Barriers to entry

Today is the best day of my life. For all of us, this is an undeniable fact, since other, potentially (I don’t know yet) better days, have gone, and the rest are not yet here. Anyhow, it could be the last. I often wonder when I see all these young men and women getting killed, about how they felt that morning, which turned out to be their last.

Whenever I see people who are a good deal older than me it’s very simple to see myself at that stage, looking back at how I am now with a measure of longing, if not envy. For that reason alone, today always has to be the best day in my life. One of the golden rules is to not spend your time worrying about what tomorrow might bring.

The India Road is now well into its translation into Portuguese, so I have been revisting various parts of the book, checking meanings and interpretations, suggesting words, and in some cases finding mistakes. The translation is like another copy edit, and the guy who is doing the job is first-class.

Latin languages are more convoluted than English, and texts tend to become longer and more intricate. The India Road is based on an amazing story, fraught with difficulty and complexity, jumping across astronomy, oceanography, navigation, politics, and commerce. The aim of the book is to tell it in as simple a way as possible, adding plenty of human emotion, to break down barriers to entry – we have our work cut out trying to keep the translation simple.

Apparently it’s not so easy to find people who will translate a text into the author’s native language – the writer often succumbs to the temptation of micromanagement, and the translator can’t do his or her job. I hate micromanagement, it completely stifles initiative. In an academic context it suffocates faster than cyanide.

The problem is that it’s much easier to browbeat youngsters into that mindset than empower them to think, dream and soar. In Portugal, and many other countries, their educators often prefer it, particularly if they are not confident in their own knowledge; a thinking student will quickly expose a gap a mile wide. But in the end, these are severe barriers to entry for many young people, robbing them of the right balance of knowledge, imagination, self-confidence, and humility that can lead them up the yellow brick road.


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