Thursday, September 13, 2007

Political TV Spanish: Lost in Translation

I watched the debate, or Forum, that Univision simultaneously translated from English to broadcast in Spanish. I watched it with a Latin friend. She speaks Spanish at home and gets her news from Spanish-language TV. At the first commercial break, I asked her what she thought. “I can’t understand what they are saying,” she replied.

I watched = miré, you can also use the verb ver = to see. Vi = I saw. More often used to question: ¿Viste el debate? = Did you watch the debate? Mirar = to look, as in ¡mira! = Look!

Broadcast = transmitir. To ask what are they showing on TV = ¿Qué pasan en la tele? Or ¿qué dan? Pasar = to pass. Dar = to give.

News = las noticias (the news broadcast). A piece of news = la noticia.
Commercial break = anuncio. Other words used for commercials = propaganda, promoción, publicidad (not to be confused with publicity = dar publicidad, reportaje, relaciones públicas.)

Ask = preguntar. I asked her = Le pregunté. Le = her, him (indirect object pronoun). Preguntar is used to inquire. To ask for something = pedir.

Reply = replicar, contestar.

She found particularly difficult to understand Senator Dodd and Governor Richardson. Ironically both candidates are fluent in Spanish. In fact Governor Richardson protested: "I'm disappointed today that 43 million Latinos in this country, for them not to hear one of their own speak Spanish, is unfortunate. In other words, Univision is promoting English-only in this debate." I can just imagine what he’d say seeing himself lost in the translation. The governor of New Mexico is not afraid to use colorful language when ticked off.

Found = encontró.
Fluent in Spanish = habla bien español, habla perfectamente, dominan el español. Never translate literally fluent as fluente = streaming, flowing.

Disappointed = desilusionado, defraudado.
One of their own = uno de ellos.
Unfortunate = lamentable, deplorable, desafortunado (can connote bad luck).
In other words = es decir (that is to say), en otras palabras.
Promote = defiende, fomenta, promueve.
Lost = perdido. It’s used both literally, estoy perdido en la ciudad = I am lost in the city; and figuratively, as when confronted with fast-paced Spanish, referred to as machine-gun Spanish, and raising your hands you say: Estoy perdido. For emphasis: Estoy totalmente perdido/a. For those desperately in love = estoy perdidamente enamorado/a.
Ticked off = enojado, irritado, molesto. Molestar = is to bother, to upset, not to confused with the false cognate to molest = violar, ultrajar.

Here are three examples of the Spanish rendition: Aclararlo muy claro (clearly clarify it.) Las causas por la emigración (the cause causing emigration) instead of las causas de la inmigración (the causes for immigration) and si usted tiene que escoger entre un empleo y un programa de salud nunca obtenrda los dos (if you have to chose between a health program and a job, you will never get both.)

Redundancy = redundancia, redundante. When a redundancy is unavoidable, or you catch yourself in the act, you can say: valga la redundancia (for what the redundancy is worth.)
Incoherence = incoherencia.
Por = because of, when followed by a noun. Por los votos mintió = because of the vote he/she lied.

Eduardo Gamarra, Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean studies at Florida International University, who led a focus group of young Hispanic Democrats, told me that he too had trouble understanding Senator Obama, and wondered how many Hispanic viewers simply turned off the TV frustrated.

Who led = quien dirigió. Leader = dirigente, líder.
Focus group = grupo focal (mercadeo), grupo de discusión.
Told me = me dijo.
Too = también. Yo también = me too.
Trouble = dificultad, problema.
Wondered = se preguntaba (asked himself)
Viewers = televidentes, espectadores.
Turn off = apagar. Turned off = apagaron.

Other language rarities my friend found incomprehensible: Romper la brecha en el desempeño... She asked: “How does one break a gap?” Maybe the candidate was talking about the performance gap in education, I suggested, which should have been translated as disparidades en la educación entre los varios grupos étnicos. And she asked: “Did he just say no es debido levantar un muro (it’s not allowed to build a wall.)” Probably what he meant was it’s not right, I said, or it’s useless. But when Senator Clinton said: descanso médico para las familias (medical rest for families) I too was baffled. Did Senator Clinton mean Americans needed a break from doctors?

Romper = to break, to tear.
Brecha = gap.
Baffled = perplejo.

Professor Gamarra and I coincided that Univision must be commended for organizing the debate. I’m sure it was not easy to gather the Democratic candidates. The Republicans, with the exception of John McCain, declined the invitation. We are living political times marked by ethnical polarization. Many have chose to make Hispanics the escape goat, an enemy to distract public opinion from the real issues: the onerous war in Iraq, the mortgage crisis, a chaotic health system, rising school-dropout rates. But my focus is limited to language. In that sense, the simultaneous translation was deficient. Simultaneous translation is nothing new. Univision, the Spanish-language giant, could have invested enough money to get first-rate interpreters.

Must be = debe ser.
Commended = aplaudida.
I’ sure = estoy seguro/a.
Gather = reunir.
Decline = no aceptar, rechazar.
Escape goat = chivo exculpatorio (the expression is rarely used). More common expression are: un pretexto, una puerta de escape (an escape door).
Issues = asuntos, tópicos, los sujetos, los temas.
Mortgage crisis = la crisis hipotecaria. Mortgage = hipoteca.
Dropout rates = índice de deserción escolar.
Focus = enfoque.
Could have invested = pudo haber invertido. Invest = invertir.
First-rate = de primera.

Most of my bilingual friends did what I did. One could hear the candidate’s own words over the simultaneous translation, making an esfuerzo intensivo (intensive effort-another pearl the simultaneous interpreters gave us). I concentrated intensively, and assumed my friend’s silence meant she finally felt comfortable with the Spanish rendition. But my friend had taken a medical rest and was fast asleep.

Did what I did = hicieron lo que hice yo.
Hear = oir. Escuchar = to listen. No oigo = I can’t hear. Escucho música = I listen to music.
Great effort = gran esfuerzo.
Felt = se sentía. The reflexive form is used to express a state of mind. Sentía = she felt physically. Sentía dolor = she felt pain.
Rendition = versión.
Fast asleep = profundamente dormida.

No comments: