Did you know that not all translations or interpretations are created equal; some require the translator or interpreter to be extremely creative and crafty in order to capture the meaning of the phrase.

I am talking about things like those listed below:

  • Words with double-meanings that may be hard to understand;
  • Metaphors, catchphrases or jargon;
  • References to something well known in your home-culture (i.e. “Dia del Muertos” in Mexico);
  • Abbreviations and acronyms; and
  • Colloquial expressions, proverbs and humour/jokes

Have you ever been at a conference with simultaneous interpretation and the speaker starts with a joke to warm up the room; however, you notice that none of the people using the headphones laugh, instead they all have poker faces and are wondering why the other attendees are laughing? If you have seen that, let me tell you a secret … the conference interpreter was not able to successfully capture the meaning of the joke and, as a result, something was “lost in interpretation”.

I will always remember my first international conference: the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference for Small and Medium Enterprises, each day for the four days of the conference, there was one speaker who decided to make jokes; I knew that I would measure my success as an interpreter by the laughter of the audience with the headphones. My secret was simple, always wait until the end of the joke and then make a similar joke that represented the idea of the punchline of the joke.

If being funny in your mother tongue is hard, can you imagine the required level of imagination and craftsmanship to be funny simultaneously in another language? In the case of translation (written text) there is more time for thinking and research; but then, the level of precision is higher too.

Can you add something else? What has been your experience in this area?

If you are looking to translate something and need some help, please contact us at info@a-zworld.ca or visit us at www.a-zworld.ca.