Six Degrees of Separation

mimagesAccording to the theory of the six degrees of separation, proposed in 1930 by the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy, any person is connected to another person on the planet by means of a chain of up to five intermediaries (a total of six links). In the year 2011, a very well known social network conducted a study in order to find out how many links separate all of their users, and obtained an average of 4.75 links, which would prove this theory that in a way that is more scientific than saying “It’s a small world.”

However, we, as translators and professionals connected to the world of translation and therefore to that of words, see and feel this phenomenon outside of the scientific and mathematical realm, and more in the day-to-day of our work.

As a PM in a translation agency of international reach such as Trusted Translations, we are constantly in contact with people from all over the planet. More than once we’ve been surprised to find ourselves organizing a translation with translators in China, India or Korea, who at that same moment are enjoying their lunch. It is in those moments in which a magic window seems to open in between our two worlds, as if it were an inter-dimensional portal between their day and our night.

In these wee hours of the night, and with the insomniac’s particular state of consciousness, I always remember this theory of the six degrees of separation, and I spend time trying to imagine what is happening on the other side of that window and that chain that separates me from that faraway land is shortened. What is the translator who I am writing to seeing outside of his window? What sounds is he hearing in the street? Within that whole fantasy, I realize that I am just one person away, out of the entire world that surrounds him, from the person that I am speaking with, whether they are in Cambodia, Vietnam, Luxembourg, India, China, or Australia. Sometimes I even think that I hear the sounds of the rickshaw drivers outside of my window, the noise of the Cambodian jungle, or the creaking of trees under the snow in the cold German winter. Although it’s usually just my little son, who is moving around in his bed or is calling out for me because he woke up in the middle of the night… but who can take away what I’ve dreamed?


For the Spanish version, click here.