Multilingual dialogues

Rainbow in Hawaii

Rainbow in Hawaii: Dialogue between Sky and Earth

Starting a new track…

It’s all about dialogues.

Who are you talking with?

Who are you talking to?

What are you talking to?

Are you talking to a microphone?

Are you talking to yourself?

Are you talking by yourself?

Are you talking with yourself?

What’s the preposition in your language? Do you speak English, yourself, or is it another language? Perhaps, Japanese? How different would that be? Perhaps Chinese?

Whatever language you speak, that language goes with a writing system. (*)

* Unless you speak a language which is likely to disappear in the next couple of decades; unfortunately, there are thousands of those.

The Japanese writing system provides two characters for the word “dialogue”:

対話 (tai-wa) Talking [to the] Opposite.

It’s not Two-Logos (dia-logue) as it is in Greek, right? Wrong! Actually, it turns out I’m an ignorant ass:

dia- means “across” and has been traditionally confused with di- “two” + legein “speak”, so “dialogue” actually stands for Speaking-Across

What does it mean, “talking to the opposite”? Talking-Against (に対する ni-tai-suru) [something].

The Chinese-Character (漢字 kan-ji) for Speaking is  (wa), which can also be read as a verb (話す hanasu “to speak”). This is modern Japanese, meaning that any Japanese would know this.

This is not like having Greek roots for English words: The original meaning of Dialogue is obviously not available to most current speakers of English.

Well, for Japanese it’s different because people can access the original meanings almost immediately because they still use them.

The principle of the dialogue is essential in all human thinking.

Do you have a word meaning Dialogue in your language?

Is its meaning shaped by the writing system associated with your language?

Is its meaning shaped by the history of your language?

Is its meaning shaped by the history of your people?

As a side note, dialog in Romanian.

How many speakers understand dialogue as “dialogue”? How many millions? Well, in Europe, most people would get it. The Americans? Definitely. North America, South America; Spanish and Portuguese, you know; where do you think those guys came from?

But it’s not everybody.

Remember the Aboriginal-Native-Indigenous-First-Nations-Non-White among 300 million Americans, 30 million Canadians,  100 million Mexicans, 190 million Brazilians and so on.

How many of those South Americans are not native speakers of Spanish and have a different understanding of “dialogue”?

Australia: How many aboriginal people with different languages? There are about 20 still going strong, but there used to be 250 other languages in Australia which probably had a completely different understanding of “dialogue”.

Yet now it’s all English.

We don’t even think of this phenomenon of disappearing languages as important.

We don’t give the minorities the right to be a dialogue partner:

somebody you talk Against but Equally (対等 tai-tou in Japanese).

When I do this jump, this switch from Japanese to English, does it change the flow my thoughts? Of course it does, but the principle of the dialogue remains:

Who do I talk with, in what language, against whom am I speaking?

That’s the essence of dialogue, and that’s the essence of of all thinking, right?

What shape does our thinking take?

Well, we have two elements:

  1. “speaking (here)” &
  2. “across”

One is the ego, the self, the I.

The meaning “I” has been identified as having an exponent in most languages we tried so far with the Natural Semantic Metalanguage approach (including English, Russian, French, Spanish, Polish, Danish, Italian, Ewe, Amharic, Arabic, Malay, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Mbula (PNG), East Cree, Yankunytjatjara, and Koromu). This means “I” is probably universal.

How about You? Who is “you”? The person I’m talking with…

Who else? Well, gradually, “you” gets complicated. “You” is the person listening to this tape, “you” is the I-at-a-future-time (tell yourself to set the alarm).

Do you write your thoughts down as you think these thoughts, so that you can talk to yourself at a future time when you’re reading these notes and you’re reading yourself-in-the-past, your thinking in the past?

Who are you talking with? Who are you carrying out (think about “carry out” in another language now) this dialogue with?

Is it a dialogue with a self which says: “Okay, I’m an engineer, I repair machines.”

Imagine you’re just sitting at your desk, thinking “I should get a coffee”.

Who is that dialogue directed against? A future self? A projected future self? A potential future self?

What about the coffee? What dialogue do you have with the coffee? Sugar?

You interact, but it’s not the same as “I should go talk with Yamada-san”. About what? About the problems on our machine if I’m an engineer, right? What am I going to say to Yamada-san and who’s this “I” who is going to talk with Yamada-san? How do I define this person? Well, it’s the guy who’s going to talk about the machines.

What if I talk to somebody called “wife” or “friend”?

What kind of medium (telephone, Messenger, Skype, Facetime, Facebook… FaceOther?) do I use if we are not sitting across each other in the same room?

We call each other: “Hello, what’s up? What’s that noise around you?” I’m not in the same place as you, but I can have a dialogue with you.

We can now have dialogues at distances that are are really hard to bridge with the mind.

I can talk to somebody in Australia right now, who’s just like:

“What the hell? I can hear a voice from Japan? Somebody from Romania?”

You can hear the sounds from Tokyo. Randomly.

The dialogue now has been extended. Facebook makes it hundreds of dialogues.

Think about the number of persons you can reach.

Do you think of a specific group of people? Is it a dialogue with many people?

Is it against a group of people or is it against one person? Who’s that person?

What if you watch TV? What kind of dialogue do you have then?

“Let’s see what’s happening”.

News, right? You’re watching news. You can see what’s happening in another country about which you have some vague idea.

Then you watch people, right? On TV. What do these people do? What dialogue do you have with these people?

“I like that guy. I wish I were that guy. I want to trade places with that guy. I wanna put myself in the same shoes as somebody. I want to wear what that person wears.”

Consumerism, right?

“I want to eat what that person eats.”

Who am I in the future in the dialogue with the TV?

The person that the commercials show?

The person that the movie depicts?

The person that the news describe?

How about the computer? The computer is different.

The computer is an incredibly complex machine because it is encoding our (not their) language and makes it possible to transmit over distances that 20-30 years ago would have been unimaginable.

Were they imaginable as a possibility? They were, but we wanted flying machines, we wanted to travel to outer space…

How much do we understand of Outer space?

Imagine the mind of Stephen Hawking, who had a dialogue with Nature:

thinking about the really small parts and the huge black hole sized parts of the universe.

Hawking tried to come up with a theory of everything that would explain both gravity (that which pulls us towards the centre of this planet as we’re circling the Sun) and the small particles of quantum dynamics which are also waves, and which we don’t understand because they’re both particles and waves.

What is the shape of the dialogue wave [Sound-Meaning]?

We’re talking in frequencies, cycles of air-vibrations per second.

How does your heart beat?

How does your breath rate affect that dialogue which you have in your head?

Do you have a dialogue with your lungs and you tell your lungs how to breathe?

Do you have a dialogue with the rest your body?

You were going to have a coffee…

Dialogues: that’s what we do the whole time.

The dialogue sometimes changes into a procedure, an Automatic Subconscious Procedure.

I’m going to go a bit technical now, but “automatic subconscious procedure” means that the dialogue is no longer perceived, no longer vocalised in your head:

“So, I’m going to go home, I’m going to check the mail box, I’m going to take out the key to the front door (which is the one with the extra ridge), I’m going to open the front door, I’m going to push a button which calls the elevator, I’m going to go to the fourth floor, I’m going to turn a corner, I’m going to take out the key, the second key (the one without the ridge), I’m going to open the lock of the door. Which door is it? The third or the fourth, on the right, which one is it?”

Automatic! You don’t think about it, you know it’s the third door, don’t you?

“You go in, take off the shoes, put the keys (two keys) on the desk, put the gloves (were you wearing gloves?), say hello if there is somebody at home”

and the dialogue starts.

But now that’s a conscious dialogue, now you’re thinking about and listening to the other person(s), while the procedures keep going, since you’re still taking off clothes, shoes, whatever.

If you’re alone at home you might have a dialogue with a future-eating self.

Is that a procedure as well? Is that an automatic subconscious dialogue?

While you continue thinking about I-don’t-know-what happened on the train.

Or you’re thinking about having dialogues or running automatic subconscious procedures.

Pressing buttons.

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