Untranslate explores the barrier between languages through the subjective experiences of people. The book and its corresponding app are based on the idea that no language can be literally translated into another; and thus can only truly be understood through the culture, politics, media and society that it has developed from and within.
Language by itself can be an ineffective tool in seamlessly communicating across borders and backgrounds. The true essence of a language can never truly be translated into another. What gives a word or a phrase its meaning is the colloquial social discourse within which it is used.
Untranslate is targetted towards the large number of people who have grown up outside their state or country, and have lost out on the privilege of being immersed in their native languages and cultures.
Untranslate: The Book
This book delves into the idea of home through accounts of people from around the world. Each chapter features a different language as narrated by a native speaker.
Each story of home is not only told using a word or phrase from the speaker’s language but also dives into their memories of people, places, events, food & music. Thus one not only learns a piece of language but is able to engage and contextualize it within its nuanced surroundings.
Colors and Images
The book is segmented into 10 folios for its 10 narrators. Their folios hold images and are in the color they associate with the word "home". Each segment is held to the other by a drumleaf bind.
This section presents cultural, social or political references related to the book. This can be in the form of books, movies, songs, news articles etc. whose content is descriptive of the word.
The last section of the book is a removable souvenir section that can be in the form of a postcard, bookmark, stickers etc. Each souvenir is based on a personal story of the narrator, and lets the reader keep a part of the book with themself after they are done reading.
Untranslate: The App
Untranslate is an application that teaches you the nuances of a language through context-based learning. Deviating from the traditional academic sources, it introduces you very specific cultural references and content that can only be learnt by living in the corresponding place or through conversations with native speakers.
Untranslate includes a wide range of languages, functioning both as the language to be learnt and as the language of instruction. It provides the user with a single word or phrase that they can learn about in depth.
Picking a Word
Untranslate presents the user with a random word from a curated list of contextually-rich words. Upon selecting a word that interests you, the app presents you with four different contexts relating to the word– historical, cultural, social and colloquial.
For the historical context, Untranslate presents the user with the etymology of the word, explaining how and from where it originated and how its meaning has changed over the years. The user can then click on the roots to explore their specific meanings so that they can recognize other words with the same/similar roots.
The user is presented with a list of curated culturally relevant content such as book, movies and songs. The content can be bookmarked for future reference or shared on social media.
The socio-political context page gives the user access to news articles and clips that are descriptive of the word. The articles in themselves link to other news articles, so that the user can read as much as they want and return to the word later.
Through the colloquial context section, Untranslate educates the user on how to use the word in a conversational setting. The content is in the form of highly contextual conversations that include anecdotes and pop- cultural references.