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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”.



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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.

The Strengths of AZ World

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As you might be aware, over 70% of AZ World clients are mining companies or mining industry service providers such as engineering, environmental and/or, mining software companies.  As commodity prices, particularly gold, silver and copper, have come down over the last several months to a year, we have seen our clients become more careful in the way they spend their money.

In the spirit of being cost effective, we provide the following thoughts based on our discussions with clients over the last few months. We encourage our clients and all users of translation service providers to consider these tips; and ask whether your language service provider offers you any of these items?

  • Creation of a Translation Memory for your company
    • A translation memory (TM) is a data base that grows and learns as it is fed by the translator which: allows you to never be charged at the new word rate again for segments that have already been translated; and improves the process of updating documents.
  • Translation Memory management
    • the use of a TM means that different translators can be used on a project and supports maintaining the same “voice and message” for your company.
  • Creation of glossaries and style guides for your company
  • Translations performed by a translator and edited/proof-read by a second set of eyes with experience in your industry
  • Localization and adaptation of your translation
    • a translation that might work well in Mexico but the use of the same word or phrase could either be wrong or could be an insult in South America; or
    • your target audience may read or speak in a lower register meaning that and the translation may need to be done in a very easy to understand manner.
  • Competitive and transparent rate structures
  • Fantastic quality control
    • there is a reason why we work with several of the largest mining companies in the world! Quality is a baseline expectation.
  • Excellent turn-around time for delivery of your translations projects
  • Ability to bring together teams of up to 50 translators and editors working on one single project

When to Use Consecutive or Simultaneous Interpretation

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A few weeks ago AZ World Translation and Interpretation was asked to provide a proposal for a one day work shop. The client requested consecutive interpretation (meaning that the speaker does one, two or more sentences and the interpreter repeats after that) for a full day training workshop in the use of optical networking solutions for critical communications applications.

We replied that we would not provide a quote for a full day workshop using consecutive interpretation because it was not the right way of doing it. For a training session, you have to use simultaneous interpretation (meaning that the speaker does one sentence and the interpreter goes one sentence behind repeating everything, without interruptions, usually there is an interpretation booth and the interpreters could even be outside the room, however for a small group of 3 as it was in this case it can be done by whispering).

The client asked us why we refused to do the cheaper option of the consecutive interpretation and our answer was that it was not right to do consecutive. The best example I can come up with is you do not sell a 2000 computer for 2016 technology. Though that technology can do the work it is not right for the client needs. It was during the Nuremberg trials that simultaneous interpretations was chosen as the right way of interpreting conferences and AZ World was not going to go backwards!

To summarize:

  • Consecutive works great for a Q/A period and simultaneous interpretation works better for a conference, presentation, training session, etc.
  • Translators and interpreters/translations agencies have the duty of keeping our clients updated on what goes on the translation and interpretation world and should pass the benefits of our learning and discoveries to our clients.

Any thoughts? Do you want to share your experience?


“You’re Welcome” or “Not a Problem”

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I am a member of “Generation X”, meaning that I was born in the late 1960’s after the World War II “Baby Boomers”; during my schooling in Latin America I was taught that to answer “not a problem” was impolite and that “you’re welcome” was the better response. Today, that is not necessarily the case; in fact, to answer “not a problem” is the preferred way of answering for “Millennials”, the generation born after the early 1980’s through the early 2000’s.

As a linguist, I can only add that if I have to choose one way over the other, I will always choose “you’re welcome” if the text is polite, the register is high and the target audience is educated and born before 1970.  I might choose to use “not a problem” if the audience is younger, or it is an informal reply in a blog.

Sometimes in translation there is not a single right or wrong answer, it all depends on your target audience and whether we want the language to look and feel either “old fashioned” or “avant garde”.

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