Cringe-Inducing Translation Errors (Spanish/English)

As seen in Las Vegas. Photo by Judy Jenner. 
It's time to laugh, dear colleagues! Well, or cry, or cringe, or be mortified. Have a look at these hilarious Spanish-English translation errors, mainly found on signs in public spaces, courtesy of the Huffington Post. We've been taking pictures of bad translations ourselves for years, sometimes risking our personal safety to do so  (turns out that some business owners don't appreciate this!) , and it's great that Huff Post is spreading the word, too. Perhaps the general public will start thinking more about the importance of professional translators.

We find it particularly cringe-inducing that big companies such as Starbucks have been photographed "in the act" of abusing the poor, poor Spanish language. Have a look at the Huffington Post slideshow here.

Bad Habits

It's time to confess that, not surprisingly, we have plenty of bad habits. Some of them are translation-related while others have to do with business practices. We would love to hear yours, but we figured Judy would start out with a list of her bad habits:

  • Eating at my desk. I know it's good for you to sit at an actual table, enjoy a meal and not multi-task while eating. However, for one reason or another, I frequently find myself at my desk, wolfing down my miso soup or organic kale salad while trying to prevent getting food on my keyboard. This is not a very relaxing way to spend my lunch break, and I shall improve on this.
  • Shiny object syndrome. While I am quite proficient at working at several projects and assignments at the same time, I do have to admit that I frequently stop what I am doing to turn my attention to new and perhaps more interesting (if not more pressing) things. I've tried to not check my e-mail every five minutes, but that does not to seem to work very well. Going after shiny objects is definitely a bad habit.
  • Not getting up from my desk frequently enough. While I try to do some sort of physical activity every day (Bikram yoga, running, tennis, stretching, weight lifting), I do have a tendency to get very highly focused on some projects and tend to forget time. My unofficial goal is to get up once an hour to do sit-ups and triceps dips, but I must admit that doesn't happen that often. I must improve on this.
Next time we will bring you a list of Dagy's bad habits. In the meantime: what are your bad habits? Please share them by leaving a comment!

English-Spanish Contrastive Analysis Workshop

On April 6, well-known Spanish translator and trainer Xosé Castro will come to this side of the pond to give a full-day workshop on contrastive grammar analysis. The event will take place in southern California, at Cal Poly Pomona, to be specific. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of hearing Xosé speak at an annual American Translators Association (ATA) conference or elsewhere, you are in for a treat: Xosé's sessions are always highly informative and also highly entertaining. This event will be presented entirely in Spanish.

We are not affiliated with this event in any way, but we are merely posting this information here as a courtesy to our dear readers. Unfortunately, Judy has an interpreting project that day (at a long-planned wedding) and will not be able to assist. What a bummer! To register and read more, please visit this link.

Here are some more details about the workshop:

By Xosé Castro
Does speaking and writing correctly in Spanish matter to you? Are you interested in getting current on the RAE’s latest changes to academic Spanish since the last update in 2010? Whether you are a Spanish  translator, interpreter, journalist, educator or student, or are simply interested in improving your Spanish language skills for professional or personal growth, you will not want to miss this opportunity to update your knowledge on the latest norms and usage of Spanish.
This hands-on workshop will be conducted by internationally-renowned Spanish translator, proofreader, copywriter, and trainer Xosé Castro. This rare opportunity is not to be missed!
Location: Kellogg West Conference Center and Hotel @ Cal Poly Pomona 
Time: 8:30 – 5:00 PM
Social/Mixer: Immediately following event (Live Latin Music)
NOTE: This workshop will be conducted in Spanish.
About the workshop:
This is an introductory English-Spanish contrastive grammar analysis workshop. It will focus on common challenges translators and interpreters face when translating into Spanish, particularly in terms of grammatical structures, discursive elements, personal and impersonal styles, idioms, false cognates, loanwords and barbarisms, among others.
We will review some of the most common orthographic and grammatical pitfalls faced by translators from English into Spanish, especially when they live in an English-speaking country. 

Entrepreneurial Linguist Workshops in Europe

In Utrecht, the Netherlands.
It's official: Judy and her Entrepreneurial Linguist workshops will come to Europe again this summer -- in August and September, to be precise. While we are still working on finalizing dates, we are already talking to some associations in several countries about coming to their neck of the woods to share what we know with their linguists. There are several workshops to choose from, including Lessons from Business School: The Entrepreneurial Linguist, Pricing Strategies for Translators and Interpreters, 10 Habits of Highly Successful Interpreters and Translators, No Pain, No Gain: Active Marketing to Direct Clients, Web 2.0 for Entrepreneurial Linguists, etc. Judy can also customize a keynote speech for you. Have a look at her workshops here.

We will admit that we are a bit behind schedule in terms of setting our schedule in stone this year (it's been a crazy/busy year thus far), but the good news is that your association/organization still has plenty of time to get in touch with Judy for a late summer workshop! Judy has had the pleasure of giving workshops and classes in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Ireland, Scotland, etc. These are usually a lot of fun, and it's great to meet colleagues and connect with new friends! Some workshops have included once-in-a-lifetime adventures, such learning the Scottish wedding dance. See you in Europe?

You Don't Need an Interpreter!

Those who interpret in community and court settings will probably be quite familiar with this interesting species: the person who does not really need an interpreter, but who requests one (and is certainly mostly entitled to one) anyway. We've never personally seen this happen in conference interpreting settings (or at least we don't find out, but we have heard of conference attendees who get a headset to listen to the interpreting just to see if it's good). Those who DNRNAIs (=do not really need an interpreter) can present a wide variety of potential challenges, and it also makes for an interesting interpreting assignment. Here's our take on how and why this happens and how to deal with it.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the interpreter is there to interpret and has not been retained to give an expert opinion of the person's ability (or lack thereof) to speak the language. Many times, attorneys, especially during highly contentions civil depositions, will try to pull the interpreter into the argument, asking him or her to "tell us if the deponent (the person who has requested an interpreter) speaks _________." When we are in that situation, we politely say that we are not qualified to give an on-the-spot language ability assessment  nor has it been agreed upon which criteria or scale should be used. Our advice: don't give an opinion. While you may have some insight into the person's language ability, you are probably not qualified to give an expert opinion, so you should not. Stick to your role.
Who needs an interpreter?

Now that it's probably been established that the interpreter should stay (after much bickering between attorneys or other parties), the tough part starts. For example: it is probably quite true that the person in question (the DNRNAI person) understands the source language quite well. That means that the DNRNAI person doesn't really need an interpreter to understand the question, but does need one to answer, as he or she is simply not that strong in the second language -- understanding is always easier than speaking. There are a variety of reasons for requesting an interpreter when you don't truly need one (again, there's a lot of debate as to who needs an interpreter):

  • For tactical advantages in court. We've seen this a lot during divorce and custody proceedings. Sometimes things are so contentious that the parties don't want to leave anything to chance, even though they can communicate in English with their attorneys just fine. However, once proceedings start, the parties (or party) do want an interpreter, many times in the hopes that court interpreters will simplify or explain the proceedings to them, which of course we cannot.
  • As a security blanket. Some parties just want an interpreter present in case they don't understand something and request the interpreter to be on stand-by. Usually the other party loudly protests this and demands that the interpreter either interpret everything or nothing. Of course everyone knows things will take a lot longer with an interpreter, which is why occasionally attorneys will kindly suggest sending the interpreter home. Again, as the interpreter, we don't chime in. We sit there, looking pretty (if we can), smile, and let the parties sort it out. 
  • Because they can. Depending on the state, the jurisdiction and the type of case, people have a well-established right to an interpreter (Civil Rights Act of 1964, etc.), so many times people just want their interpreter, period. Sometimes, this can get a bit odd. Judy has interpreted for well-known business owners who've lived and worked in the United States for years, yet want an interpreter for their native language (Spanish), which is no longer their dominant language. The problem: when you interpret correctly into their native language, they oftentimes don't understand it, because English is really their dominant language. Still, they insist on answering in half-English, half-Spanish. We just keep calm and carry on.
Now, during the actual proceedings, DNRNAI persons will routinely NOT wait for the question to be interpreted, since they understand it just fine in English. They will start answering the question in their foreign language immediately, even while the interpreter is still rendering the (unnecessary on all fronts) interpretation. Usually, their counsel will instruct them to let the interpreter finish, but that rarely works (in our experience). One must be prepared for hours of constantly being interrupted. This also really confuses the court reporter, and it's one of the big problems of interpreting for someone who doesn't need an interpreter. In addition, their attorney will usually instruct them to answer exclusively in their native language and let the interpreter do the job. The problem with that is that they are no longer fully fluent in their native language and thus speak Spanglish, Denglish, etc., which is of course also challenging  on all fronts, especially since they use many terms incorrectly.

As you can see, interpreting for people who don't really need an interpreter (DNRNAI persons) is full of potential landmines, but somehow, we manage to enable communication without too many problems. What's your experience? We'd love to hear about it. 
Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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