I’m always on the lookout for other podcasts that cover similar territory to the Hiraeth podcast–those that share stories about transcending borders, sharing cultures, and looking at familiar things from new points of view. So when I heard about NPR’s new podcast, Rough Translation, it sounded right up my alley. Like all of NPR’s podcasts, this one is produced with an American audience in mind. But the way it covers the territory is something new. The basic premise of Rough Translation is to take some topic that’s being widely discussed in the U.S. at the moment (say, fake news, or race, or surrogacy), and look at how it is playing out somewhere entirely different.

To take a few examples: the way fake news influenced and in some sense precipitated the recent war in Ukraine; how race quotas for job quotas function in a place like Brazil, where being mixed-race is the norm; or the culturally complex relationship between a Chinese mother-to-be and the middle class Oregonian surrogate who is carrying her baby.

In my favourite episode so far, two Somalian political prisoners in solitary confinement work out a code composed of tapping on the wall. One of them is in his early twenties, newly married, and on the edge of despair. Until his fellow prisoner uses their tapping code to “read” him Anna Karenina, and the story resonates with him on surprisingly intimate levels.

Rough Translation has only been going for about a month, but it’s already proving itself to be insightful, enlightening, and ultimately an important window into new ways of considering old questions and dilemmas.

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Photo credit: Quinn Dombrowski