Tag Archives: translation

Media (dis)trust not unique to America

The media are universally easily subject to blame. I guess it’s a good thing because it keeps us journalists in check to tell the truth.

Anyway, I had the thought today while watching a DVD of some of my interviews in Guatemala while a friend translated.

I felt very well-received by my sources in Guatemala, but he pointed out when my translators left out some doubts. None of the information was pertinent to my story, but some of it to our relations with the subjects. One man leaned forward after a question that he assumed could make his business look bad and said “What is your purpose?”

It only seems natural to be defensive, I suppose, when put in front of foreign journalists. The man in this example feared that we were trying to make his business look bad in comparison to America. This was not unique to the country I deal with these fears all the time in my interview subjects, especially those in business.

The frustration in dealing with press goes all the way to the top. I read this editorial about President Alvaro Colom getting upset with the press for accusations. The Guatemala Times offers some great (and humorous) advice:

“We know that picking a fight with the Press is a waste of energy and time. You never win anyway. There are more important things to do.”

In short, I’m not trying to screw you interviewees over (unless the truth indeed screws you), I just want to write my story truthfully.


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Filed under International Journalism

The trouble with translating culture

I’m now in the process of writing a rough draft and having trouble translating language and culture for American readers.

Not only does my story have a severe lack of quotes because I had to work through a translator, but I find myself needing to explain a lot more than I thought would be needed. Seeing things firsthand makes it easier to grasp a culture. Writing about them is a beast. I got stuck explaining pilafs today–a mere detail in my story.

As mentioned in my previous post, the global sphere of information means the need to translate ideas to other cultures. It seems that the translation problems are going both ways. I’m not the only one struggling.

Luckily, much of my information is on video tape, thanks to documentary maker Isaac Brown who worked alongside me in the field. Unfortunately, my rough draft deadline for class occurs before the tapes will arrive. Even then, I now realize that the translation of ideas is often more tricky than translation itself.

I’ve never wished more than now that I’d taken five years of Spanish instead of Latin. Then I might even have a good job lined up.

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Filed under International Journalism, My Story