lost in translation

The true test of mastering a language is having to translate what someone is saying into English WHILE they continue to speak in their native language. This I realized last week, while I was interpreting for a Mexican woman named Elva in a video interview done by a local aid organization, CIR. Here’s what the whole situation looked like:

Interviewer: Ask her, “What is the biggest challenge you have faced since the tornado?”

Me: “Cuál es el reto más grande que has encontrado desde el tornado?”

Elva: “Lo más difícil …emm, pues, lo difícil es…”

Me (AT THE SAME TIME): “The…most…difficult…thing. Well, what’s…hard…is…”

Elva: “Ha sido difícil encontrar trabajo, pero también fue difícil vivir sin hogar por ese tiempo después del tornado…”

Me (again, at the same time, struggling): “It has been…hard to find….a job, but also…it was hard living…without a…home…after the tornado…”

It was challenging, to say the least. But, it was also a really great experience and excellent practice translating. To think that this time last year I could barely get through an interview in Spanish, and now I can translate other people’s interviews — that’s pretty cool. Thanks to all the Mexicans and Ecuadorians who helped me out with that!

Because I’ve been studying Spanish for so long, and I now consider myself somewhat fluent, I sometimes forget what it was like to not be able to understand the language. Then I listen to something like this:

Oh yeah, now I remember.

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