By Rollo Skinner
If you only go straight ahead you can’t go very far – Part I
I’ve always wanted to read a book in a foreign language, but I’ve been somewhat hindered by the fact I don’t know another language.
Over the last year I’ve been meaning to learn french. Instead, I’ve been perfecting the art of sounding French whilst mastering a vocabulary of about 10 or so words in the naive hope that the language will just cometh.
However, it’s become very clear that just because your partner is foreign you don’t just symbiotically absorb their language.
So on holiday when Vianney suggested we read ‘Le Petit Prince’ together, I jumped at the chance.
Learn french, tick.
Holiday work, tick.
Two birds, one book.
If like me you’ve not heard of it, it’s a french novella from 1943. And it turns out it’s the 4th most translated book in the world.. And perhaps, thanks to me, it might now be the 3rd.
It started out as a children’s book and quickly became a french lesson in lateral thinking. If you’ve read it you’ll know what I mean, and if you haven’t, you should.
I won’t tell you the story.
But briefly, it involves a little prince, who lives on asteroid B-612. He goes on an intergalactic voyage and watches the sun set 44 times in one day.
We took it in turns to translate.
Firstly we’d directly translate.
Then we’d find a better way of saying it.
There’s a creativity that I’ve not experienced with translation before.
Finding solution together that is well expressed in English but remains true to the French.
The first page was slow, hellishly so.
But after several pages I was beginning to find my flow.
Two grown men reading a children’s book under a tree.
A french woman walked past and openly laughed as us.
But what did we care?
The first chapter ends with the little prince saying, ‘Droit devant soi on ne peut pas aller bien loin’. Which means –
Lesson 1: If you only go straight ahead you can’t go very far.
This is exactly why Marc gave us these tasks. To think laterally we need to search laterally. Do the things we would never normally do.
Challenge our status quo.
By collecting a wider range of dots, we’ll be able to make more lateral connections and become better divergent thinkers.
Every planet the little prince visits only has one inhabitant.
Lesson 2: The reality of the world is only a reality in our head.
My reality is different from your reality.
It can be hard at SCA when people don’t understand your work. When it’s not communicating the way you think it is. We need to learn step out of our heads and see our work through fresh eyes. But it’s hard.
The little prince says it himself.
‘Il est bien plus difficil de se juger soi même que juger autrui.’
Lesson 3: It’s harder to judge yourself than someone else.
With every day of reading the book my French is improving. Exponentially so. I’m speaking more french and understand the construction of sentences better than before. We’ve nearly finished and I’m eager to start the next. I want it to be something entirely different. Suggestions welcome.
If you only look straight ahead you can’t go very far.