miércoles, 23 de abril de 2014

Translating is a Thankless Job

I've written about favors before, but it has come to my attention that lots of people see translation as a favor even (incluso) if they pay for it.
Translation is an incredibly intricate skill that is overlooked (no recibe el merecido crédito) in most cases.

To begin with, translation is usually the last thing the client thinks about.
Here's the thought process:

          Great! My four-hour presentation is finished!
          It's really going to impress those Spaniards....
          Oh, Jiminy Cricket (Cáscaras)... It's gonna have to be translated into Spanish....
          No big deal: Translating is just like saying the same thing in another language.
          Anybody that's really bilingual can do it like lightning fast.
          And plus it's like automatic for them.
          Hi, AutónomoTranslations? Can you translate my four-hour presentation by five o'clock?
          Yeah, 5 o'clock today. Why?

Translators have a specific procedure they follow to make sure communication is correct.

1) When you recieve a document to be translated, you tell the potential client 
      if you can or can not do it. They usually (suelen) say they can because 
          they're freelance (autónomos) and they don't know if there will be work next week. 

2) You send the potential client an estimate (presupuesto). Here's where it gets 
         sticky (complicado): sometimes they take days to approve your price: critical days      
          when you could be translating.

          Is this a good price? 
          Hell, I don't know... the intern (becaria) usually did it, but we fired (despedimos) her. 
          Well, I'll have to ask the boss, but he's on a business trip in Ibiza. 
          (2 days later) 
          Hey, boss! Listen, about your presentation: here's the estimate from the translator. 
          That's too high. Pay him half. By the way, here are my expense reciepts from the cruise,                        the spa, the casino and the resort. 

3) The translator sends a message officially accepting the job and he or she 
       begins to work on the translation.

4) Whenever the translator has a question about a term or the format, he or she               asks the client. Since the client may or may not respond quickly, you have to 
            continue to work on another part of the text.

5) When the translator is finished, he or she sends the finished version to the 

6) The client confirms receipt, but if not, the translator panics and blows up 
              their phone (le llama mogollón de veces).

Then comes invoicing (facturación).
As soon as the client gets the translation, they pass it off to their boss and take the credit for choosing a great translator.
But it's like when you order a big meal at a restaurant.
Eat, drink and be merry...
Then, the bill comes and you say "Gee willikers (Ostras pedrín), we sure did eat a lot!"
Clients have trouble paying for work you did in the past, though.
They immediately forget about how important it was as soon as another hugely important project hits their desk.
So they start to pass the invoice from one department to another like a hot potato and you get paid when the cows come home (quédate allí sentado).

At every one of these steps, translators are used to having to be persistent.
But I think one thing a translator never gets used to is being ignored, being treated like "the help" and not being recognized for a job well done.

I tell you what would be cool (lo que molaría): 
If somebody called me one day and said "Do you remember that project that you translated last week? Well, it was a success (éxito, pronunciado "sac-SES") and we couldn't have done it (no podríamos haberlo hecho) without you."  

Imagine a world where people prepare their documents a long time before they're needed so they can give them to the translators to work on at a normal, human pace (ritmo)....
where people are polite when they ask for something....
where people send a heartfelt (sincero) thank you when someone does something laborious for them...
where people recognize that someone put in a lot of work to produce the thing they're about to use and depend on...

I bet IT (informática) people can attest (atestiguar) to very similiar, if not worse conditions.

Just like (al igual que) translators have to be persistent to get paid (cobrar), getting recognition also requires persistentily tooting your own horn (alardearse a uno mismo). 
It's not easy for the type of person that expects recognition based on merit alone, but you can't limit yourself to letting your actions speak for you: you also have to tell people how awesome you are (como molas)

jueves, 7 de noviembre de 2013

Zed and Z

Five years ago, I had just begun teaching English in Madrid. 
My boss got a request (petición) for an American English teacher for a CEO of a well-known (muy conocida, pronunciado "NOun") company, so there I went. 
This was an older gentleman, the kind of student that constantly distracted me from the lessons I meticulously prepared with his questions about English language and American culture. 
He looked like (se parecía a) Eduard Punset without the wind tunnel hair. 

He was obviously very intelligent, very agile-minded and very curious about the language. 

So, one day, a word comes up (surge) that I don't understand because his pronunciation was sometimes weird (extraña), so I ask him to spell it (le pido que la deletree). It was something like "Arizona". 

CEO:      "A, R, I, Zed.." 
Me:                         "Wait a minute, zed?"
CEO:                "Yes... A, R, I, Zed..."
Me:                          "Wait, what do you mean by zed?"
CEO:                 "The letter.... the last letter of the alphabet"
Me:                          "That's Z (pronunciado "zee" en USA). (I start to laugh) So, what, are we 
                                  spelling things in Greek now? Are you gonna throw in a Gamma or an                                             Epsilon? Like fraternities... Pi Kappa Phi! HAHAHAHA"
CEO:                 "Maybe that's the British way..." 
Me:                           "Hahaha, I've never heard that in my life!" 

Then I went home and told my Spanish wife about it. 
"Hahahaha you're not gonna believe what my student said today!!!"
And then she calmly stops me and confirms that yes, the British say "zed" for the last letter of the alphabet. 
Dead silence befalls the room as I remember chuckling at and making fun of a CEO to his face. The room starts spinning as I see myself in my mind's eye in slow motion laughing and saying "...PI KAPPA PHI!!! HAHAHAH!!!!"

Needless to say, the next day, I tucked my tail between my legs, sat down in his office and ate me a big helping (ración) of humble pie. 

Luckily, he was nice enough to just give me a good slap on the back and chuckle back at me. 

lunes, 4 de noviembre de 2013

Don't like Halloween or Santa Claus? I couldn't care less.

I've been part of many conversations where Spaniards voice their opposition to elements of foreign cultures invading Spain
I get it (Entiendo): you think your culture is being erased by globalization or Americanization or whatever you prefer to call it. 

Last week these people said things like "¿Y por qué hay que celebrar Halloween aquí si la tradición española es de Todos los Santos?" (Why should we celebrate Halloween here when the Spanish tradition is All Saints Day?)
And that's a damn good point (es una buena observación donde las haya). 
Spaniards already dress up (se disfrazan) for Carnaval (like Mardi Gras in New Orleans), but they don't trick or treat. 
So we should repeal this law that makes it mandatory for all Spaniards to celebrate Halloween.... wait... that law doesn't exist
Oh yeah... you're free to celebrate Halloween or not if you damn well please (si te da la p___ gana).  
In these conversations, people say these things to me as if I'm taking part in making everybody celebrate Halloween against their will (voluntad). 
It's funny(curioso): the last guy to say this to me was wearing Levi's, Pumas, a Ralph Lauren Polo and Ray Bans. 
Well, I've got news for you: I couldn't care less (me da exáctamente igual) if you celebrate Halloween or not. 
Just a thought, though... maybe people in Spain celebrate Halloween more than All Saints' Day because it's more fun to dress up than to wash off tombstones... 

Do you not like Thanksgiving (Acción de gracias)? Then don't celebrate it. 
Do you not like Veterans' Day? Martin Luther King Day? The Fourth of July? 
Nobody's taking attendance. 
You don't lose money if you don't do it. 
Stay at home and watch Cuentame como pasó or a bull fight. 

Another thing people like to accuse America of is making Spain give gifts as Santa Claus instead of on Epiphany (el Día de los Reyes Magos). 
Well, lemme (déjame) tell ya (you) somethin': Nobody makes you do Santa Claus. 
In your family, you can celebrate whatever you decide. 
People act like it's some kind of obligation to do Santa Claus becuase that way their kids have more time to play with their toys over (durante) Christmas break. 
If you choose (eliges) to give your kids their presents (regalos) early (antes), that's fine, but don't blame (no eches la culpa) poor ol' Saint Nick (Papá Noel) because your national holiday gets less attention. 
He doesn't care one way or the other. 

Hell (Qué demonios), he'd probably be relieved if Spaniards didn't participate. 
It'd be a whole lot less paella pans, sangría jugs, Flamenco shoes and bullfighting swords to deliver (entregar)

lunes, 7 de octubre de 2013

Driving in Spain

It took me (Tardéa while (un tiempo) to get used to (acostumbrarme a) driving in Spain. 
It's not that traffic laws are so different. 
Many times, it's the interpretation of the traffic laws and the character (personalidad) of the drivers. 

So, here's my list of complaints (quejas) and observations about driving in Spain: 

1) Turn Signals (intermitentes):  
"I'd rather (prefiero) cut you off (cortarte el paso) than make the effort (hacer el esfuerzo por) to use my turn signal." 

I have this sixth sense when I know a person is going to jump in front of me without using their turn signal. They speed up (cogen velocidad) and inch over (se acercan) to my lane (carril) and jump in front of me so close that his Spanish flag bumper sticker looks like the one at la Plaza de Colón. 

2) SUVs (todo terrenos) and buses: 
"I'm so big I can run all over you (pisarte) and you have to respect my space." 

Obviously, if I see a very large vehicle getting close to me, I'll slow down and let him in, but lots of times, I get the feeling that they don't even (ni siquiera) look before they change lanes. 

3) Audis: 
"Get out of the way (Quítate del medio) because I'm trying to break the sound barrier." 

You know these guys. They're the ones that think the world is their Autobhan. When you get in the left lane to pass (adelantar), they appear out of thin air (de la nada) and get so close to your bumper (parachoques) that you can't even see their headlights (faros)... until they flash them. These same guys are the ones that risk their lives and those of others to pass you on a curvy two-lane mountain road by darting into oncoming traffic because maybe (a lo mejor) they can go fast enough to turn back time. 

4) Traffic circles (rotondas): 
Anything goes (Todo vale

If red lights are boxing matches, traffic circles are street fights. Suddendly (de repente), lanes don't exits. There are no laws or rules, just people imposing their own will (propia voluntad)

5) There are never road signs (señales de tráfico) leading to your destination. 

You can count on getting lost (perderte) or having to stop to ask for directions whenever you're going to an unknown (desconocido, pronunciado "AN-NOUN") place because properly placed road signs are very scarce (escasas). You end up in a town in the middle of nowhere with 15 inhabitants asking the mayor/shepherd/bar owner how to get back (volver) to the highway. 

4) Missed your exit (salida)? Sorry, Charlie. The next exit where you can turn around (darse la vuelta) is in France. 

You have to pay very close attention (estar muy atento) to what exit to take because the next exit may be 20 kilometers ahead (más adelante). 

5) My, how I wish you could go right on red. 

Every once in a while (De vez en cuando), after we come back from visiting the States, I'll accidentally turn right at a red light and scare the everliving shit out of (meterle un susto de muerte) my wife. 

6) I'm terrified of changing lanes or opening my door and clobbering (meterle un viaje) a guy on a motorcycle. 

They bob and weave (saltar) in and out of traffic so fast that I always think that one could be coming, and I'm gonna accidentally stop his motorcycle in its tracks and he'll pull a Superman. 

7) Is the line (cola) for the exit too long? No problem! Just jump ahead and nose into (meterse en) a spot (hueco) when somebody's not paying attention. 

This gets on my nerves (me pone de los nervios) because I'm the guy that gets in line at the very end and waits his turn to take the exit like a good boy, then Mr. Smarty Pants (el listillo) who breaks in line (se cuela) and disregards (ignora) all of the people behind him that have been waiting for 5 minutes. 

8) Hazard lights mean (significan) diplomatic immunity. 

It's like playing "tag" (pilla pilla) and touching home base. Because you put your hazard lights on, it's OK to park in a handicapped (minusválido) space, or what the hell (qué cojones), right in the middle of the street. "I'll only be a minute!" 

9) Parking by ear. 

All cars in Madrid have dents (bollos) in the bumpers because it's generally accepted that in order to parallel park, you have to tap (tocar) the car in front of you and the one behind you several times.  

10) Auto escuela (driving school) is highway robbery (un timo)

The test is so difficult that most people don't pass (aprobar) the first time, then you have to go back to school and do more hours in the car with the instructor. The first time around, it's between 500 and 1000 euros. The second time isn't much cheaper. It's an industry. 

11) You have to drive like a real (auténtico) idiot to get pulled over (detenido en carretera)

In my 6 years in Spain, I've only seen 2 people get pulled over on the highway. Most speeding tickets are done with cameras, so the only way to get pulled is if you're driving like Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 

12) My God, I miss (echo de menos) cruise control (regulador de velocidad)

Most cars here have manual transmissions. I really miss taking road trips in the US where you get on the highway, get up to 75 mph, turn on the cruise control, and do several hours of easy miles. 

I think drivers in South Carolina are a lot more courteous than drivers in Madrid. I've seen people in SC at a stop sign wait for a car to pass even if it's 1/2 mile away sometimes. Of course, you can't compare apples and oranges (churras con merinas). Madrid is a big city with more inhabitants than the whole (entera) state of SC and it's in a hurry (tiene mucha prisa).  Lots of times, I find myself talking to other drivers, saying things like "where's the fire?" and "hold your horses, cowboy!" and "nobody get excited". 

jueves, 3 de octubre de 2013

Encounter with the Guardia Civil

I'm usually (suelo ser) a good boy. I try to follow (respetar) the rules, obey laws, be nice (amable), look good and smell decent. 

But a while back (hace un tiempo), I broke (incumplí) a law without even (ni siquiera) knowing it. 

Let's start with the back story (antecedentes). 

I used to (solía) fish a good bit (bastante) in the US. I also used to smoke. The problem is that when you fish, you have one hand holding (sujetando) the rod (caña) and one hand cranking (girando) the reel (carrete), and I didn't like holding the cigarette in my mouth because the smoke got in my eyes. So, I chewing (mascar) tobacco was a good solution.  

That was around 2004 or so. Fast forward to 2009. I started fly fishing in the mountains around Ávila and I was talking about this same thing to my Dad. He sent me a care package (paquete especial por correo al extranjero): a 6" x 10" x 10" box with about 10 packs of Red Man loose leaf chewing tobacco. 

I didn't know where to keep (guardar) it, so I put the box in the kitchen. 
The next morning, I was on the way (de camino) out the door when I saw the box and I decided to get a bag out to chew some on the way to work. 

A good friend of mine once told me that good stories always start with "So, there I was...." 

So there I was, chewing tobacco at 7:30 in the morning on the highway on the way to work in Madrid, spitting into an empty coffee cup, when the Guardia Civil (Spanish version of the State Troopers) stop beside me at a red light. 

You know that feeling when you just KNOW somebody's watching you? Well, I started looking around and I saw that there were two officers staring (mirando fijamente) at me. Hard. I think they were puzzled (perplejos) at why I was spitting (escupiendo) into the cup instead (en lugar) of drinking out of it. 

Then, the light turned green (se puso en verde) and I started driving. Well, the officers pulled me over (me detuvieron). I stopped. One got out of the car, and judging by his accent, he was obviously Andalú. 

Agente:       Buenoh díah
Me:              Buenos días, señor agente. 
Agente:       You can't drink coffee while you're driving. 
Me:              I'm sorry, sir, but I'm not drinking coffee. 
Agente:       I know you're drinking coffee. 
                    I saw the cup. 
                    You can't drink anything while you're driving because it's a distraction. 
Me:             I understand that, but I swear I wasn't drinking coffee. 
                    I was chewing tobacco. 
                   I'm American. 
                   Can't you hear my accent? 
                   Have you ever seen a cowboy movie? 
                   (I showed him the coffee cup complete with an inch of tobacco spit in it)
Agente:      Por Dios.... (Dear God....)
                   OK, look, you can't hold anything in your hands other than the wheel while you're                            driving. 
                   Go on. 

You should've seen the look on his face. 
I would've paid money to hear what he had to say when he got back to the station. 

lunes, 8 de julio de 2013

A Little Knowledge Can Be a Dangerous Thing

I have a theory about some English words wrongly used in Spanish. 

I think what happens is that a Spaniard goes to study in an English-speaking country just long enough to get a taste of immersion, but just short enough to still sound.... weird, awkard, and out of place... like a wax museum statue. 

(For those of you not familiar with this person, it's supposed to be Rafael Nadal.) 

This person probably spent a semester or less in Nowheresville, Missouri. 
Because among the older generation, their parents, there exists the persistent maxim that "la única manera de aprender bien un idioma es perderse en Inglaterra o por ahí y tener que espabilar." (The only way to learn a language right is to get lost in England or wherever because you have no other choice but to learn) 

Butchered English Expression Used in Spanish Real Meaning in English  Real Anglophone Expression
Zapping To electrocute, shoot or cook to flick channels
Friki extrañísimo, deformado geek 
Tuning sincronizar customizing
Fashion moda fashionable
Hall pasillo foyer
Web  red website
Brackets soporte (de construcción) braces

They bring back with them words that they've heard natives use and get a reaction from a crowd, like a laugh, or shock, or wow, and they either can't remember them just right or they never learned them right in the first place. 

I think I can imagine how these people infer the meanings of these colloquial expressions from context the wrong way. 

We're in Coach Johnson's 11th grade chemistry class with Asher the jock, Skyler the cheerleader, George the geek and Pilar the Spaniard. 
In walks George the geek with a Lord of the Rings tee shirt, featuring Legolas the Elf. 

ASHER THE JOCK:                          - Dude! Check out the brainy kid's t-shirt! 
GEORGE THE GEEK:                      - You guys are stupid. Go drink a protein shake and leave 
                                                               me alone. 
PILAR THE SPANIARD:                 - I AM AGREE! YOU ARE A FRIKI! (Esto de friki debe                  
                                                            significar algo insultante ... cuando vuelva a Pozuelo, lo 
                                                            voy a usar a tope como si supiera lo que es.
ASHER THE JOCK:                         - I knew I forgot something this morning! My protein shake! 
                                                               I'm calling my mom right now. 
COACH JOHNSON:                        - Alright, leave the smart kid alone. He helps me clean up the 
                                                              lab in the afternoon. OK, so we were talking about ionic 
                                                              bonds or whatever the school wants me to teach as an 
                                                             excuse to coach football... 

These people say the following things to show off about their profound immersion experience: 
- No, es que esta palabra no existe en español. (The thing is that word just doesn't exist in 
    Spanish). (Lie. You just don't know how to translate it.) 
- Jo, es que llevo tanto tiempo pensando en inglés que a veces es lo primero que me sale. 
   (Man... I've been thinking in English for so long that it's the first thing that pops out.)  
   (Lie. You were there from August to December and spent the whole time with a group of        
     Venezuelan kids smoking pot.) 

This sounds really impressive to people that have never travelled, so it catches on, and people say: 

"Claro que se dice así... me lo dijo Borja y él estuvo en Estados Unidos mogollón de tiempo en un pueblo perdido de la mano de Dios, o sea que tiene que ser verdad."

"Of course that's the way you say it... Borja told me that and he went to this town in the boon docks in the US for a really long time, so it's gotta be true".

Other English words that Spaniards use all the time that just get on my nerves: 
- Drinking
- Spinning 
- Jetlag
- Freelance

As so many supporters of the RAE (Real Academia Española) say, why use a foreign word when there is already a perfectly good word in your own language? 
And moreover, why use the wrong foreign word to express yourself when you could use the right word in your own language? 
The answer: because it sounds so cool. 

martes, 18 de junio de 2013

Cultural Culinary Combinations

Peanuts are OK, but peanut butter is repugnant. 
Lots of times, if you order a beer, the bartender will give you a bowl full of peanuts and people pound them down. 
But something happens when you mash peanuts, apparently, to make them taste like death. 

Café con hielos. 
Spaniards see this as a refreshing summer drink. 
But if you put milk in it to make an iced coffee, it's a "guarrada". 

Here, I've seen hamburgers with ham ontop of the patty. 
I think this is a case of somebody learning just enough English to get the wrong idea. 

How about a Jack Daniels and Fanta Limón? 
That's about the closest thing you'll find to a Lynchburg Lemonade here. 
I still haven't heard a Spaniard react to it. 
The bartender doesn't react because he wants to sell you the drink. 
People around you don't react because they think you're drinking ron con limón. 

An Arnold Palmer (sweet tea and lemonade) would be extraterrestrial here. 

Now, Spanish combinations can be pretty intense, too. 

Eating eggs and bacon for breakfast here is unheard of. 
But they eat pancakes for dessert at American restaurants. 
I suppose it's kind of like fried chicken and waffles in Atlanta. 

I've never seen it done, but I've heard of people drinking Gin and Coke here... 
I must admit, I haven't tried it, so I can't knock it. 

Red wine and Coke. 
Before I came here, the thought had never crossed my mind. 
But it's actually pretty decent. 

Spaniards say Bourbon is too sweet, and then they go and mix Scotch and Coke. 

I wish people would start forming their own opinions rather than letting themselves be guided by the opinions of others.