Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Lost in Translation - by Theo

Yesterday was the Dia de Hispanidad, which does lose a little something in translation, and a national holiday here in Spain and elsewhere in the Spanish speaking world - given the events of today I wonder whether there will soon be another national holiday in Chile. But that's another story....

Kate and I had a lazy day off, made extra lazy by the fact that Kate had arranged (as an extra birthday present) for our Canadian friend Miriam to take Rosie out for a walk for a couple of hours in the afternoon so we could, for once, enjoy a siesta un-interrupted. Bliss! The laziness continued into the evening and, after dinner in front of an episode of the Wire, we were contemplating bed at around 9pm when the phone rang.

It was my friend and former student Juan. Juan works as a lawyer at a multinational financial firm. He speaks perfect French and excellent English but he is not a translator. However, at the last minute, despite it being a holiday, his firm had dumped a 10 page legal document on him and asked him to translate it into English by the next morning. He was at a loss and wanted my help. Seeing as his English is better than my Spanish I was doubtful about how much help I could be, but as he sounded so desperate I said he could come round - provided he bring some beer.

In the end I quite enjoyed it. Juan had done most of the work, I just needed to check it over. The original Spanish document was dull enough, but was also surprisingly easy to understand as it was very formal and lacked the idioms and colloquialisms that are often confusing in everyday language. In addition many of the Spanish financial terms were exactly the same as the English - take a wild guess what "liquidacion" or "deducion" mean - which of course were easier for me (working Spanish to English) than Juan, who was less confident about the English vocabulary.

Anyway we got it done. Mind you, if you hear of any legal or financial scandals in Spain involving mistranslations, then you'll know who to blame!!

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