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Trigger Warnings and Free Speech in Colleges

Trigger warnings belong to campuses owing to the cultural diversitythat many colleges boast of. It is important for campuses to upholdtrigger warnings in order to train students how to be considerate ofothers who do not hold a similar perspective of life. However,colleges should handle them with care. Colleges should implementtrigger warnings partially in order to avoid interfering with freespeech and an open learning environment.

Trigger warnings prevent teachers and students from conclusivelyanalyzing important matters for the fear of offending others.According to Charnis (2), if everybody listed the debate topics thatmade them feel uncomfortable, campuses will end up not having anydebate at all. It also limits the celebration of speech (Charnis 2).He states that, “The option to change a debate topic restricts anactivity that is meant to celebrate speech and discourse” Charnis2). For instance, subjects pertaining to gender, ethnicity,immigration, and Veganism, would be out of bounds because they elicitmixed reaction. Barring student and tutors from analyzing certainmatters contravenes the ideal of a free learning environment.

Lack of a clear guideline on what should warrant a trigger warninghas left many people skeptical of what they speak hence interferingwith their freedom of speech. As Wright (1) notes, when a studentactivist at Yale was asked when speech should be limited, he simplyretorted, “When it hurts me.” This was a show of ignorance.Different people are hurt by different words and it would an exercisein futility trying to record every word and phrase that hurts someonewithin the campus. The fact that words that are considered hurtfulkeeps changing from time to time does not help the situation either.For the fear of unknowingly eliciting emotions, teachers and studentshave decided to stay away from a broad range of words that theysuspect my trigger others hence interfering with their freedom ofspeech and expression.

Myers (2) argues that avoidance does not help in the healing processof the people who have been traumatized by past events. In order tofight trauma, the individual should gradually learn to face his fearsto the point that they do not remind him of the traumatic eventanymore. In the event that a student cannot do so on his or her own,professional help should be sought at the expense of the university.Therefore, it sounds illogical when some students avoid certain wordsfor the fear of eliciting emotion. Some have gone to the extent ofusing trigger warnings as an excuse to avoid attending classes thatdiscuss offensive topics. Instead, I would prefer if universitiesoffered psychiatric help to students affected by certain words.

On the opposite point of view, objectors argue that trigger warningsare good. They argue that trigger warnings help to prevent those whouse hurtful words in a condescending manner with the sole intent ofbelittling others. In such a case, trigger warnings are perfectly inorder. As Golub (3) recalls, he had to sit through an entire lecturelistening to Nobel Laureate William Schockley, talk about how AfricanAmericans are intellectually inferior to hold administrativepositions. Golub states that, “Hispresentation turned out to be hateful,…aboutthe supposed intellectual inferiority of black people (Golub3). He did not like it, and some audience may not like the topic. Ifthere were trigger warnings at that time, such audiences would bepsychologically prepared to listen to the hurtful message of theNobel Laureate.

In conclusion, trigger warnings are objected to, but should beupheld, especially in colleges with students of differentbackgrounds. The diversity makes them have different perceptions thatwould make some speech fall under offensive words. While someutterances may come off as funny or indifferent to certain groups ofstudent, they may be hurting to others. All in all, Colleges shouldemploy trigger warnings moderately to promote an open learningenvironment, but without interfering with free speech.

Works Cited

Charnis, Daniel. My Rights vs. Your Trigger Warning. Chronicleof Higher Education. April 2016 62(25) 10-11.

Golub, David. Op Ed on free Speech in Campus. New York Times,September 2016.

Myers, Andrews. The Coddling of the American Mind. TheAtlantic, September 2015.

Wright, Peter. Problematic: The Battle for Free Speech.Harvard Political Review, December 2015.

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9 October 2016

Project 2: Translating Writing

Translation requires transfer of specific words, messages and ideasfrom a source language to another by following and retaining bothliterary and cultural contexts of the information. To understand thetranslation process, I selected the song, Lazy Song by BrunoMars. The song is written in American English and required a deeperunderstanding of the lines and the language. In addition, thetranslation required understanding of the musical culture of theAmerican singers. In translating the song to Chinese, I wasintroduced to issues like new culture, societal ideals, differingcivilizations and practices that define the American society. Thetranslation opened my understanding of the intended audience,cultural contexts and new language format such as lexical issues andlanguage variations.

The rhetorical situation of the original song was to appeal to theaudience to imagine of a day they were not working. The writeracknowledges the busy days that people in the American society have,and tries to illustrate the way a day would be if one decides to belazy. If the same song was presented to typical Chinese audiences, itwould not create a significant appeal as it would not connect toeither ethos or pathos elements of rhetoric. This is because theviews of a lazy day presented in the song do not align withindustrious ideals and values of the Chinese culture.

For this translation, the audience was for the Chinese youths, whohave appreciated the western culture. As young people, the audienceexpects to understand the lines of the song, and why the song isloved by the young people in the United States. This would put thesame audience in line with each other because they are of the sameage, even if there are significant cultural differences.

However, in the initial song, the audience is young people,especially college students. The song relates to their daily life,where parties, oversleeping and hatred for schoolwork are common. Thesongwriter brings out the theme of young-age liberalism clearly, butin my translated version creating such a theme was problematic. Ilacked the perquisite knowledge of the language and subject matter ofthe song thus breaking the crucial sound translation. The translatedversion also targeted the young audience but the informationpresented was distorted, giving a different meaning from the sourcefile. As earlier mentioned, the Chinese culture is conservative andthus I used a different set of words which were friendly to the newtarget audience.

In translating this song, there were some things that the new versiongained and also lost. This was so because of the problems that Iencountered while translating the song to my language, Chinese.Translating English to Chinese can be problematic due to a number ofreasons. One of them is the lexical problem whereby a word in onelanguage referring to a certain object or subject cannot besubstituted with another word from a different language. Lexicalmeaning and metaphorical expressions may be subject to bias andomission in the translated version.

Semantic voids are other translation problems encountered whereby thewords and expressions in the source language cannot be found in thetranslated version. This usually occurs due to certainextra-linguistic or intra-linguistic factors. Syntax problems,temporal and spatial relationships of the source information in atranslated one may pose another big challenge. It is difficult tofind two languages with the same structural organizations in term ofgrammar, word classes, style and order of words and other pragmaticaspects of the language. The translation problems and discrepanciespose a problem of transmitting the intended original informationverbatim to specific audience, creating loop holes and errors ofomission.

While translating the Lazy Song by Bruno Mars from Native AmericanEnglish to Chinese, I was introduced to a number of translationissues. Some of them included new culture, societal ideals as well asdiffering civilizations which defined the American society. The songexplains the American cultural ideals and liberalism, especially thecollege life of many students. Such ideals cannot be equated to therather conservative Chinese society where most of the students areguided by values passed by their parents.

For instance, Bruno Mars shows that the American youth have a lot offreedom when it comes to decision making. He says that he wants to belazy because he can do it without any repercussions. He furtherexplains that he can willingly and randomly pick a female mate andengage in sexual encounters. Finally, Bruno also tells of thehesitancy of getting a college degree in a hurry and apologizes tohis father that he will have to wait for a while longer since he willbe busy having fun and messing around.

All these statements show the intended audience of the song and theinherent message to the college students. This freedom is, however,the opposite in Chinese culture where the youths are conservativelycultured and uphold highest morals. Translating this song intoChinese meant toning down the vulgarity and obscenity of the contentto fit the new Chinese audience. However, using a Chinese-friendlyversion of words could easily lose the intended message

The translation also sensitized me to new lexical, semantics andsyntax problems. The original version had a different languageformat, grammar, words, expressions and differing audience from thenew version. Translating the song to Chinese brought me to asituation where some words could not be interpreted. In the originalEnglish version there were words or expressions written in slang thatwere hard to translate. For instance, it was difficult for me totranslate such words as “Snuggie” and “Dougie” because theyare totally vague in Chinese language. There were no words tosubstitute with the slang expressions which forced me to omit themand use a different order of wording.

The aspect of translating word by word into my mother language lostthe intended meaning. Literal translation means that I closelyfollowed the source text without following the structure of theoriginal language. The structural framework of the song, itscohesiveness, cultural basis and myriad grammatical errors ensued inthe translated version. Sometimes I could not get the perfect piecewhile following each translation word by word. Ultimately, theclarity and logical flow of ideas became problematic to me.

In conclusion, translating a song from English to Chinese is adifficult process which requires meticulous and proper understandingof the source and translated language. There are many translationproblems which may change the final meaning and consequently theaudience of the song. When translating Lazy Song by Bruno mars,various semantic, lexical and syntax errors ensued. I was unable totranslate some words due to lack of suitable substitutes or vaguenessof the original words. Although the original audience was wellcategorized, my translated version required a more conservative useof words that suited the new audience.

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