Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

Conversation with Mark the Bank Guy

January 15, 2008

Today, I had to go to the bank to get my new bank card activated. So Mark the Bank Guy and I had the following conversation:

Me: So, you need two pieces of ID, right? (wallet is emptied of receipts from a grocery run conducted two weeks ago)

Bank Guy: (Flabbergasted at the pile of papers) One is fine. So, what other languages do you speak?

Me:  (completely thrown off by this simple question) Uhmn, English and Spanish. . . Say, why do you ask?

Bank Guy: Because it is on your card, see? Translation Service

Me: (silence due to not feeling very smart)

Bank Guy: How does that work? Do you work for a company?

Me: No, this is freelance. I do some freelance projects for companies, and I have done some interpreting in court. I even got to go to jail . . .

Bank Guy: (turns red)

Me: For work! I mean, for work-related reasons!

Bank Guy: Ah, yes,  an important clarification.

The rest of the conversation was not particularly memorable,  but considerably less awkward. Small talk does not come easy to me.

Run for the hills! (warning: post full of righteous indignation)

October 6, 2007

Haven’t you heard? On September 28, the Lincoln Journal Star published an article in Spanish. Well, just the translation of this article, anyway,  Run for the hills; it’s the end of the world as we know it.

Oh, I kid. Sunday, September 30, the paper’s editor, Kathleen Rutledge, printed an explanation as to why:

On Thursday, we learned from Lincoln police that a lack of accurate information about the killing of Maria del Rosario Moreno was leading to fear and confusion among some Spanish-speaking people in Lincoln. Some erroneously thought a killer was still at large, for example.

We considered printing a story about the case for our Spanish-language publication, Hispanos Unidos. But the next issue of that newspaper will not appear until next week, too late to do much good for people in need of immediate information.

We settled instead on translating the Journal Star story into Spanish.

Fair enough. I wasn’t very happy with the quality of the translation (which apparently, isn’t even available online). But sometimes, the people’s need to be informed outranks the right to proper grammatical Spanish, worthy of the Real Academia Española. ‘

Other people were just as upset as I was. But for completely different reasons.  Two of the four letters to the editor that were printed on October 3 (available at, were regarding this article. The first one boasts the headline “Americans speak English” and starts with the following text:

I want to say first that I am all for equal treatment for everyone. I am also proud to be an American, and I am not happy about a Sept. 28 Lincoln Journal Star article being repeated in a foreign language. I don’t care what language.

The next letter is titled “Not happy with Spanish” and reads as follows (first two paragraphs only):

I don’t know if it was a mistake that could have possibly gotten through all the editors and page layout people, but on page 7B of the Sept. 28 Lincoln Journal Star, there was an entire article written in Spanish.

I do not appreciate paying for a paper that I can’t read … and if you wish to continue to publish articles in a language other than English, I will be discontinuing my subscription and wanting a refund for what I have already prepaid for the year.

Dear people who think the world is going to hell in a handbasket because an English newspaper chose to print ONE article in both English and Spanish:
First of all, calm down. Seriously.

Second of all, in a rephrasing of my point above, the need of the community (and yes, that DOES include the Spanish-speaking members) to be informed about a violent crime against a woman exceeds your need for a paper that was 100% English. Seriously. How many articles that could have been of usefulness to the Spanish-speaking community went untranslated?

Third, none of the people taking ESL classes will take a look at that article and all of a sudden quit. Many people DO know that it is hard to get through life in this country without at least a working knowledge of English.

Fourth, the tragedy is not that an English-language paper printed ONE article in both English and Spanish. The real tragedy is that Maria del Rosario Moreno was murdered by somebody she knew, like way too many women.

NEXT: A return to posting light-hearted snippets of my life as a translator.

Harry Potter, mon Dieu!

August 9, 2007

As published in the Guardian Unlimited:

French teen in trouble for allegedly posting his own translation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

For those who care about such things, the article contains zero spoilers. Who knew that the French had to wait until October to read the grand finale of this saga? Or that the official French translator didn’t get to read it himself until the official publishing date in English?

I didn’t.

I don’t feel pretty

March 27, 2007

Recently, I got in the mail a laminated card so that perfect strangers can know that, indeed, I am a certified court interpreter.

I have already shown pictures of the event in this blog. I am a supreme candidate for Go Fug Yourself, that’s all I can say about my appearance that day. But the picture in the ID? F-ug-lay.

And yet I keep showing it to everyone. Go figure.

In other news: I still haven’t bought SDL Trados 2007.

Change of address

January 28, 2007

As of yesterday, I have started to blog at WordPress. Any future writing can be found at

¡Hasta luego!

The new home of ¿Se habla English?

January 27, 2007

Hi. I have been blogging about translation for a little over a year. The original version of this blog started over at Blogger. However, Blogger has been rather unreliable lately, so I have relocated WordPress.  Life is complicated enough.

Next post: all about getting sworn in as a certified translator. Stay tuned!

Telecommuting Vs. Regular Commuting, Round 1

November 13, 2006

I have already mentioned that I have given notice at my (present) employer so that I can work for somebody else. Again. It appears my dream of working in my pajamas on a full-time basis will be put on hold.

Maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe wearing pajamas all day, every day, is only fun for the first few days.

All I know is that at least, if I was working at home, I could accidentally flick a piece of fruit behind my desk and not care about getting stuck under my desk trying to reach it. Because there would be no witnesses.

But in the 9-5 world, oh, too many witnesses.

Nine hundred and ninety-nine pieces

October 4, 2006

This was not the post I wanted to write.

I wanted the cyber equivalent of a dance of joy. As I found out yesterday, the score on my written test (passing is 70%; I scored 95%) qualified me to take the oral test for court interpreters later this month.

After doing an Internet search, I found an article with tips for preparing for the oral test. It consists of three parts: sight translation, consecutive translation, and simultaneous translation. The article suggested reading news and practicing translating these. So far, so good.

So, I log on to By now, we all now that on Monday, a truck driver went into a one-room schoolhouse in an Amish community and shot several young schoolgirls. For some reason, I logged on to an interview with an official describing the events. And I tried to interpret, in a simultaneous fashion, the way the articles describe. If you find a word you don’t understand, skip it and move on. Don’t add, don’t leave out information. Be professional and keep an emotional distance.

Even if your heart breaks into 999 pieces.

From PR: They are so last month!

July 22, 2006

“They are so last month!”

The following words were said by my little sister (age 10).

Some context:

  • These words were uttered in English. She and I were chatting in the car… in Spanish.
  • The topic? Why Barbie dolls are not as cool as Bratz dolls.


I am now going to read El Nuevo Día.

My next gig (marginally related to translation)

July 17, 2006

Tomorrow I will be going on a trip, where I will be working as an escort interpreter for my most demanding customer: my daughter.

AMG (not her real name) is autistic. She speaks no Spanish. Her English skills are limited. She can ask for juice, cereal, cookies, peanut butter, and other things. She can say mommy and daddy and identify assorted body parts. She can giggle, howl in indignation, shed tears of frustration… all in a five-minute span. She has trouble sustaining eye-contact and flaps her wrists when excited. She will give you hugs and kisses. While she does not speak much, she still communicates. It is my job as her mother to explain her language to the outside world.

She is not paying me though. I guess you can’t quite write up an invoice for “all the love in the world”.