The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

Simultaneous translation

Slate has a neat piece about simultaneous translation at the United Nations. I’m fascinated by translation, especially in super-high-stakes situations—nuclear treaty negotiations, for instance. It’s these supremely powerful dudes (mostly dudes) bargaining over matters existential, and yet, wow, those translators have a lot of power.

I gave a presentation at an advertising conference in Paris, and not only was I simultaneously translated into French—my translator was a woman! I realize this is totally normal, but it felt like a really low-key kind of cross-dressing. The presentation was—you will not find this surprising—all about the future, and full of invented neologisms. I said hi to my translator afterwards. She laughed and shook her head: “That was hard!”


One time I witnessed a really surprising translation at a post-performance discussion. It was a dance company from Africa (this was in Berlin), and the translator basically refused to translate a question related to colonialism. People in the audience started shouting “that’s not what the question was!” and getting really riled up. At the end, one of the festival organizers came up and explained that the translator had had a really long day and was really tired, but it seemed like it was a political issue. I’d never seen a translator act so unprofessionally!

Flying along on an Aeroflot flight from Norilsk to Moscow in 1988, I noticed my translator Andre deeply engrossed in an American thriller novel.

I asked him if he was a fan of the author.

“Not at all,” he replied. He was only reading the genre to make sure he stayed up to date on common idioms, etc.

I was impressed.

The snarkmatrix awaits you

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