Donnerstag, 20. November 2008

können wir?

In an article in a Swiss magazine, the author asked "can we?" He wondered if the election in America, with all of the excitement, optimism, movement and emotion, would be possible in Switzerland. Of course, the Swiss don't elect a president, so it'd have to be a variation of what we had in the US.
I was thinking of the words "Yes We Can". I was thinking about the possibilities of translation, and instantly, Bob the Builder and not Cesar Chavez, popped into mind. I'd known the Bob the Builder song from my half-brother. "Bob the builder, can we build it? Bob the builder, yes can!" In the Kindergarten, one of our students from Berlin, would often sing the German Bob der Baumeister song. It is terribly awkward, the extra-long German words crammed into the American melody. Though, when literally translated, it is closer to Chavez and Huerta's motto, than Obama's. "That we can achieve/create"
When Ivo and I were in Petersburgh, we actually speculated about what the Bob the builder song would be in Russian. This was not simple wild wondering, the cartoon was playing on the TV in the kitchen, and while waiting for the song to come on, we guessed at what the literal translation of the song would be. "It must be done", was my guess. Ivo's Russian teacher answers "it must go" when asked "how's it going?". Ivo purely translated "yes we can" in Russian. That seemed too optimistic for Russians, in my stereotyping mind.
The answer was revealed when the strangely animated-Russian speaking crew of builders and building machines began to sing. In answer to the question "can we do it?" he answer is piz problem. Without problem.
Just like the various translations of a big-headed builder's optimistic melody, I think that the excitement and emotion of this American presidential election can never be copied exactly. It makes me proud. I know that part of it is semantics, like the varying parliamentary and governmental organizations stand in the way of repetition. Ivo points out that our situation is limited to colonizing or other former slave-owning nations.
Let's face it, the Beatles were talented, but it was the right time and the right place. For all Obama's charisma, intellect, and fairness, we were ready for change. It isn't only the awkwardness of the language that stands in the way of stimulating the masses.
"Können sie es schaffen?" wahrscheinlich nicht.


  1. Your last paragraph reminds me of the Onion reaction: American give Black Man Shitties job in the country.

  2. that's funny.

    I must ammend: Ivo reminded me that the Russian's Bob the Builder's song is actually:
    bob the builder "he fixes everything"
    bob the builder "without prolem"

    still not all that ambitious.