Happy Interpreter

Happy Interpreter

Random thoughts on interpreting, translation, language, and happiness. Any comments, questions, suggestions? Feel free to contact me: @kusznir You can support this channel here: https://www.patreon.com/happyinterpreter
​​Merry Yuletide!

Yep, that's the original name of the Northern European hibernal solstice holiday [season], which was later christened as Christmas.

In fact, many Northern European countries still use a version of the word Yule even when they mean a Christian holiday. The same root word is used for their "Santas" — the Finnish Joulupukki is a case in point.

Interestingly, fir-trees are the traditional element of yule celebration, hence their Slavic names (ёлка, ялина, jodła...), and they don't exactly match with a Christian holiday. For instance, the Bible explicitly warns against the worthlessness of "cutting a tree out of the forest" and "adorning it with silver and gold" (see Jeremiah 10:3-4).

May your 2020 be filled with so much warmth and light that Greta Tunberg will have to come and shout at you personally!

And in case you are interested, I'm not intending any kind of "digital detox" this holiday season, so you are more than welcome to expect some good posts quite soon.
12/25/2019 1:53:20 AM
The Great Translator

Just a brief eye-opener from the Kyiv International Economic Forum: did you know that the first business launched by Jack Ma was a... translation agency?

I didn't.

Sure, I know that translation and interpreting helps to build bridges between nations and business, and that's one of the reasons for which I work in this field. But even I sometimes need a little reminder of how important those bridges can be. Cheers!
11/8/2019 5:38:22 PM
Interpreting Workshop 

Dear subscribers! I know I could inform you earlier, and still: it looks like I'm doing a simultaneous interpreting workshop today, at 7 pm, in America House, Kyiv.
It's a big too late to register, but if you really-really want to take part, I believe there's always some room for one more person to squeeze in. What's also important, the workshop is free.

Interestingly, this is what they write in the announcement:
"You’ll be introduced to the equipment with the help of the professional translator, who will cover most of the content, methodology, share her own experience and tips as well as pitfalls"

Which brings us back to our discussion of the feminine side that every interpreter must have :)

P. S. Interestingly, today Artemy Lebedev Studio has published another funny pic I've provided, this time a Bulgarian one. And again, it is published with the same inscription: "Прислала Happy Interpreter". Oh my...
9/24/2019 8:47:14 PM
​​[Meat] Mincer

Ok, bagels seem to win — at least for a while, at least here :)

Some subscribers messaged me with other ways to say the same thing, e.g. "to put bread on the table," and I totally agree. Just as there are many ways to skin a cat, a good interpreter usually has numerous ways to translate a sentence, and makes such choices almost instinctively, sometimes with subtle gravitation towards certain options for personal reasons.

Now, let's consider an entirely different situation, when certain words and meanings are substituted consciously and on purpose. This is best exemplified by religious environments.

The followers of the Hare Krishna movement, for instance, do not eat meat for religious reasons, to the extent of being uncomfortable with the word "meat" itself, especially when pronounced in the temple kitchen. So, what do they do when they have to use a [meat] mincer, which is "мясорубка" in Russian, and which doesn't make much sense without the "meat" part? Well, they've invented their own word!

To understand the Russian Hare Krishna word for a mincer, you'll need to know one more word from their daily life: "Hari bol," or simply "haribol." Technically, it means "sing the Name of the Lord Hari;" in practice, it can mean anything, from "I'm so excited!" to "hey dude, what the fork are you doing there?!" 

Unsurprisingly, their word for a [meat] mincer is... haribolka.

If you think religion is the only field for such linguistic sorcery, that's far from the case. Marketing, propaganda, social justice warfare are just some of the many fields in which similar tricks are commonplace.

A careful client will provide you with a glossary of their preferred terminology. A careless client will just expect you to "become one of them" and guess everything on your own.
8/19/2019 7:17:06 PM
​​Bring Home the... Bagels?

A week ago, at the UTICamp-2019 my colleague and I interpreted for quite an unusual round table (which, as the participants noted, wasn't really round and didn't feature any table at all): founders of major translation agencies and language service providers openly shared the stories of the humble beginnings of their companies.

In particular, one of them mentioned (in Russian) that he had to do a certain office job in his younger years — without much passion, mainly out of duty, as a breadmaker of his family.

...but I had to bring home the bacon, — said my colleague in the booth, a wonderful interpreter from Lviv.

I quickly realized 2 things:

1️⃣ I surely understood that expression; most probably I had heard or read it before.
2️⃣ If it were my turn to interpret, I'd most surely phrase it in some other way.

That's the unconscious influence of being a mostly-vegetarian for almost 15 years )))

Interestingly, I'm not the only one who cringes at "bringing home the bacon," or, say, "more than one way to skin a cat." Last year, PETA suggested an entire list of more animal-friendly alternatives for well-known English phrases. While in some cases they promoted already existing althernatives (e.g. "to spill the beans" for revealing a secret), more often then not they tried to coin new alternatives based on word similarities (e.g. "to feed a fed horse"), and were widely criticized for that by the internet community at large. For instance, check out the diatribe by this guy and try to count how many animal idoms he managed to squeeze together!

Still, "bringing home the bagels" sounds kind of cute, doesn't it? :)

Which option do you prefer? If the Jewish bakery gets more votes, I'll tell you one more funny case of vegetarian word use.
8/2/2019 8:11:04 PM
​​Dog Days of Summer

Yesterday, I was quite lucky: I only had some remote interpreting to do, so I didn't have to rush anywhere through the melting-hot day. It was so hot and stuffy, that I spontaneously recalled some hot-day vocab. Here it is:

Balmy = weather that is so pleasant that it is positively therapeutic. If you go to Machu Picchu to celebrate the New Year, you're hoping for some balmy weather.

Blistering = extremely hot; hot enough to form blisters.

Dog days [of summer] = the hottest, most uncomfortable sultry summer days in the Northern Hemisphere. The name hails from a certain astrological period, which the ancient Greeks and Romans connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck. To memorize the phrase better, please see the illustration in the end.

Muggy = a combination of humidity and heat that makes you sweaty and uncomfortable and long for air-conditioning.

To scorch = to burn something fiercely, to the point where its surface — your face, prairie grass, a steak on the grill — chars or otherwise changes color.

Stifling = something that makes you feel suffocated, either physically or psychologically. E.g. the weather characterized by oppresive heat and humidity.

Sweltering = uncomfortably hot and damp. On a sweltering day, the intense heat sends everyone to the pool or beach for some relief. You might even find yourself spontaneously singing, "Всі кияни йдуть на Гідропарк," or recalling some heat-related vocab.

P. S. The day before yesterday, I actually had to go to work. Thanks to that, I've made this iconic photo of a dog carelessly chilling in a puddle in one of Kyiv's major squares. Awesome, isn't it?
7/31/2019 4:27:08 PM
​​MMM: Meaning Makes Money 

Many speakers of the PechaKucha at UTIC-2019 noted that social media blogging can take quite a lot of time. What's more, in most cases it doesn't bring many new clients (at least, in the short run). Why bother then?

There's at least one solid reason: explaining stuff to others enables deeper understanding and internalization. Really; this is why I used to teach languages!

Here is a secret for you: success in the profession comes not from finding yet another client. Success comes from working long enough reasonably well – and then, in some miraculous way, work starts looking for you.

Without telling others about interpreting/translation, some colleagues "lose the spark". Instead, they start housing doubts and insecurity. Before long, they may start believing that:

� interpreting/translation is dull and uninspiring
� they are not making any important decisions
� they are not earning good money
� and other ideas, dubious to say the least

As a result, such a person may quit. And while I'm genuinely happy for those who find something better in life, in many cases people settle for something that's in fact much less profitable/exciting/fulfilling.

From Emotional Equasions, an awesome book by Chip Conley, we learn the following simple math:

Despair = Suffering – Meaning

Indeed, in interpreting/translation, just like in any other business, you are likely to meet people trying to mistreat you, deceive you, harass or abuse you. You'll see equipment breaking, trains getting late, and traffic jams all around. But when you discover some meaning to what you are doing, a reasonable amount of "suffering" is sort of ok – it even makes life more interesting. Indeed, finding some sense can make even very unfortunate circumstances bearable – Victor Frankl, the famous concentration camp survivor, is a case in point here (check out his short book, Man's Search for Meaning).

Now, there are many ways to discover (or create) meaning. Simple journaling/freewriting is not bad; but posting your text for external audience is like freewriting on steroids �

Brief takeaway: whatever you do in life, ask yourself, what's the meaning and purpose behind that, what's your motivation – and then try to explain your reasons to others. And it's highly advisable for those "others" to be not [only] your current and potential clients.
7/26/2019 8:03:01 PM
Ignite Talks

Last week, when getting ready for PechaKucha at UTICamp-2019, several interpreters and translators — me included — were asking one and the same question: how can one possibly fit anything meaningful into 6 minutes and 40 seconds?!

Little did we know that PechaKucha is not the most laconic of popular formats: Ignite Talks give each speaker exactly 5 minutes for the same 20 slides :))

Interestingly, both formats were invented before 2010, when I even discovered TED!

When it comes to Ukraine, TEDx has quite a long history and broad geography here; PechaKucha has had as many as 27 editions in Kyiv. Meanwhile, Ignite still appears to be something foreign: the only evidence I could find of any Ignite Talks in Ukraine comes from a recent IT event.

BTW, a small hint if you are an interpreter getting ready for an IT event: watch their Ignite Talks — not that much for fun or inspiration, but rather to make sure you understand every word and the general train of thought. 5 minutes is a time limit too tight to go into unnecessary detail, but if some concept comes up even there, you need to have at least some general idea of what that is. Frankly, even as someone with an IT degree, I was taken by surprise a couple of times.
7/20/2019 6:57:22 PM
Relentless Anxiety

YouTube videos on interpreting and translation in Ukrainian are rather scarce. If I find one, I can easily forgive some small drawbacks, e.g. imperfections in sound recording.

That's especially true for "Heпозбувна бентега", the legendary Arsenal discussion named after an iconic Ukrainian translation meme.

It's been there for over two years, but for some reason I only discovered it last week. The sound... will make you feel you are actually there :) 

Also, check out the other translation-related videos posted by Mystetskyi Arsenal on their channel.
7/6/2019 12:14:24 AM
​​Week Commencing

Many years ago, while reading Though the Language Glass by Guy Deutscher, I learned how language – or, to be more precise, culture – can make some people develop certain “superpowers.” E.g. indigenous people of some-land-far-away could easily define compass directions, because their language pushed them to do so. Rather than going left or right (relative directions) they would go east or west (absolute directions). This didn't really work outside of their homeland (some quite small islands), and still, I was impressed.

Recently, I’ve discovered that people speaking corporate English can have a similar superpower. The thing is, in big international organizations and corporations they often measure – and allocate – their working time in weeks. Now comes the surprising part: the weeks are numbered, from 1 to 52. In business letters, instead of “the first week of July” one often writes week 27.

The superpower I’m speaking about is knowing exactly which days of which month(s) they mean even without looking at the calendar!

For speakers of British English, including those from the former British colonies, there’s a more “human” way to do the same: w/c. No, that’s not exactly water closet in this case. It’s week commencing. Thus, week 27 becomes w/c 1st July. 

If you ever need to convert a regular date into weeks or back, check out this simple website: www.whatweekisit.org
7/2/2019 3:30:04 AM
​​Serendipitous Patriotism

This is yet another self-denigrating story: I’m going to tell you of a very noticeable slip of the tongue that happened during my consecutive interpretation last week. Interestingly, it brought me a round of applause.

A bit of back story for those of you who don’t know me IRL: I’m a taciturn person of quite a Finnish temperament, and I look a bit Finnish, too. I visited Finland twice and felt at home. Though my knowledge of the language hardly went beyond the words sauna, linja-autoasema, and kiitos, I liked lots of their music – and the music of the language itself – so I kept listening to Finnish radio long after my Finnish voyages. To the best of my knowledge, I have no Finnish ancestors, but in some metaphorical, figurative sense it’s not too big of a stretch for me to imagine that I’m a Finn, or that my native country is Finland. And this is exactly what pulled a stunt on me a couple of days ago.

I was interpreting for a lady from Visit Finland. It went like this:

The speaker: [begins her presentation with a well-known fact about Finland]
Me, in Russian: As you may know, for the second year in a row, the happiest country in the world is UKRAINE…

Of course, I corrected myself immediately. But the audience liked my mistake more than the truth. I got a round of applause.

If you find this story entertaining, press the smile.
If you want another story of serendipitous patriotism – back from my university days – press the flag.
6/15/2019 7:23:15 PM
Equanimity for Interpreters and Everyone Else

One of the things people keep asking me about is how to deal with anxiety while interpreting. While part of the answer is surely honing up one’s interpreting skill, another thing I find useful is mindfulness meditation.

I meditated almost daily since September 2015 till early 2018, and recently resumed the practice thanks to a subscriber of this channel. Unexpectedly, I quickly found the practice contributing to my interpreting career. Interestingly, my intuitive finding was later confirmed by the famous interpreter and educator Andrei Falaleyev. In his 6th textbook, Камея (2017) he included some meditation instructions accompanied with explanations why this thing might be worth your time and effort.

My story with mindfulness meditation started from the enthralling and compelling book 10% Happier by Dan Harris, a memoir-like narration of how a TV anchor and reporter started practicing. In late 2017, Dan came up with another book, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics (co-authored with Jeff Warren and Carlye Adler), by which he tackles some of the challenges and objections that unnecessarily preclude thousands of people from reaping the benefits of regular practice.

In short, if you can read Russian and would like to check out Falaleyev’s introduction and instructions, drop me a line, and I’ll copy that page for you. If you can’t read Russian, you probably have no idea who is Falaleyev anyway – but I can retell his argument here if you want :)

In any case, here’s Dan Harris sharing his story in Yale. Enjoy watching.
6/11/2019 2:18:53 PM
Happy Birthday to... Me? 

I had my birthday yesterday. The best way to celebrate is, of course, to interpret till 9:30 pm, and that's exactly what I did. 

But intead of speaking of work, I'd rather describe an unusual birthday present I've got. A subscriber asked me whether I had a Patreon account; thanks to her, now I have one, and this channel already has the first patron. 

My account is of the simplest kind, with no "tiers," no bells and whistles. Those who want to support the channel, select an amount, and then it is recurrently charged from your account to Patreon, on a monthly basis. 

To get to know most of my audience, I had to pay for advertising at some point. It's a tricky thing: some of "subscribers" one gets in such a way are merely bots that unsubscribe soon after, but if for a hundred of bots I finally get to meet a real person like you -- I didn't mind the extra expenses. From now on, anyone can help me with those. 

The three best birthday presents I'd appreciate are the following:

1️⃣ Write to me if you haven't done sone so yet: @kusznir. Next month I'm going to do a presentation about this channel, and I'd like to include a slide on the diverse professions and occupations of my readers, as well as their geography of residence or work. So please, tell me where you are and what you do. Also, this a wonderful occasion to let me know what you'd like to read about!

2️⃣ If you like this channel, or any particular post -- please, share it with your friends, whether in real life or on social media. 

3️⃣ Again, only if you want to do so: support the channel with your $ on Patreon. This will help to partly cover my advertising expenses. For one-time donations, I also have a PayPal account, and if you are in Ukraine, there's always @PrivatBankBot for you. Again, my channel is very democratic; even without any donations, you are getting the same opportunities as big donors :) Cheers!
6/5/2019 6:50:02 PM
One More Reason to Deplore Brexit

Let's begin with a quote from John Oliver's show:

"Brexit — I believe, is short for 'brain exit,' the official word for when everything that makes sense goes out of the window and everyone is just stupid all the time."

While I do appreciate all the good things coming from the European Union, its language quite often seems to be a mixture of legalese and officialese. The Brits, the only EU nation for which the English language is truly native, often were the only beacons of style and taste in the dark sea of bureaucracy. This is especially true for their diplomats, lawyers, government officials, military officers, scientists, etc. — the educated folks, I mean. If Brexit entails the loss of this style, EU, I'm afraid, will be left devoid of the major part of its charm, its gravity and grace. I wonder why this huge peril is often overlooked or, at best, deemed an afterthought in discussions about Brexit.

To see the British magic in practice, let's take one example: a lawyer elaborating on some EU legislation changes. It's not a well-known speaker, not some popular video — the only reason I discovered it was getting ready for an event. But man, was it worth it!

It's not just about the accent. Take a look at the little tidbits of language the lawyer inserts here and there throughout her presentation:

lo and behold
fair few of you
music to one's ears
to get out of jail free
to vary wildly
borne out in practice
[annexes] sitting there in the back
of a kind
earlier on
a little caveat

Also, the video contains a cute slip of the tongue. There are two expressions in English: "dry as dust" and "dull as ditchwater." At some point the speaker accidentally mixes the two together, and says "dry as ditchwater," — which is absolutely hilarious — yet quickly corrects herself.

And one more little gem. For years my friends and I admired the figurative word "пробуксовывать" in Falaleyev's translations from English into Russian. OK, but what's the beautiful word to translate this concept back into English? Now I know: slippage. Thank you, Claire Dwyer.
6/4/2019 3:01:02 PM
Farewell to Olha Seniuk

Last weekend, Olha Seniuk, a legendary Ukrainian translator, bid adieu to this prosaic world, thus joining her husband, translator Yevhen Popovych, in eternity. Olha died on the day of her birthday – she just turned 90.

Olha worked with a whole bunch of Germanic languages: English, Danish, Islandic, Norwegian, and Swedish. Among other authors, she translated Astrid Lindgren, Selma Lagerlöf, and Tove Jansson.

If you've got a copy of any work of literature translated by Olha, leaf through its pages. Or better yet, find a translator who's still alive and hug them.

P. S. If you'd like to know more on Olha's story, check out this wonderful article by BBC Ukraine.
6/3/2019 4:42:32 PM

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