Flow of Information



Having worked for some years now as a freelance translator of both business documentation and magazine articles from Dutch to English, I’ve observed a real drive for information from other countries to reach American shores. If we look at history we see that information - pretty much since the end of WWII - has flowed from the US to the rest of the world. The US has been the big culture exporter. While Europe was rebuilding after the war that was all right, but I think it’s time for that pendulum to swing the other way, or at least for a greater circulation of information in more than one direction. 

The US might lead the way in many things, which is just fine, but I also feel mainstream media is very limited in what it tells us from foreign sources. Granted, it would require an investment in people who know other languages and can monitor diverse and far flung news outlets, but I think the long-term benefits would outweigh any up-front costs. That benefit being a greater understanding of other cultures around the world; a less isolationist view of the world and a greater sharing of resources, knowledge and discoveries across borders. 

The same holds true for literature. So few of good foreign writing makes it the US, and then if it is poorly translated the success of a book will only be limited. 

Despite my reservations regarding Amazon, I do like the fact that one of their imprints is dedicated solely to bringing foreign books to an English speaking market. I’m eager to assist in the translation and bringing to market of Dutch books. A number of outstanding teen novels come to mind as a good starting point, but there are many, many wonderful books in the Dutch language, published in the Netherlands and Belgium that would appeal to an English speaking audience. 

The internet of course is a great source of information and Google does a decent job of translating foreign websites, though some words and expressions become something entirely different than their original, it’s not the same as having a newsmagazine or newspaper that has at least a section devoted to information, opinion and research from overseas sources. I will say though that there is a growing trend in European institutions of higher learning to conduct business/classes in English to better mesh with a global market, but that still only captures a small portion of relevant information.

I’ve talked to small overseas blogs and news magazines that would like to see a deeper dialogue, who would like to be able to start greater cross-cultural discussions, but are stymied in that ambition by lack of funds to pay a translator (some days translating reminds me of my impoverished days writing grants for small non-profits). 

People from different cultural backgrounds will have very different opinions on the same event/activity/experience. Only through sharing of knowledge, information, opinion and research can we truly gain understanding of each other. Surely someone is willing to invest in that?