Wednesday, May 9, 2018

No Google Translator


It often happens in our strange times that if someone has a question, their first impulse is to consult Google rather than think of who they might talk to that knows something about it. Of course, I myself do this sometimes. But just as I’m trying to stay loyal to cab drivers over Uber and Lyft, so do I like to honor the old ways of actually talking to people when I need information.

And so I recently decided to revive a Greek song I did with my kids in 1984 and had my handwritten pre-Sibelius arrangement with the words in the Roman alphabet. But no translation. So I thought of who I knew that was Greek and started with Sophie, a friend from Toronto.

She was delighted to help, as people often are. I got to touch base with her and she got to feel needed and helpful and things were going well. She needed a little help herself from a cousin looking into the background of the song, so the circle grew yet larger. I got the translation, but then realized I needed to be clear about the pronunciation.

So now the conversation veered toward: “Do you have Skype? No?” and then her question “Do you have Facetime? No? “ She started to explore other electronic venues and it’s only now that I’m realizing that neither of us thought about, “Hey! A phone call would do!” Isn’t that strange?

At any rate, this afternoon I walked through my music room at the end of the day and there was the after-school violin teacher with my 4th grade student who had tried to figure out this melody on violin while we were practicing. “Hey, Michael, do you have a moment to go over this song with Oona?” and gave him the music. “Oh, it’s about a goat,” he said, looking at it. “How do you know?" “ I’m Greek. I speak Greek!”

Bingo!!! He pronounced it for me, right there in the room in real time and three-dimensional space. How cool was that?

So had I gone straight to Google translator, Sophie, her cousin, Michael, Oona and myself would have missed some convivial conversation and that good feeling of sharing important information at the time that it was needed. Our lives would not have been devastated if we had missed that, but if you start to multiply all those lost opportunities for feeling needed and letting people know you need them, well, I believe it starts to add up to a life deprived of a certain richness and color.

So next time you reach for your i-Phone to answer a question your upstairs neighbor might know, reconsider. And if the person who knows the answer lives across town, you can always take a cab—not Uber or Lyft. J

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