Lets talk about love – in English

The Palais de la Découverte unveiled its exhibition On Love to the press. Cultures Connection was there to interpret.

Roland Barthes was one of the great intellectuals who in recent decades has revolutionized the way that we think about love. With Barthes, we discover that love is not something that can be understood in one way only; it is a conversation that embraces hundreds of different meanings, which vary depending on the person and the object of their love.

The French author was in fact one of the starting points for On Love, an exhibition held in Paris by the Palais de la Découverte in an attempt to tease out from science some answers to the mysteries of a feeling that each of us experiences differently. Cultures Connection was proud to have the opportunity to walk the halls of the exhibition and offer consecutive interpretation services to the museum.

Interpretation at the Champs Elysées

The exhibition spanned two large galleries, one on accessories and another on science, at the Palais de la Découverte, only steps from the Champs Elysées. It invites us to explore the forms of love that have evolved in societies throughout the ages as a result of political, economic and technological transformations.

The accessories gallery has as its premise the four words which the ancient Greeks used to refer to love—eros (passionate love), storge (familial love), pathos (brotherly love or friendship), and agape (selfless love)—and with an open mind and heart, exposes a world of images and phrases that evoke stories and situations which are sure to challenge audiences. In each case, the reasons for loving are unclear. Emotions, sex, intimacy … these all become intertwined until one is forced to ask once more: “What is love, truly?”

Taking a more rational approach, using projections and interactive games, the science gallery puts the spotlight on topics that have been the subject of research by philosophers such as Barthes, as well as sociologists, sexologists, psychoanalysts and neuroscientists: how does the body express love, how does sexuality take shape, and how do online romantic relationships work?

On Love is for an international audience, and is therefore translated into English and Spanish. As part of its presentation of the exhibition to the media, the Palais de Découverte offered a guided tour with the exhibition’s curator to English language media on January 31st. Given the importance that the curator’s ideas (who was French) be clearly understood, the museum called on Cultures Connection, which has offices in Paris.

An interpretation on the topic of love

One can only imagine the difficulty of expressing these types of ideas in a foreign language. The exhibition’s curator explained, in French, which emotions are incited by the sight of a teddy bear or a photograph of a father and daughter. The interpreter had to have the necessary skills to simplify scientific theories, in English, to reporters who may know how to love, of course, but who don’t necessarily have an academic understanding of the subject. Add to this a not-insignificant detail: while the Greeks employed four words to describe love, each with its own meaning, English only has one. This highlights the fact that to clearly express any idea, one not only needs to know a particular language but also understand its cultural world view as to the topic in question. Translating this topic from French into English was a challenge indeed for our Cultures Connection interpreter!

As with all consecutive interpretation, the speaker would speak first, and the interpreter had to hold the spoken ideas in her head in order to then express them as faithfully as possible. Memorization skills, and having a good mutual understanding with the curator, play important roles in this work. At times, during visits which allow the audience to disperse to different parts of a room, away from the speaker, an interpreter must use a portable pack with microphones and headphones in order to communicate effectively. In this case, however, being a guided tour with a group of reporters deeply interested in their expert guide’s explanations, such equipment was not needed.

Having said that, the requirements needed by our professional interpreter remained high: an excellent command of both French and English, expertise in consecutive interpretation, and experience in the scientific and cultural sectors. Our over 10 years of experience in this industry allowed us to find the right person with ease and deliver the needed interpretation services efficiently and effectively. Just don’t ask us to interpret that eternal enigma of what is love, because that is a question surely beyond our ability to answer.

Translation into English: Sean Mullen

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