Building bridges, not walls, over troubled waters through translation

As walls are erected between countries, translation builds bridges between cultures.

As human migrations are stymied, translation lifts linguistic barriers to ease the flow of communication.

As tensions rise with cultural misunderstandings, translation breaks down language boundaries to find common ground.

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Whether you speak with an Andalusian or Argentinian accent, it is all Spanish.

Whether you are Colombian, Mexican, or Canadian, we are all Americans.

Whether you live in the east or west, south or north of the globe, we are all humans.

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p1080770
Author crossing river in Quindío, Colombia. La autora cruzando un río en Quindío, Colombia.

Mientras que se erigen muros entre los países, la traducción construye puentes entre las culturas.

Mientras que se obstaculizan las migraciones humanas, la traducción levanta las barreras lingüísticas para facilitar el flujo de la comunicación.

Mientras que aumentan las tensiones con malentendidos culturales, la traducción traspasa las fronteras del idioma para encontrar terreno común.

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Ya sea que usted hable con acento andaluz o argentino, todo es español.

Ya sea que usted sea colombiano, mexicano o canadiense, todos somos americanos.

Ya sea que usted viva en el este u oeste, sur o norte del globo, todos somos seres humanos.

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Happy International Translation Day!

¡Feliz Día Internacional de la Traducción!

I’m attending the ProZ.com virtual conference. I hope to meet my fellow translators there.

Estoy asistiendo a la conferencia virtual de ProZ.com. Espero encontrar mis colegas traductores allá.

Do you need a translation between Spanish and English? Request a free quote through the contact form or send me an email.

¿Requieres una traducción de español al inglés o de inglés al español? Pide una cotización gratis en la página de contacto o envíame un correo.

I enjoy translating every day, but today is extra special.

Disfruto traducir todos los días, pero hoy es aún más especial.

“Translation is the language of one love passing to another.”

A.L. Kennedy

The HUMAN Face of Translation

Within the first 35 seconds of the trailer for HUMAN by Yann Arthus-Bertrand I was hooked. National Geographic meets Michael Moore with an Amelie meets Lords of the Ring soundtrack? Yes, yes.

HUMAN still trailer

It was so much more.

Spinning coffee table book shots of places on this planet we didn’t know existed. Mesmerized by the beauty of our earth that we treat so poorly.

Staring into the eyes—black, brown, albino, blind—of strangers as they bare their souls. Captivated by their stories that touch each of us on some level.

“HUMAN” asked: What makes us human? Why do we struggle against injustice, corruption, war, abuse, ignorance, poverty in our lives on this earth?

*spoiler alert*

The purpose of life is to create meaning, to make an impact, to touch others, to love.

Translators brought meaning to these sentiments.

We could all cry along with the speakers, thanks first to the tears of the translators as they worked through those choked-up words.

As I sunk into the depths of the worry lines crisscrossing the faces of the mistreated and suffering narrators, I traced the same creases—of concentration, of compassion—on the face of the interpreter standing in the shadows next to the camera.

Words of perseverance, tranquility, and love lit a sparkle in their eyes that reflected back onto our own joys.

We were interwoven in this beautiful tangled spiderweb of human lives through the invisible, isolated translator.

Translation made this film possible.

It is a modern film, released in the age of computer assisted translations and internet giants like Google Translate.

But it is HUMAN. Only another human can faithfully express those feelings that are sometimes so vast, so complex, so incomprehensible, that they’re beyond words. Yet there they are, in black and white subtitles.

Machine translations are speedy but flawed. Human translators are painstakingly deliberate in their search for the precise nuance.

Swept away by a churning rage against corrupt politicians, greedy corporations, violence and the military, my eyes were clouded with a film of tears through most of the film. Yet my editor’s eye remained sharp as ever.

To be human is also to err.

There were some fumbles even in different accents of English, like saying “hiding” instead of “hitting” in a domestic violence account.

The only Spanish to English translation error I can’t get over is on minute 43 of the 3rd volume. A humble peasant is saying he works his small plot of land for food.

 “Tengo una finquita que me da comida.”

“I have a small farm that gives me food” is translated into “my wife gives me food”. Huh?

That mistranslation brought clarity to my mission in life, what gives me purpose in my short time on this planet:

Accurate translations: to be the bridge for communications between Spanish and English and avoid misunderstandings.

Organic agriculture: to derive our food directly from the land, no petrochemicals, scant processing, minimal transportation.

Loving family: to love the wife (and/or husband) for giving food, to love the earth from which it came, to share this love and harvest with family, friends, neighbors.

What was your takeaway from the movie?

Embalatte

Ayer en un curso de barismo

Un alumno se equivocó con la leche

Mi esposo, con acento costeño,

Miró a la taza y declaró, “Es un embalatte.”

Embalar means to mess up.

A guy trying to make a machiatto got the milk wrong and ended up with a faltte, a faulty latte.

Embalar could also mean to shoot (based on my logic that bala=bullets).

You messed something up big time if they come after you with firearms.

In English, we order how many shots of espresso we want at a coffee shop. So if you end up with too few shots, it’s because the barista messed it up, “lo embalatte”.

Embalar also means to speed up, as in accelerate a vehicle.

So if you have too many shots of espresso in your coffee and wind up running around like a high-octane powered jet in a tiny office cubicle, you too may be “embalado”.

Embalar also means to wrap something up, like a package.

In this sense, the word makes me think more of “embalm” than “birthday!”

When I hear a Colombian woman complaining about some complicated work situation she got herself into, like screwing up an order, and whining “estoy tan embalada”, I know she means definition A. These are stunningly beautiful women, thanks often to a surgeon’s knife. All I see are plastic-stuffed girls, shrink-wrapped in cellophane, a pretty little package. Yes, you are soooo “embalada”.