My name is Libby, and I’m a Gilman alumni ambassador for the 2021-2022 academic year.
I studied abroad in Ghana, west Africa in the summer of 2018. Many people, when thinking of African countries naively think that it’s all villages and huts, or big safaris with tigers and lions wherever you go. Though these do exist, and contribute to the beauty that is abundant, there are also many very developed and modern places, such as the city of Accra -where the university of Accra at Legon is located- where I took African literature class and learnt to speak some of the local dialect Twi. Although I did not become fluent in the language, it inspired me to add a minor in linguistics to my degree (which was in psychology). My Ghanian professor of literature mentioned frequently that many of the books we read and analyzed, although really interesting, don’t portray the message in the same way as it would be relayed in the author’s native tongue. We also learnt some Two idioms and expressions in language class and I remember wondering if some of the jokes fell flat upon being translated. I wasn’t a foreigner to this idea, as I’m bilingual in Yiddish and English and have encountered this scenario, where I’d attempt to translate a joke from my first language, Yiddish, to English and it would somehow lose its punch or “sauce”. I thought it was just with Yiddish because it’s unique and very sarcastic language, but I learnt that all languages (& dialects) are unique in their own way and contain their own type of humor. Much of it is culturally affected as well, as you have to possess a deep grasp of a culture to understand the nuances of the wit and follow the word play. After returning from my trip I decided to conduct a study on humor in translation and presented it at Long Island university at a linguistics conference. I’m grateful for my study abroad experience in the university of Ghana, as it inspired not only research ideas, but ignited a love for learning more languages. I have since acquired skills in 2 more languages, albeit at beginner or intermediate levels, but I plan to keep learning and practicing. I currently work as a translator and interpreter and am a contributor to the Yiddish course in the language learning app “duolingo”. I encourage all students to go abroad so they can likewise be enriched culturally and intellectually.