Monthly Archives: April 2016

Interpretation, Viagra and the Mother-In-Law

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I would like to share with you the Friday´s funnies … somethings translators can laugh or cry about, or both laugh and cry about!

I invite clients and translators to share their funny translation and interpretation stories.  But please, protect the innocent … we are telling stories without pointing fingers.


If you wonder what the connection is between these three things, I will do my best to explain.

For 10 years, I did over-the-telephone interpretations for one of the largest and best companies in the United States.  I interpreted everything: court hearings, births, immigration raids, and 911 calls; if you can imagine a subject, I interpreted it!  But when I think about what was my funniest interpretation moment, it was by far the “Viagra” call.

I had been booked to interpret a medical intake questionnaire on a quiet Friday afternoon during the summer and I was in the middle of it when my parents-in-law unexpectedly showed up in my office. I politely asked them with my finger to my lips to be quiet and to sit down.  But my mother-in-law, a nurse, then in her mid-seventies, could not stop listening to the back and forth of the interpretation.  The patient, a male in his late 60’s, was explaining with the most embarrassing and graphic details you can imagine how the medicine he had been taking had improved his sexual performance even more than the famous blue pill had ever done and how happy he was making his wife at this stage of his life!  My mother-in-law started laughing and chuckling on hearing this, and was starting to make me laugh until I realized that my only escape was for me to run and hide in the bathroom.  Of course, she followed me until I closed the door in her face.  My duty was to keep my cool and be professional and, my mother-in-law’s duty, of course, was her “need” to hear the end of the story.  Finally, the call ended, and I was able to get out of the bathroom with my pride intact while my mother-in-law’s disappointment showed on her face for not having heard the end of the man´s story.

If you thought that was the end of the story, you are wrong!  What are the chances that my in-laws would once again show up unannounced a few months later when I was doing a follow-up call with the same patient, “Viagra man”.  Well, it happened, and thankfully this time, I was almost all finished with the call when they arrived.

One of the funny things here was that my in-laws can barely utter “hi” in Spanish but in case of “need” they found a way to understand!  As you know, when there is a will, there is a a way to understand; and in this case, it was the word “Viagra”.


Quickly Tell if You Have a Good Translation

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How do you know if you have a good translation in your hands?

Because the text you have is precise, concise and clear.

What does precise mean? It means that the chosen terminology is correct. In order to know what you chose is correct, you need both experience and good research skills.

What does concise mean? It means that since the right terminology was used, you do not need to explain the terms. This is a two for one savings.

What does clear mean? It means that you cannot determine that the document was a translation, it sounds and flows naturally in the target language.

No excuses – Sin excusas

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I was having a cup of tea with the mother of a seven year old when she said that her child’s teacher had mentioned that he should be a medical doctor because he was a sweet, smart and very interested in the well-being of others. I said that would be fantastic, to which the proud mother added:

“Good luck with that because Canadian universities prefer females and non-Caucasian kids or immigrants”.

I was shocked by that comment because:

  1. I felt that she was already making excuses by blaming the sex of her child and the immigrants in case 12 to 16 years into the future, her son in did not make it into medical school, or wherever career he chooses, instead of helping him to work harder to get there so he could succeed in a highly competitive world.
  2. I am an immigrant who created AZ World Translation from scratch and has volunteered since my arrival to Canada. I am proud to have received one of the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards for 2015, and I think it totally not fair to say that immigrants are taking the place in Universities of Canadian born kids instead of saying that they were not accepted.

I want to share my experience with two immigrant families that have moved to my neighbourhood.

Three years ago, a Mexican family moved in next door with 3 young, smart girls. One girl not only received the Grade 12 Arts Award from her local high school, but she also received the Grade 12 English Award in only her second year of learning English.  After graduation, she was accepted into one of the top Art programmes in Canada.  Her two sisters are also both doing great at their schools too.

A year later, another family of immigrants moved into the neighbourhood two blocks away.  The oldest girl went into grade 11 where she achieved an average grade of 93% in her first year of high school in Canada. This year, in the first semester of grade 12, she obtained an average grade of 97%.  On top of that, she is attending the Culinary Art program at a local college every day after school, except one day a month.  Each Saturday and Sunday, she works unpaid in a local high-end restaurant as part of her course practicum.  If you thought that is enough, you are wrong; the one day a month she has free, she volunteers serving food in a soup kitchen on Vancouver’s East side.  She wants to be a medical doctor.

I recently read a report that there are 45 million people who either have filed applications or would like to immigrate to Canada; this means that the competition is only going to become even harder/more fierce at all levels.

If I have to choose who is going to be my doctor when I am sick, chances are that I will chose my neighbour because they or their parents were not making excuses for her to reach the top.

Who would you choose?


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I would like to share with you the Friday´s funnies … somethings translators can laugh or cry about, or both laugh and cry about!

I invite clients and translators to share their funny translation and interpretation stories.  But please, protect the innocent … we are telling stories without pointing fingers.



(A certified translator who was also a lawyer in his native country)

AZ World:  What happened that I do not see the opening Spanish question marks (¿) and exclamation points (¡) and why are the accents missing?

Translator:  Oh, I charge extra for accents and those special characters since it takes me longer to WRITE THEM!


(A software company in need of translation for their software user interface, blogs and website)

Client:  How much would you charge for everything you see on our website, some of our blogs, as well as parts of our software?

AZ World:  You need to be able to provide us with the material for translation.  We cannot guess what you need to have translated!

Client:  Really, are you incapable of looking at everything and just providing me a quote?  I do not have time to provide you with what I need to have translated, I am the president of the company and I am a busy man!


(Supply chain agent from a large mining company)


Client:  The quality of your translation is appalling. We make a lot of changes and you should give us a discount of at least 50%.

AZ World:  We looked at the edited document you sent and saw you made 7 changes total.  We noted 5 times in the 27 pages that you changed “however” for “notwithstanding“; while the other two changes correspond to a verb that in Spanish should be left in the subjunctive tense.

Client:  If my administrative clerk who can speak some Spanish says that you are wrong, you are wrong.  You should pay me for my time for this, so expect my invoice.

Questions to Ask before Choosing a Translator or Agency

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Finding the right team to translate your company’s documents and material shouldn’t be difficult or stressful but, on the other hand, it should not be taken lightly because you only have one opportunity to make a good first impression in another language.

The following are questions you need to ask before engaging a translator or translation company:

  • What are the translator’s or agency’s areas of expertise? Can they provide you with a partial client list that has companies similar to your company?

Always aim to work with professionals that have specialized in your industry/area. Request the resumes of the team that would oversee your project and always check the track record of your language service provider.

  • Ask for the years of experience of the team that will work on your project?

Always ask how long has the translator been working as a professional translator? Ask how many words have they translated in your industry/area? Ask if they have been involved in similar projects?

  • Ask if the language provider is only using native speakers?

When you check the translator’s resume, check to see whether the translator only works into their native or dominant language.  Usually, a translator will have a dominant language and one or two languages from which he/she translates from.

  • Ask how long does it take to translate a document?

A translator’s final quality output is usually 2,000 words per day.  The more complicated the document, the more complexities in the format, the more junior the translator, the more edits made, the longer the translation will take.  On the other hand, if the translator can translate the subject in their sleep, the project will go faster and with fewer bumps.

  • Ask what will the translation cost?

The cost is usually per word or a set fee per project for small documents (at AZ World we like to charge a fixed amount per word) and we base the word count according to what our computer assisted translation software, Studio 2015, provides us.

One last thing, there is no such thing as a “perfect translation” in the same way that not two people will see beauty in the same way.  There are, however, good and bad translations, and there are errors and horrors in translation!  You can manage both of these by choosing the right translator at the beginning.

What do you think?

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