Monday, May 14, 2012

What happens when you just don't agree?

I realize I'm not married yet, and that I am asking for advice well in advance of my real needs. However, last week we experienced a situation that neither of us (my fiancé and I) knew how to handle. Since I do not want to get into the personal details of our lives (I promised Honey I would never do that), I will present the situation as an analogy...

We happened to find ourselves, one day, without toothpaste at home. After all the normal bickering (Honey: How can you NOT notice that we are running out of toothpaste? You know all you have to do is ask for money and I will give it to you so that you can go buy toothpaste! Me: How do YOU not notice? You brush your teeth daily, just as much as I do, and since you have the money YOU could have gone and bought it...), we decided to go together to buy the toothpaste. We quickly kissed and made up because it is stupid to quarrel over toothpaste, and it was neither of our faults. I mean, nobody wants to wake up on a Monday morning and realize that, aside from the fact that the weekend is over, there is no freaking toothpaste. No one does that on purpose. And we both should have noticed, and we both should have said something, and we both should have offered to buy it (and pay for it). So, we both made a mistake, we laughed, and enjoyed our shopping...

...until we reached the toothpaste area.

I suggested the cheap, less-than-a-Euro toothpaste. He requested Colgate. I said that was silly: the cheapy one has the same components (I actually have no idea if they do, I was just trying to make an argument to support my claim) and cost one whole Euro less. He said that Colgate was clinically tested, and that 9 out of 10 dentists recommend it (he was just reciting one of the latest ads). I said it was silly and pointless to waste "so much money" (come one, it is 85 cents versus 1,79!!) on the same crap as the cheapy stuff. He said the cheapy stuff did not make his mouth feel minty and fresh. I said he was stupid. He said I was stupid and had bad breath. I said he had badder breath (because I am mature like that). He said he would buy his own toothpaste, which I would not be allowed to use, and he would buy me whatever product I chose - and he promised not to use it. I said that was ridiculous, that we were just buying one, and that it would be the in-between brand (not the expensive Colgate, but also not the cheap knockoff). He said no, and he put his foot down. And I said yes, and put my foot down.

We left without buying anything (had to rely on gum for the rest of the day) and did not talk to each other until the next morning.

**Please let me remind you that the above story was just an analogy of the real situation... our dental hygiene is perfect and no, we do not quarrel about silly things like toothpaste. As the woman in charge of the household, I buy whatever I choose to buy with his money - and it always is Colgate.**

The issue is, what happens when you just don't agree? What happens if you both find yourselves in a situation where neither one nor the other are willing to give in? And although the above situation was just make-believe, the real Apple of Discord was just as pointless. We were not discussing children nor death wishes, nor country of residence - things that actually matter. Our discussion was as pointless and toothpaste brands. But neither of us would back down. We both believed that our "toothpaste brand" was the best for the situation. We both believe that the other's "toothpaste" was not only not the best choice, but rather the absolutely wrong choice to make. Our arguments were based on principle, on morals, on values, on experience. Both arguments were valid (of course mine was more valid) and both arguments were well supported. Both arguments made sense, and both arguments were sound and based on good facts.

But we both felt strongly enough about our toothpaste that we felt it necessary to make a stand and not back down. We felt it necessary to "fight" about it.

Of course all is well now. We settled on buying the normal Colgate, which costs 1 Euro. It is still the Colgate brand, which pleased him, but it does not have all the minty-crystal-whitening crap that not only does not work but also costs more. Everything worked out and now we are back to our pre-wedding happily ever after.

However, I know this will happen again. It won't happen over toothpaste, but it might happen over juice, or bed sheets, or beer. It will happen again, and I have to ask, all of you successfully married couples, what happens when you just do not agree with your partner?

Do you let it go and take his/her side just to bring back the peace?
Do you stick to your principles and to your argument until hell freezes over?
Do you just not talk about it in order to avoid a quarrel?
Do you write a blog about it?

This is not a rhetorical question: I seriously want to know, what happens when you just don't agree?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Translation is transmission

Michel Foucault said that he who holds the language holds the power -- and that is why translators are the people who are changing the world, and have been doing so for centuries. Millennia, even. It is not enough to posses knowledge, it is important to be able to transmit that knowledge, to share it, to teach it. The problem is that not everybody will be able to understand this knowledge, unless they, too, are in possession of the skills necessary to understand.

Translation is not just a matter of identifying the word in the source language and replacing it with the equivalent in the target language. If that were so, we translators (and I dare now include interpreters as well) would have proven to be obsolete in the late 1980s. Our success, our importance to the world, even, is the task that we perform, the impossible that we achieve: we are able to find the perfect oxymoronic juxtaposition of faithfulness and beauty in a target language from a source language.

Yes, we are geniuses. And I salute us. I salute my colleagues who have studied and learned and gone beyond the minimum requirements and survived the poor payments and bad treatments. I salute my friends who hold the power granted by polyglotism and suffer due to calloused fingertips and soar throats. Yes, my friends -- we are geniuses, and we, while holding the language, hold the power.

I invite you to read what my friend and colleague Rachel Eadie (English, Spanish, Italian) has published in the The Prisma, a multicultural UK newspaper:

The New Spanish Criminal
Photography Exhibition featuring Sex Workers
Alighiero Boetti at the Tate Modern

If you are in need a professional translation, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am sure I will be able to introduce you to a very talented translator in your area. Should your area be Germany or Colombia, I am your go-to person.