Dateless love: coffee, mother, earth

Love doesn’t fluctuate with the calendar. Toddlers don’t feel indifference for their mommy on May 7th, and then surge to an emotional high of love on May 8th just for Mother’s Day.

(hint, hint: it’s two weeks away)

So why do we talk about how we care about the environment only on Earth Day, instead of showing our love for Mother Earth every day of the year?

Today the city of Medellín has restricted private car and motorcycle use for just half a day, in honor of (Half?) Earth Day. The sky is blue again, the smog is gone, so everyone is complaining that there’s no reason to continue to limit vehicular circulation. This short-term mentality is our planet’s downfall, and with it, our own.

We begrudgingly make drastic measures only when faced with a health emergency. As long as water still flows from the faucet, we doubt that there are actually water shortages. Sure I’ll make the symbolic effort of posting a “Love the Earth” image on Instagram today (sustainability is trending), but tomorrow it’s back to the usual.

All that love is gone in 24 hours. It’s as if the intense fling-and-forgotten of two-week summer camps was in fast motion, compressed into a 7-second Vine time elapse of crush-elation-dumped-ex. On April 22 we love the Earth. On April 23rd…meh. It’s Saturday. Let’s go to the mall!

As of 2009, the official United Nations name is International Mother Earth Day. Most of us still call it Earth Day, maybe because “Mother” is too personal. Too intimate. Too real…realistic?

Our love for coffee doesn’t fade and fluctuate on certain dates. It’s an every-day-of-the-year love affair! We wake up every morning and head straight to the kitchen, embrace the coffee cup, and take loving sips (or eager gulps).

I challenge you to take that same level of daily loving for your mother not just on May 8 and your earth mother not just on April 22.

Mom I love you more than coffee

And to prove it.

Coffee: the language spoken worldwide

What’s more important: to drink your daily cup of coffee or to make love?

For monolingual globetrotters, it may be a question of which is easier to pronounce.

‘Love’ in languages on each continent

amor               Spanish           America

Liebe               German           Europe

upendo           Swahili            Africa

ask                  Turkish             Middle East

pag-ibig           Filipino           Asia

You may have to set aside your carnal desires (or hire an interpreter, or gesticulate wildly, or crack open a phrase book, c’mon….or travel with your loved one), but at least you should be able to get your caffeine fix when the travel bug bites.

‘Coffee’ in languages on each continent

café                 Spanish           America

Kaffee             German           Europe

kahawa           Swahili            Africa

kahve              Turkish            Middle East

kape                Filipino            Asia

The word for coffee starts with the same sound made by 3 letters: K, Q, and C

kaffe menu
Copenhagen cafe. Photo by Martin Kaufmann


kaffe               Swedish

kahvi               Finnish

koffie              Dutch

kawa               Polish

ka-feh             Hebrew

kava                Ukrainian

kaféo               Greek

kophe             Russian

kope               Hawaiian

kia-fey           Chinese

koohii             Japanese


qahwah           Arabic

C (hard)

café                 Portuguese

caffè                Italian

ca phe             Vietnamese

coffee              English

Sea-faring merchants in the 1400s-1600s managed to bungle their way through their lovers’ names in every port and improperly pronounce or spell the source name for “coffee”.

Traders exchanged bags of coffee along with the name for their commodity, swapping Ks for Qs for Cs at the start of the word and Vs for Ws for Hs for Fs for Phs in the middle.

Pretty much except in the motherland of Ethiopia, where it’s still called Bunna. Home is where the heart is, and to thee we stay true.

I heart Etymology

To make an “I heart Entomology” shirt

just slap a bug on the back.

For an “I heart Etymology” shirt

people’d be breathing down my neck

to read the fine print

of all the footnotes.

(That’s why we don’t go out in public much.)

But for the love of language

and in pursuit of education

I’d rather take scuffed heels

from word hustlers on the streets.

Reading Rainbow
Reading Rainbow

Happy International Translation Day!

¡Feliz Día Internacional de la Traducción!

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

Estoy asistiendo a la conferencia virtual de 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?