Smile, I am a translator!

I am realising that people go through phases when meeting a translator. Here is a brief summary of them:

1) A translator/interpreter?! What do you mean?
2) Wow, awesome! How many languages do you speak?
3) That is a serious job!

1) Do you really get paid for that?
2) Do you really get paid that much for that?
3) Can’t I just use Google for that?

For this one, I have some real examples, some funny chats I had in the last few days. I may have slightly changed the words, because I didn’t take notes when we were talking, but all this really happened to me:

D: How much do you charge per word?
Me: £X. (…)
D: Emma, what’s the Italian for “improvise?”
Me: Improvvisare.
D: (Gives me a coin) Keep the change!


Me: I just received this sticker, it says “Put a translator in your life:”
D: Oh my God, that is so deep!
Me: I know you are making fun of me, but I don’t care!
D: I am totally serious, you have no idea how many misunderstandings I had because of languages!
Me: Yes, and “Countries have gone to war because they’ve misinterpreted one another,” I’ve seen that movie as well!


Me: Everyone was tweeting about ITD yesterday, sorry I filled your Facebook updates with my posts.
D: You are geeks!
Me: I know, but we think we are funny.
D: So, how do you recognise other translators, like when you walk around?
Me: For the bags under our eyes, and the pijamas, we work at night and we sleep during the day.
D: Oh, are you dark night creatures?
Me: Yes, we are like vampires, but with dictionaries!

Of course, some people, no matter since how long they know you, don’t get the easy idea of “using Google translate to talk to me is offensive, I speak your language, just ask me!” So, I answer what a translator always answers: “It depends.”

Me: Jajaja, che carino
J: Hahaha I am looking up “che carino” and all the sites say that it cannot be translated.
Me: You are sweet = che carino. But… It DEPENDS!!!
J: Hahahahaha exactly

At the end of the day, though, only translators truly understand each other:

M: Busy?
Me: Break from translation, you?
M: Break from translation! 50 pages of chemical patent.
Me: Palestine and Israel.
M: Oh that’s tough.
Me: I’d say the same about yours.


Mistakes and typos 2

I don’t know if by chance or by mistake, but finally I have found the folder with the pictures of mistakes that I have collected during the years, a good mix of Italian and English examples. Since I have several cases, I will split them according to languages. Let’s go for English this time, old and new jewels!

Maybe clean, maybe not


We don’t force our staff to do their job, freedom of choice is our policy!



I guess it will be the grammar police!

Dismanting bikes…



and words, so they can fit better in our trains and brains!

The importance of being Earnest


If One asks, you have to be earnest, you can’t spit frivolously in front of the Queen!

Don’t just protect it,


Protect it CLEAN!

No fear…


of bad grammar and spelling!

Perfect presents…


include: Grammar books, spelling books, proofreading vouchers, and so on!

And they just need to check Facebook to know that

Post errori

Try the new “Letters diet”! 





We don’t reduce calories, we cut vowels and add consonants, and you lose your fluency in a matter of weeks!

Killing him again


Maybe 007 only lives twice, but Kurt Cobain (Oh, yes, we are talking about Curco Vein here) certainly dies twice, or every time someone spells his name in this fashion!

All I wanted was to be invisible!

I am just mad, I need to shout these few things before I take my glossary and my notebook, and I meet my clients once again tomorrow:

–          I am an interpreter; I am no one’s sister or anything of the sort in this case.

–          I have done a brief pre-session, so everyone should know that I AM THE INTERPRETER!

–          I have no economic interest in the agreement, just a personal interest because the client is an acquaintance. Why am I there then? Because I am THE INTERPRETER!

–          I have never intervened in my whole career as much as I did only today, and that just drives me mad, INTERPRETER = INVISIBLE!

–           Don’t ask me and don’t look at me, I am not, in any way, taking part to the negotiations, if not as AN INTERPRETER!

–          I have practiced transparency as never before, constantly abandoning my role, and I am not proud of it.

–          Give me a booth, I hate liaison interpreting!

That said, tomorrow more because, after all, we are professionals!

La traducción de chistes no es ninguna broma

Queridos lectores, ¿recordáis cuándo esta belle infidèle era una joven italiana que decidió cursar la carrera de T&I en España? Muchos sin duda no lo recuerden porque no me conocían aún, pero otros tantos puede que sí. Para todos, este es un intento de traducción de un chiste que se remonta al lejano 2006, año en el que, junto con Giacomo, citado en la diapositiva, empezamos la carrera en la UVA, en Soria, antes de pedir traslado a Salamanca.


Como podéis ver, el juego está en que “pieza” se usa también como sinónimo de habitación. No siendo eso posible en italiano, pensamos jugar con el balcón del teatro.

Es buen intento, lo reconozco, y le agradezco a Manolo, profesor de lengua española e icono de la facultad, que no solo nos dejara intentar, sino también que guardara este ejemplo. La diapositiva de la derecha, de hecho, pertenece a una de sus presentaciones, y yo solo he vuelto a escribir encima de ella para que se leyera mejor, ya que el original aún llevaba mi propia letra. No he cambiado nada, aunque ahora punctuaría la frase de manera diferente.

Me encantan las tiras cómicas, y creo que su traducción es una tarea muy difícil. Si para traducir poesía hay que ser poeta, para traducir chiste hay que ser divertidos. Como ya he dicho en otro post, saber usar el sarcasmo y hacer chistes en un idioma es síntoma de que este se domina a un nivel muy alto. Ahora me manejo mejor con los juegos de palabras en inglés, porque he tenido buen maestro, y también porque este idioma es tan ambiguo, con tantos homófonos y homógrafos, que se presta mucho más que los romances a este tipo de cosas.

Mis estudios de traducción nunca me llevaron a medirme con este idoma en activa pero sí con los demás. Recuerdo cuando, recién llegada a Salamanca en segundo de carrera, me encontré en la clase de traducción hacia la lengua extranjera -que para mí era cualquiera idioma en aquel entonces- a traducir cómics. Teníamos que traducir una tira de Mafalda al francés, y no conseguíamos encontrar algo tan sagaz como el original. Después de unos segundos pensando: “¡calla porque ni siquiera sabes si se dice así en francés!”, decidí expresar lo que estaba pensando, y no solo se decía así en francés, sino que les gustó.

Desgraciadamente, no tengo aquí mis apuntes, pero podría escanear la página en cuanto vuelva a Cerdeña. Lo que sí recuerdo es la tira y mi versión, así que he podido recrear el ejemplo desde el Internet. En español, se juega con el sonido -ose, y en francés decidimos usar dégénération en la primera parte, ya que -tion es un sonido muy común en francés, y se presta a este tipo de juegos. El problema era la segunda parte, y aquí os dejo lo que propuse yo, un ejemplo del que sigo estando muy contenta también. Ya que estamos, aprovecho paradarle las gracias a Marie Noëlle, otra profesora que me enseñó tanto; en particular, sus clases me dieron por primera vez una idea de lo que iba a gustarme traducir.


Estos fueron mis primeros pasos, os dejo que juzguéis vosotros mismos, sin bromas, ¡esto va en serio!

Writing laws is easy, but proofreading them must be difficult

Divieto accesso non addetti

First things first, my apologies for what I’ve done to Tolstoy’s quote in the title. I am going to talk about laws and crimes, and that was one of mine!

I have been thinking about writing this post for quite a long time, remembering a funny English class in Salamanca with the unforgettable John Hyde. Today I have seen a link on Facebook, and the title seemed something similar, so I felt the need to finally really sit down and work to it. All started when John, determined to have our really mixed class learning English by the end of the year, brought us a copy of this article from The Telegraph with some funny laws still in use in England and abroad. I am also attaching a .pdf version of the articles so you can easily read them without ads and pop-ups.

Ten stupidest laws are named – Telegraph

Some of them are just funny, but others, unfortunately, are offensive and really discriminatory, as you can see with more details in this article:

Funny Laws 1

and in this extensive blog post:

Funny Laws 2

Before starting making fun of some of these examples, let’s pretend we are serious. I am briefly going to explain why some of these laws are still in use or why they even exist. The British law system is based on the common law, which means that there hasn’t been an extensive codification resulting in general rules. Its system is, instead, based on precedents, which stand as the examples used to judge cases including the same set of facts. This is why the laws are so specific; to give an example:

In Alabama, it is illegal to be blindfolded while driving a vehicle.

Does that mean that it is legal in the rest of the states? No, it means that probably in Alabama they had to face a case in which the driver was blindfolded, and to rule about that, while the other states never had a similar case.

Now let’s talk about some specific laws that are puzzling or funny. To start, please have a look at this link, because the comments to each law are really witty and I cannot hope to do such a good job!

My favourites:

It is illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament… You cannot have a law like this in Italy where, until recently, the youngest MP was aged 70!

Mince pies cannot be eaten on Christmas Day… Thank God I was in Italy for Christmas, because I totally had mince pies, and I also lured my dad into crime!

In the UK a pregnant woman can legally relieve herself anywhere she wants, including in a policeman’s helmet… Also, no one is going to double check if you are wearing your “baby on board” badge just to take the piss out of a policeman. Never an idiom was better used than this one!

In Switzerland, a man may not relieve himself standing up after 10pm… But no one will blame you if you tell your flatmates that it is illegal at all times; it may even work and you may not be afraid of walking into the bathroom!

In Switzerland, it is illegal to flush a toilet after 10pm… Ok, Swiss people, what is your problem with toilets after 10pm? Is it something like don’t feed the Gremlin after midnight?

In Florida, unmarried women who parachute on a Sunday could be jailed… Of course, they should go to the park and look for a man, it’s Sunday!

In France, it is illegal to name a pig Napoleon… But, apparently, it is legal to let it run the empire. No, wait, that really WAS Napoleon!

The only two states where divorce is illegal are the Philippines and The Vatican… Such a shame, it sounded so perfectly funny to go and live a life of sins in The Vatican!

In July 2013 a law was passed in China that states it is illegal for adult children to not visit their parents “often” in China. They are also required to attend to their parent’s spiritual needs… They needed a law for that? Emotional blackmail has worked so well for decades in Italy!

In Iowa, it is illegal for a man with a mustache to kiss a woman in public… I tried that one as well with my ex-boyfriend, but it didn’t work, he didn’t shave anyway!

In Kentucky, a woman cannot remarry the same man more than three times… Now I understand why Liz Taylor always tried to avoid Kentucky!

In France, it is stated as illegal to marry a dead person… It makes sense, that would kill the party!

In Samoa it is illegal to forget your wife’s birthday… Now stop looking up how to move to Samoa with your husbands!

In Australia, men are free to cross-dress, just as long as their dresses are not strapless… You know, melanoma is a huge concern in OZ!

In Massachusetts it is deemed illegal for a woman to be on top during sex. It is also apparently illegal in Massachusetts for a man and a woman who rent a room for the night to sleep in the nude… Wow, now I get all that obstruction to my plans to stay in Boston for the night!

No hanky panky allowed in Connecticut. A person who commits any unnatural and lascivious act with another person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. It is illegal for unmarried couples to commit lewd acts and live together… Well, let’s close this post right here, being thankful for being back to London, and trying to forget this before next trip!

Mistakes and typos

I have been thinking about writing this post since quite a while, but I could not really get myself to do it. It is not the feeling of being doing the same thing that everyone does everywhere on the Internet, because I think that, if I find some weird signs, I have to share them. The main reason why I waited for so long is that I wanted to be able to browse my DVDs with old picture to have a nice portfolio; the problem is: I could not find some of them. Finally, I decided that what I had was enough, maybe not to create real categories, but at least to start something that can stay open as a series of posts, or as a post with attached mistakes in the comments.

Here for you are some examples. Let’s start with what I would call “separated at birth”

Presentation 2

Presentation 3

One needs the apostrophe but lacks it, the other one has a spare one: let’s join forces!


“Captain Obvious”

Where else

Not to be splitting hairs, but if the hole is outside, don’t we call it just “surrounding space”?


“Say whaaaat?!”

S/W Ver: 85.83.E2P

If you are as good with my hair as you are with spelling, we really have a problem!


“Let’s try them all, one must be right!”


They really don’t like E as a letter, so they are not comfortable using it: “Irish whiskey”, you nailed it; “Scotch whisky”, as well; now, you had 50% of chances of “US whisky” also being correct, but you weren’t that lucky! Same with “liqueur”, the principle followed must be: “one of the two must be right, let’s risk it!”


“Eternal love doesn’t exist”

No comment

David Ruffin would say: “It’s not that I don’t love you, you know how much I do” but forever is a long time!


“Common roots”

Common roots

How can I frown when someone says “Spanish and Italian are basically the same language, aren’t they?” I mean, they look pretty similar here!


“Foreign influence”

Borrowing from English

After all, maybe, English words are taking too much space in the Italian language. Honestly, I am pretty sure we could use Italian synonyms to say the same thing!

Interpreters in movies special edition: Games of Interprethrones.


“Daenerys: They may suit my needs, tell me of their training Interpreter: The Westerosi woman is pleased with them but speaks no praise to keep the price down. She wishes to know how they are trained. Kraznys mo Nakloz: Tell her what she would know and be quick about it. The day is hot. Interpreter: They begin their training at five. Every day, they drill from dawn to dusk until they have mastered the short sword, the shields and the three spears. Only one boy in four survives this rigorous training. Their discipline and loyalty are absolute. They fear nothing. Ser Jorah: Even the bravest men fear death. Interpreter: The knight says even brave men fear death. Kraznys mo Nakloz: Tell the old man he smells of piss. Interpreter: Truly, Master? Kraznys mo Nakloz: No, not truly! Are you a girl or a goat to ask such a thing? Interpreter: My Master says the Unsullied are not men. Death means nothing to them. Kraznys mo Nakloz: Tell this ignorant whore of a Westerner to open her eyes and watch. Interpreter: He begs you attend this carefully, your grace. Daenerys: Tell your good Master there is no need Kraznys mo Nakloz: She’s worried about their nipples? Does the dumb bitch know we’ve cut off their balls? Interpreter: My Master points out that men don’t need nipples.”


Here I am again, surprisingly adding an extra post to the planned trilogy about interpreter in movies. That is a shock even for me since, as soon as I wrote the third part, I just wanted to delete everything. If I didn’t, it is because of the hard work done to complete it, and because I was happy with the result after all, if not of the things through which I passed to achieve it. I want to dedicate this post to the first episode of the third season of Game of Thrones, a TV series very special to me. In it, we have seen plenty of interpreting scenes, and I don’t want to analyse all of them, for different reasons. Among them, maybe the main one is the fact that the same mistakes are repeated over and over, due to the fact that the characters are improvised interpreters, as it has always been for centuries. In the new episode, however, we see a scene in which the interpreter seems to know her job, at least at the beginning (don’t worry, she’ll soon disappoint us); moreover, the scene is long enough, as you can see from the partial transcription I have included, and there are some subtitles which allow us to see the modifications introduced by the slave-interpreter. Just for those of you who don’t know the series: start watching it now! No, seriously, I will try to summarise something for you, although I know of great summaries, both on the internet and in person, and I don’t think I can get close to that. Daenerys is trying to have an army to fight against her enemies and win her kingdom back. To do that, she visits Astapor, the land of the Unsullied, the slaves famous for their skills in battle. There, she meets Kraznys mo Nakloz, the slave-trader, to obtain the soldiers she needs. It is here, during the negotiations, that we see this incredible interpreting performance. I think this example would disturb anyone with a vague idea of what interpreting is, you can imagine how I felt watching it and then attending a two hours session about interpreting protocol the day after. No wonder my friend and fellow interpreter Marta sent me a message as soon as she watched the episode, to tell me that it was interesting material for my blog. I don’t even know if there is any need to talk about the “He says” any more, I am so tired of that! The interpreter must speak in the first person when interpreting; if he/she uses the third person, it is exactly to express his/her own opinion, as in “the interpreter cannot hear the speaker”, or “the interpreter would like to ask the speaker not to read”. I am pretty sure some of you can remember me saying that more than once from the booth. The interpreter, in this episode, offers us the complete range of things not to do. She is not impartial, which is to expect, since she is the trader’s slave. The problem is that it doesn’t matter who pays you, you are invisible and impartial. And I say that keeping in mind that one of the most famous Spanish translators in Barcelona once said that, if one of the parties was in clear inferiority, he would act to favour it. With all the admiration for him, I don’t agree with this kind of conduct. But, let’s go back to our poor slave; in one of her first interventions, she shows us a great selection of don’ts: the third person, as I said, the adding information, and the expression of personal opinion. For once, you could be a good slave and don’t use your free will, and you miss the chance, well done! Her master does what any client attending trade shows organised by SOTUR does: gets lazy and asks the interpreter to answer directly. The difference is that, at SOTUR, the client at least explains the idea the first time, and you can interpret; then, you can repeat it again and again using your notes. It is not the best way of doing it, but it still is respectful enough. In the show, on the contrary, the interpreter becomes the speaker. It is not a case of culture broker, a role often used by the interpreter, when he/she explains cultural aspects quoted by the speaker; here, the mediator is the one delivering the original speech. Then, we have the apotheosis of what we don’t want to receive from the speaker, and what we should never do. I am going to repeat the interaction in here to make it clearer: “Kraznys mo Nakloz: Tell the old man he smells of piss.

Interpreter: Truly, Master?

Kraznys mo Nakloz: No, not truly! Are you a girl or a goat to ask such a thing?

“Tell the old man”? Who was absent during the pre-session, the master, who doesn’t know he has to address Daenerys, not the interpreter, or the slave, who didn’t illustrate that point? If that wasn’t enough, she brilliantly asks “Truly, Master?” Are you kidding me? Say what he said, for pity’s sake! I know that interpreting for your Master is not easy, and that few of us have the skills to do it remarkably, but you don’t even try, my poor girl!