Guest blog entry about languages by Sophie, Sales Assistant at CSOFT
As members of the localization industry, we talk about translation every day. But how much thought do we really give to languages and the cultures they hail from? I have to admit I’m a bid of a language junky—I already speak three languages and will have started on my fourth one by the time this is posted—but what I find even more interesting than languages is culture. The best way to learn about a culture, other than studying the language, is to immerse oneself in it. I first realized this when I studied in Bahrain last summer.
Bahrain is a small island-nation located near Saudi Arabia. Expats make up half the island’s population, and the government is lenient with religious rules and laws to maintain its foreign investment. Regardless, it was worlds apart from anything I’ve encountered before. Women are allowed to legally drive in Bahrain, but many still wear veils and are not allowed to date (unless they are dating their fiancée). Every weekend, Saudi men cross the bridge connecting Bahrain to Saudi Arabia to take advantage of Bahrain’s relaxed religious rules. There, they can drink alcohol and holler at women not wearing niqab (the Muslim head veil that only reveals the eyes). Throughout the year, it’s so hot that people avoid going outside their refrigerated office, home or car as much as possible until the sun goes down. And yes, I really do mean refrigerated—the extremes in temperature was hard for me to adjust to!
For all its differences from my own personal norms, when it comes down to it, Bahrain is still just made up of people. There is an underprivileged class of migrant workers: Indians who’ll wash your car inside and out for a few dinar (1 Bahraini dinar is approximately 2.6 USD). Connections are everything when it comes to business. Family members struggle to fit in quality time with one another, and teenagers love going to the movies and hanging out. Bahrainis may be halfway across the world and hold on to a religion that might not make complete sense to some people, but the things that make them different aren’t necessarily as important as some may want to believe.
After living there for three months and gradually understanding Bahraini culture, I become more and more aware of how Bahrainis are different from Westerners. After pairing that knowledge with concepts learned in anthropology and sociology courses, it seems to me that we’re only as different from each other as our environment pushes us to be. Explaining all this would take an essay delving into the geography and history of Bahrain, so either take my word for it…or don’t! Let’s hear from you—why do you think cultures and people are so different from one place to another?
Born and raised in Versailles, France, Sophie currently resides in the San Fransisco Bay Area. Expecting to finish her double-major in Global Studies and Japanese at San Jose State University this August, she joined the Localization industry as a Sales Assistant intern. In her free time, Sophie volunteers for an amazing student organization, AIESEC, and loves learning new languages! She speaks French, English, and Japanese fluently and just began studying Mandarin a few weeks ago. Sophie also loves singing and going on walks with her two cats, Turkey and Gus.