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In Tibet, honesty and sincerity are never lost in translation

By Huo Yan | China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-16 08:53

Altitude stress wasn't the biggest challenge for me during an interview in Shigatse. The language barrier was.

Since most of my interviewees speak only Tibetan, I can't do my job without the two Tibetan-Chinese interpreters from Ema who have volunteered to help.

Although their translations are accurate, I still feel the process hinders understanding. How I wish I could understand their language, which sounds melodiously powerful to my ears. If I could speak Tibetan, I think I might have reaped more stories from them, as they seem to live a different life from most of the people I have interviewed during my time as a journalist.

Most female Tibetans are too shy to speak to a stranger like me, armed with notebooks, pens and, most important, a camera. They often replied to my questions with only a bashful smile, while I was anxiously looking forward to hearing more.

I often forget that they can't understand Chinese, though some of them know some simple greeting words. And I tend to throw out a series of questions all at one time, which leaves even my translators at a loss. I find the longer my question, the shorter the reply.

All the Tibetans I came across in Ema were friendly and honest. Their facial expressions were unpolluted by the routine urban etiquette that we are used to in daily life. Their sincerity and trueness are palpable. I think those qualities are a common language for all humans. Our communication occurs at a deeper, heart-to-heart level.

They use actions to show their love for the land, and their confidence in a bright future for their hometown. They live a simple and enviably happy life in a forbidding natural environment.

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