highly criticised by people who are quick to point out that these kinds of attitudes tend to come about as a result of an inflated sense of entitlement. There is an element of considerable irony in it all.

Whether they realise it or not, they are terrified of sounding ignorant for not having “original” and “definitive” opinions with some kind of weight which unquestionably has some value outside of what they like to cling to in their inner world for intimate solace, and being humiliated over it, and this drives them to be overbearing.

I must admit that, while it takes strength to stop a war – and making concessions to the enemy is not absolutely always something to feel ashamed of – it all too often takes a combination of strength and humility to avert a war from starting in the first place.

“Woke” individuals cling to this narrative they pretend to represent while insisting they could never harm the very people they claim to be supporting, and this provokes resentment among their peers, who really can be forgiven for calling them arrogant for it; which is why it just may be time for you, too, the reader, to revise the meaning of the term “arrogant”, whatever you insist on pointing out about your merits and virtues.

Meanwhile… I definitely do not condone Putin’s actions in Ukraine but I feel I should assert that he has something in his character that so many millennials and members of Generation Z of today don’t. Like I said, he would have fully expected all the condemnation, and as such would have been ready to act defiant in the face of it all.

For this is a man pursuing something, with rigour, every single day, which he knows has the potential to change his life, even the world, in a way he wants. He is pursuing a dream (albeit a horrific and disgraceful one) which he values and honours far, far more than just his own whims and subjective opinions and all day-to-day things which he believes (correctly or not) that he is entitled to, and he knows it.

We can argue that he is entitled to much more than most given his status as the leader of a country, but that is irrelevant. That sort of drive is just so lacking in so many of today’s generation of teenagers and young adults.

It’s so depressing. However hard it can be, in reality, it’s just not enough to keep saying that war is bad and people should refuse to engage in it whenever possible. (That’s just blindingly obvious and too easy to say anyway, isn’t it?)

Enjoying peace (and “maintaining pride” about doing so) – while all the time being prepared to remind others that it’s just something any normal reasonable person wants – is not the same as upholding peace (or, as the article above puts it, “agreeing to keep the peace”).

Enjoying peace that you are granted, however much hope you may think it grants you or anyone else, is not upholding peace – and upholding peace is not limited to exercising patience and restraint, and a determination to be understanding with your enemy as a means to settle a dispute non-violently.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of the very sum of your own actions and practices and even mere thoughts and attitudes in your life as a whole – and we must never forget that there is such a thing as “being at war with yourself”, which can only generate self-doubt… and foster rage as a result. And of course, rage fuels war.

At the very worst, this kind of thing has the potential to make someone far angrier than I could ever make them. Note how the final sentence in the linked-to article is “Peace is given only to those who are strong and even prepared for war” as if to say that being “strong” does not necessarily mean that someone is prepared for war. This quote and this article will stay with me for some time.

Make no mistake: you may have a fine story to tell, and have accomplished a lot, and have had a lot of well-deserved respect to show for it, but the biggest war of your life may be a lot closer than you think!

About George Trail Translation Services:

George Trail, one of the leading translation experts, operates from his home base, which allows him to carry out translations in a tranquil environment, helping him to ensure that all translation work is carried out accurately and efficiently. George specialises in translating documents and information from French and German to English.

Contact Information:

George Trail Translation Services
10 Hillary Dr Crowthorne Berkshire South East RG45 6QE


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