Sunday, February 7, 2010

There is a little translator in my head

When I am participating in a Living History event where the public is in attendance I have a little translator in my head that interprets what a person is saying to me, and translating it into something I can respond to.

Like when a hapless member of the public asks if that cook fire is real while my water boils over in front of them. I’d love to say something direct (and probably sarcastic) to answer them, but the translator (and educator) in my head has already taken the statement and turned it into an inquiry about what I am doing, and a request to know more. So I can smile and explain that the wind is blowing so hard that my fire is burning hot and fast, so I’ve got to keep a constant eye on it out here.

The translator works especially hard when I am in first person, when the year for me is 1529 instead of the current year, but it still works even when I am in the present. It is possible to ask dumb questions, but my translator will make them less dumb.

but more on being in 1529, that translator does work much harder. For one thing we’re speaking modern English, even if I have a funny accent. There are tons of technological advances, social innovations, learning methods, worldviews that are different between then and now. If I really was from 1529 and you really were from 2010, we would spend a lot of our time struggling to communicate, and less time learning abut how we are both different and the same. So the translator works on the way out too, and allows whatever persona I am in to speak in a way that is comprehensible to my modern audience.

Does the translator ever get in the way? Oh sure. I bet people would learn lots if I let them hear all the political, racial, social views that a person in 1529 might hold, but for the most part the events that I am participating in are attend by a public that is there to enjoy themselves, and I’d like the conversation to last more than a few sentences before they back away because they’re so uncomfortable. I’d like them to tell their friends they had fun, and come back for more next time.

So please, if you are at an event and you don’t know exactly how to ask the questions that you’d like to ask, give it a try, the little translator in the reenactor’s head might do the work for you, then you can have a lovely conversation.

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