Tuesday, December 18, 2012

vivir bien vs. el buen vivir

living well vs living the good life (or living the high life if you want the distinction to be super clear)
This is a distinction frequently made by movements in Latin America.  Today I saw it oddly translated here, in an article that says,
"Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, called for a new age to begin December 21, 2012. Speaking at the United Nations in September, Morales said the date signals an end to individualism and capitalism and a turn toward the collective good. That's a common theme for Morales, who often speaks of 'vivir bien,' a phrase that can be translated as living well. 'Vivir bien' is often defined by the Andean nation's leaders as pursuing the collective good in balance with the Earth, and contrasted with 'living better,' which is seeking to amass wealth at the expense of the planet or other people 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

the most basic thing you need to know before interpreting

At this year's vigil to close the School of the Americas I helped to coordinate a fantastic team of professional interpreters who donated their services.  There were also several groups who preferred to have their own staff organizers interpret for folks, so I again had the chance to listen to activists interpret consecutive into English who have been thrown into interpreting with no training.  I totally get that groups want to control the message, and feel like their staff will have better rapport with the speaker, but I was reminded of two serious mistakes that untrained interpreters commonly make.

The first mistake comes off to me as a lack of respect for the speaker's voice.  These activists added things to what the speaker had said. Perhaps because they knew the details and thought it would make a more compelling story, or in one case the interpreter tried to express that he was speaking in his own voice as he added a campaign ask, but he didn't know third person rule.  Now really, it's not usually appropriate for the interpreter to add anything, even in this way, but if he HAD to, he could have said "the interpreter would like to add that ... (eg. this information is available in English at the website x)".  If the interpreter needs to ask for a repetition this should also be requested in third person (eg, the interpreter requests a repetition).

This leads me to the second common mistake I saw, which is slipping into third person for NOT that reason.  Most activists thrown into interpreting seem to know you're not supposed to say "he said, she said" - but still strangely fall back into it from time to time - particularly in the Q & A.  The reason this is like nails on the chalkboard to me is that it weakens the speaker's voice dramatically. 

Please, if you ever hear folks making these mistakes in social justice settings, take a minute to remind them that the best way to respect the speaker and amplify their voice is to not add to, omit from, or otherwise change the message of the speaker, and to use the first person unless they are referring to themselves, in which case to use "the interpreter".

(photo is of me interpreting on stage at the vigil for Martin Almada - thanks to my mom for making us fantastic red interpreter vests that made us easy to identify!)

Monday, December 3, 2012

intro shpiel about how the interpreting will work in social justice contexts

Here is a sample shpiel I made up for use this year at the workshops held as part of the vigil to close the School of the Americas.  This is for a workshop with simultaneous into English and consecutive into Spanish.  We did pull off a few two way simultaneous workshops (which require more headsets), and used a different shpiel for those.  After the vigil I was left feeling like this shpiel was particularly important for workshops where there was a lot of Q & A.  For short workshops with less Q and A and time constraints you could get away with just emphasizing the hand signals to the speaker beforehand. 

Intro shpiel 
(be sure your compa is interpreting simultaneously into Spanish as you give this)

Hi my name is _____, my compa _______ and I will be interpreting for this meeting. We will be doing interpreting simultaneously into Spanish, with headsets, and consecutively into English, out loud.  We are providing interpreting as much for those of you who are limited Spanish speakers as for those of you who are limited English speakers.  We are committed to making all of our spaces at the vigil more and more bilingual, because our movement stretches across the Americas.  The more bilingual our movement is, the stronger we are and the more meaningful our solidarity can be.

A successful bilingual environment depends on all of us, not just the interpreters.  You can help by keeping a few things in mind. We will do our best to interpret everything that is said without adding, deleting, or changing the message.  So we can interpret accurately it is important that everyone speaks loudly and at a moderate pace.  Please watch the interpreters; if we can’t hear you, this means speak up (both hands palm up, move hands up several times).  If you are speaking in English, and going too fast, this means slow down (both hands palms down, moving down towards the floor).  If we would like to ask you to pause for a few minutes we will make this hand movement (a time out T).  In that case please wait until we have finished and nod at you before continuing to speak.  If the interpreter is making hand signals and the speaker is not seeing them, please everyone help out by repeating the hand signal.  

When you are in discussion it essential that only one person speaks at a time and that everyone ensures that we leave a pause between speakers.  Simultaneous interpreting is always a few words behind, so please make sure that the interpreter has finished before the next person begins speaking, so that those listening to the simultaneous interpreting can fully participate.  When we interpret consecutively into English please look at speak directly to each other, as if the interpreter were not in the room.  

Any questions?
Thank you!

Monday, November 26, 2012

get trained on interpreting for torture and trauma survivors

The training is run by the organization The Voice of Love, and the training is called Healing Voices.  They are currently running their second training like this in Chicago, and have another one coming up in San Francisco Jan 7-11 all day every day for $500, scholarships available.  It comes with a 300 page manual they've gotten some star authors to work on.  You have to have at least 40 hours of other professional interpreter training to participate. 

For more information on the Healing Voices San Francisco Pilot, click here.

For more information about Voice of Love in general, click here.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


animador/a: organizer

as in, "no tenemos lideres, todos somos animadores"

I wouldn't always go the other direction with this term though - the term animador is used in some Latin American contexts and not in others. 


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Spanish for Social Justice conversation practice group

If by chance you're a Spanish language learner in the Vancouver area, or know folks who are, you're in luck.  Nicole Benson of Esperanza Education is starting up a regular practice group, to complement the fantastic Spanish for Social Justice classes that she teaches.

If you're not in Vancouver - how about starting up something like this in your area? It would be a great fundraiser and community builder for solidarity groups.  Maybe half could go to the teacher and half to the organization? Nicole is open to talking to folks who want to do this elsewhere. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

el campo

the countryside?
a rural area?
the bush?
the hills?

ok, I don't think I've ever used the hills, but those different options in English have quite different registers, so I try to go with the one that fits the context. Any others out there folks like to use?

image by Rini Templeton, all of whose fabulous art is free for use at riniart.org

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

inaccurate machine translation plays a role in the US election

I can't resist reposting the article below from Think Progress.  I mean really, talk about a dumb use of machine translation. Don't let this happen to you or your friends! Make sure your compas know that it's just for getting the gist of things! Not for anything important! 

Obama ‘Foreign Donation Scandal,’ Hyped By Right-Wing, Based On Inaccurate Google Translation
As ThinkProgress detailed Tuesday, right-wing and mainstream news sources have extensively misrepresented a new report by the conservative Government Accountability Institute (GAI), suggesting incorrectly that the report details widespread foreign money flowing to President Obama’s re-election campaign. A further review of the report finds that the sole example included of a foreign-national donor giving to the Obama campaign was, in fact, based on a translation error.
The GAI’s report, America the Vulnerable: Are Foreign and Fraudulent Online Campaign Contributions Influencing U.S. Elections? cited a Norwegian blog as an example of an apparent non-citizen claiming to have illegally contributed to a U.S. political campaign:
A Norwegian blogger posts a solicitation from the Obama campaign, including the link to the donate page. When another blogger opines that non-U.S. citizens cannot contribute because of American law, the blogger responds in Norwegian, “I have in practice given money to Obama, I had done it.”
The footnote for this claim links to a blogger named “Gaupefot.” His or her comment, in Norwegian, was:
Jeg mottar nok bare epost fra Obama. Pøvde å donere penger til John Kerry i 2004. Det gikk dessverre ikke. Forøvrig har ikke USA noe de skulle sagt på det området. De tar heller livet av utenlandske politikere. Pengedonasjoner blir for pingler slik de ser det. CIA har forøvrig gitt penger til Det norske arbeiderparti, og antakeligvis også til andre norske partier og politske grupperinger.
Hadde jeg i praksis kunne gitt penger til Obama hadde jeg gjort det.
The GAI report’s authors apparently relied on Google Translator for their translation of that final line. ThinkProgress confirmed with three Norwegian speakers, including a University of North Dakota professor of Norwegian language, that the quote actually means quite the opposite.
Gaupefot’s comment claims a failed 2004 attempt to donate to John Kerry’s campaign. The correct translation of the last line is, essentially, “If I actually could have given money to Obama, I would have done it.”
The GAI did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the report and on this glaring error. It is unclear how many of the other translations throughout the report report also relied on Google Translator — a literal translation service that is incapable of understanding nuance or context.
Despite a wide array of irresponsible headlines, it is now clear that the authors did not find a single example of a foreigner donating to the Obama re-election campaign.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

oral flashcards!

Here's a cool way to grill yourself on new terminology suggested in a recent ATA chronicle:

Instead of the various flashcard apps, try recording yourself saying the terms you want to learn, with a space in between for you to say them to yourself in the target language.  You could do a set in one direction, then another in the other direction. 

I'm a more visual and kinesthetic learner, but if you're a more auditory learner, this might be just the trick.  Heck, your phone is probably already fancy enough to record you saying the 20 terms you're working on this week, but if you have an iphone and want to get really fancy, there's quick voice.  Haven't tried it, so feedback welcome!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

disability terminology

Last week I posted a link to a queer terminology review, this week it's a link to this great article that goes over the do's and don'ts around terminology relating to people with disabilities.  For starters, please don't call folks 'the disabled', much less 'wheelchair bound'.  My favorite of the article? People can decide themselves if they are suffering.  If you don't know what that refers to - read up! 

As was last weeks, this link comes from the fabulous Andrea Parra.  Gracias bella!

Monday, September 24, 2012

queer terminology

Think you're good at LGBTQ terms?
Do you know what the difference is between a demisexual and a panromantic?
Even if you do, check out this page of fabulous posters and I promise you, there will be SOME term you've never heard of. 

Many thanks to Andrea Parra for the fabulous link

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Occupying Language in NYC

The Committee on Globalization and Social Changeis putting on a very cool event:

Occupying Language

with Dario Azzellini and Marina Sitrin

Friday, September 21: 2:00 pm at the Free University of NYC at Madison Square Park and 7:30 pm at 16 Beaver Street (4th floor)

This is their shpeil about it:

Occupying Language is an open conversation. Through it, we invite you to join us to explore insurgent movements that have been organizing in Latin America over the past twenty years, and to connect key concepts and language from those struggles with what is new and beautiful in the social relations being created by people’s movements in the United States today.

There are of course many similarities with preceding forms of organization and mobilization, especially with the movement for global justice of the late 1990s and early 2000s. However, we are choosing to ground the discussion in movements and groups that arose from and are comprised of ordinary people, rather than activists.

Language is not neutral, and words transport and express concepts and ways of thinking. They can consolidate and perpetuate hierarchies, domination and control just as they can underline equality and strengthen consciousness. Latin American struggles for dignity, freedom and liberation are rooted in more than five hundred years of resistance. Language derived from their struggles comes with historical antecedents.

Among the concepts we explore are Territory, Assembly, Rupture, Popular Power, Horizontalism, Autogestión (self-administration), and Protagonism. Examples of each term are drawn from different Latin American communities of struggle, from the spreading of Horizontalidad with the popular rebellion in Argentina, and the concept of Territory seen in Bolivia and Mexico, to the construction of Popular Power in the Consejos Comunales in Venezuela, and the vision of interconnected human diversity articulated in the call for “one world in which many worlds fit” by the indigenous Zapatista communities in Chiapas, Mexico.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

training specific to interpreting for social justice movements

There are still a couple of slots in the training at Wayside, in Virginia, on Sept. 28-30, led by my fantastic compas, Ricardo Tijerina and Catalina Nieto.  I highly recommend it - it's well worth a long drive to get there if you're in driving distance. 

I'd also like to take a minute to say a HUGE thank you to the amazing Catalina, who incredibly generously donated her professional interpretation services for the entire month of the caravan for peace. If you need interpretation services on the East coast, please consider her. 

Catalina is a community organizer, popular educator, Spanish/English interpreter and artist. Since Catalina’s arrival to the United States from Colombia in 2000, she has organized with the immigrant rights and Latin American solidarity movements. She has worked as the National Grassroots Organizer with the Latin American solidarity organization Witness for Peace, and as the Education Director with the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. Catalina has also interned at the Highlander Center for Popular Education and at the Chicago ENLACE Partnership. Catalina graduated in 2011 with a M.A. in Social Justice and Intercultural Relations from SIT Graduate Institute. She holds a B.A. in Sociology and a B.A. in Communications, Media and Theater from Northeastern Illinois University.

Her contact info is s.catalina.nieto@gmail.com

Saturday, September 8, 2012

my evolving shpiel for folks who misuse the terms interp/translator

Sometimes bilingual people who I explain the interpretation translation distinction to try to tell me that in Spanish traducción means interpretation.

I assume that everyone reading this blog will know that it is not, but I thought I would share an email I sent to a compa who had this confusion. I wrote:

"I want to explain why this is not just some high horse and why this distinction matters so much to us. The same traducción as written and interpretación as spoken distinction exists in Spanish as in English - it's just that people are perhaps even MORE likely to get it wrong in Spanish.

As activist interps we want to make our movements more powerful by making them more multilingual - to do that movements really need to understand language services so they can use them well. It turns out that translation and interpretation are two pretty different skills that require different tools, training and talents (great writing skills vs speaking skills, different software, etc). Part of the reason we insist on educating folks to use the right terms is as a first step towards improving movements use of interps and translation so that our movements can be stronger and more effective.

I will understand if you get this wrong another hundred times, but I'd like to ask you, particularly when speaking publicly about our work to try to remember to use the term interpretación in Spanish when that's what you mean, not traducción, even if that's what other folks you've been working with have been using. "

Multilingual movements are stronger movements! Lets build our power as movements by teaching our compas to do multilingualism well!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Big ask: chance of a lifetime ‘terp gig coming to your town

Have you heard of the caravan for peace?  It is a historic first in North-South organizing for peace and justice and I’m writing to ask you to play a key role in making it happen as interp.  The Mexican movement for peace with justice and dignity in Mexico has done two of these caravans in Mexico that have had a big impact on discussion and policy in Mexico around the violence there, and now they’re bringing this tactic over the border with a 30 day caravan of 110 people, 50 of whom are Mexicans who have lost family members to the violence, crossing the US.    

Great interpretation is key for making this caravan effective.  Javier Sicilia, one of the leaders of the movement who lost his son to the violence, is a poet and powerful speaker.  We want to make sure his testimony as well as that of all of the other family members of victims on the caravan are conveyed powerfully, and that they are able to have real dialogue through great simul.  (We have two babel box equipment sets generously donated by Antena)

I know you know that things have been getting ugly in Mexico.   More than 60,000 people have been killed in drug violence in Mexico in the last few years. 10,000 people have been disappeared and over 160,000 displaced.   The US is sending more and more military aid and more and more guns are crossing the border.  Of course this has been making things worse. 

The caravan seeks to promote dialogue with American civil society and its government regarding the following official themes of the caravan: the need to stop gun trafficking; the need to debate alternatives to drug prohibition; the need for better tools to combat money laundering; and the need to promote bilateral cooperation in human rights and human security in two priority areas: promotion of civil society and safety, as well as protection and safety for migrants.  (more on the positions of the caravan on these issues and the route at caravanforpeace.org)

Of course good dialogue is going to require great interpretation.  This entire caravan is being run as a volunteer effort.  For health reasons I wasn’t able to go, but from Vancouver I have been spending a ton of time volunteering to help coordinate the interpretation.   Some fabulous committed interpreters have stepped up to volunteer and travel with the caravan.  They are working incredibly hard and they need your help!

If the caravan is coming to your town, could you please donate your services for a few hours at an event?  If so, could you please email me at sara (at) Spanish for social change (dot) com?

The full caravan route and calendar is here, click on your city to get details about events there (though not all cities have posted full details yet)

Upcoming cities are:
New Orleans
Fort Benning, Columbus, Georgia (School of the Americas)
Chicago (we especially need help in Chicago, if you know colleagues there who could help could you please help me to ask them?)
Again, Exact dates at each here, scroll below map for calendar or just click on your city on the map for details.

And please, any help spreading the word of this call is much appreciated!
Mil gracias,
En la lucha,

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

watch out! translation change ahead!

the worlds of both translation and language learning could be about to change significantly. truly. watch this video and be blown away by the technological changes you will live through. may they bring our world closer together and build more understanding and peace.

Monday, July 16, 2012

great video argument for interpretation

After 35 years, the Dutch ministery of Health just stopped paying for professional interpreter services in health care.  Interpreters responded with this video.  Thanks to the interprenaut for posting.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

la prensa chusma

the yellow press.  as rendered in this interview of Mariela Castro by Democracy Now!, which is anything but.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


As I've posted before, I don't like the term slum. Shantytown isn't much better as a term, but somewhat. The other option is squatter settlement - but it sounds very high register and does not include those that have gotten legal title. In English I prefer poor or marginalized neighborhood - self-built neighborhood is another option.

The terms for shantytown in Spanish seem to be quite country specific:
villa miseria, often shortened to just villa, seems very Argentinian, though maybe other Southern cone countries use it. Argentinians also sometimes use ciudades miseria

in Peru they are sometimes called 'pueblo joven'

in Mexico they are 'colonias populares' 
[correction! thanks to Atenea who writes: "A "colonia popular" in Mexico is not a shantytown. Colonias populares are low-income government developed housing complexes. The term we use to refer to shantytowns is "ciudades perdidas" (perhaps a bit worn out lately) and, more recently, "colonias de paracaidistas"]

in El Salvador the term is 'comunidades marginales', one of my personal favorites that I think travels well, ie, others will understand it even if they don't normally use it, unlike villa.
[huge thanks to Silvia who suggests comunidades marginalizadas - fantastic! so much better]

the other option is asentamiento informal, but that's pretty high register.

otras? sugerencias porfa!

[thanks to Ronald who writes that in Nicaragua they are called 'barrios' - pero ojo que en otros paises barrio significa justo lo opuesto]

Monday, June 18, 2012

general assembly

General assembly in the way the term is used in the occupy movement is usually asamblea popular, not general - though they are often just called 'asamblea'. 

Asamblea general is, however, used for the United Nations general assembly. 

There is a long history of holding asambleas in many communities and movements across Latin America, often coming more out of indigenous traditions than anarchist ones. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

how to interpret jokes (or not)

this video gets particularly useful around minute four

Sunday, June 3, 2012

soberania semillera

soberania semillera: seed sovereignty

This concept was new to me when I heard it recently but instantly made sense.  It's more specific than food sovereignty, which is more specific than food security (seguridad alimentaria).

The term gets very low googlage but hey, I'm in favor of useful neologisms.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


I learned from this article about the Wayuu, uno de los pueblos originarios en Colombia that traditionally engages in what is often called contraband, that a more respectful term for this is 'comerciante informal transfronterizo' or, in English, informal cross-border trader. The Wayuu's traditional territory crosses the Venezuela-Colombia border.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

person with hearing impairment

persona con discapacidad auditiva

as with all forms of disability, it is more respectful to put the word person first, both in English and in Spanish, as opposed to, say, using 'hearing impaired person'

I was reminded of the term when my friend Andrea posted this story about kids fighting for sign interpreters in school

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


bullying: matoneo escolar (often shortened to just matoneo)

At the recent educators conference I interpreted for I heard several Mexicans use the English word, but in Colombia matoneo is used.  I'm not sure about other countries, any other versions out there? 

Matoneo has been in the Colombian news a lot lately because rates are way up and a student was killed recently.   A senator is asking for a national school emergency to be declared, details here.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


referral: remisión; derivación

as in, information and referral line, or referral to a specialist. derivación is very spainish :) (ie, Spanish from Spain) and I'm not sure that, say, low literacy folks from Mexico would understand it, though apparently it is technically correct (though it sounds odd to me because it is a false cognate).  Many thanks to the fabulous Ricardo Chaparro Pacheco for recommending remisión as the more common Latin American version. As he puts it "To refer someone significaría remitir a alguien a. Dada la noción de "especialidad" que implica, Remisión es ampliamente usada en relación con servicios médicos, pero también aplica para enviar a alguien a una consulta o ante una autoridad legal, o ante una institución particular."

I know a lot of hotlines in the US, including the Tenants Union line I staffed in Spanish, use recomendación instead to be more widely understood, but I think that can also lead to misunderstandings. Folks might thing that because I'm recomendandolos they'll get special attention when they get to the HUD office, or that I'm saying that this particular attorney is a good one, as opposed to simply being one who takes tenant cases.

Friday, April 13, 2012


grounded: arraigado

Props to my compa Kirsten from Codev. We're interpreting for the IDEA network conference "Teaching for Transformation: International Forum on Liberating Pedagogies and Resistance to Neo-liberalism" and she came up with this rendition.

When grounded is being used in a more new agey way, like, let's take a deep breath and get grounded, I've used mandemos polo a tierra, but when it's being used to say it's a grounded proposal, or she's a grounded leader, arraigada can work.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


drones: drones

I far prefer using drones than than the option aviones no tripulados or vehiculos aéreos no tripulados.

As my PhD adviser, Derek Gregory, has repeatedly argued, drones do in fact have a human flying them and making the decision to shoot or drop a bomb, it's just that they're sitting on the ground. This does not necessarily mean that they're farther away, in some sense they are much closer than a normal bomber pilot, because they can see the people on the ground in high resolution on their screen, just six inches from their face.

I also see 'drones' increasingly used in the media, as in the terrifying article below from El Tiempo.

Colombia pidió a EE. UU. más aviones para 'reducir a Farc a la mitad'

Colombia le pidió a Estados Unidos más helicópteros, aviones espía, 'drones' y asistencia en inteligencia como parte de la nueva estrategia del gobierno que busca golpear a las Farc y reducir su número de combatientes a la mitad en los próximos dos años.

Según Dempsey, que habló con los periodistas que lo acompañaron al viaje, los funcionarios colombianos le explicaron que los nuevos recursos servirían como un acelerador de la actual estrategia que buscaría obtener los resultados previstos en el menor tiempo posible.


Pero de acuerdo con un recuento del diario Wall Street Journal, que acompañó al general durante el viaje, Dempsey se mostró cauteloso frente a la solicitud, especialmente en lo relacionado con los drones.

Por un lado, dijo el general, ya existe una alta demanda por estos aviones no tripulados de EE.UU. en otras regiones del planeta como la Península Coreana, Oriente Medio y Africa.

"Antes de cambiar mis prioridades quisiera ver que los colombianos me convencieran de que realmente pueden alcanzar las metas que se han puesto y que estos recursos que nos han pedido realmente son la clave para acelerar los tiempos", dijo el General.

Además, fuentes militares indicaron que la transferencia o venta de 'drones' a Colombia es complicada pues el Congreso de este país se ha opuesto a compartir tecnología tan sensible con otros países, incluso como aliados de la OTAN, como Turquía.

Fuentes consultadas por EL TIEMPO, le confirmaron a este diario que el país está interesado en comprar de Estados Unidos al menos 10 helicópteros Black Hawk que son necesarios para darle más movilidad a las Fuerzas Armadas en esta fase de la nueva estrategia.

El proceso, sin embargo, es lento y complicado dada la gran demanda que también existe por este tipo de aparatos.

De acuerdo con fuentes militares, la idea de Colombia es añadir dos nuevas Fuerzas de Tarea Conjunta a las 5 que ya están en operación.

Adicionalmente, Dempsey confirmó que el Pentagono piensa enviar a Colombia a comandantes de Brigada de EE.UU. que vienen de prestar servicio en Irak y Afganistán y que son expertos en contrainsurgencia.

La idea es que los comandantes sean enviados al frente de batalla donde permanecerán dos semanas junto al Ejército y la Policia colombiana.

Los militares, que llegarían en junio, estarán ubicados en las zonas de operación de las nuevas Fuerzas de Tarea Conjunta entre ellas Vulcano, que está asentada cerca a la frontera con Venezuela. Según Dempsey, los militares compartirán experiencias más no estarán autorizados para participar en combate.

Corresponsal de EL TIEMPO

Monday, March 26, 2012


icebreaker: actividad de desinhibicion, 'dinámica', dinámica rompehielo

I always heard these referred to as just 'dinámicas' in El Salvador (and word is that's true for most of Central America), but apparently in the southern cone rompehielo is used. In Colombia the term more widely used seems to be the more first formal one, which I would imagine would also be understood elsewhere, but then, rompehielo probably would be too, even if folks hadn't heard it before. Thanks to Flavia for this great link to a bunch of these rompehielos.

One of my favorite icebreakers is the telaraña: have people stand in a circle and throw a ball of yarn randomly across the circle, when you get it you say your name and one thing - maybe something relevant to the topic of the workshop or meeting. I even did this once at a large mixed baby shower where we each said our wish for the parents. Lovely. The photo is of this being done at one of the workshops of the Colombian Historical Memory Commission, photo by Jesus Abad Colorado. (More of his amazing human rights photography is online here.) I am working on translating and adapting this toolkit by the commission that is full of great techniques for doing participatory historical memory work in areas of conflict.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

volunteer interps needed for great event in DC

wow, a trailer for a movement event? and there's a spanish version too. now all we need are some volunteers to help us make these events against US militarism in the Americas fully bilingual. Are you driving distance from DC? Can you please help? Or pass this word on to someone who might?

Interps are needed for both the conference and strategy sessions, and the camp. The camp sounds amazing - great chance to learn nonviolence skills in exchange for YOUR interp skills. Gas stipend available to get you there. If you can help contact nico (at) soaw.org

Thursday, March 15, 2012

the R word

If you live in the US or Canada I hope you've been exposed to some of the wonderful campaign to ban the R word and replace "retarded" with intellectual disability. Sometimes the term developmental disability is also added - though this can lead to some confusion since, for example, not all people with Cerebral Palsy (CP) have intellectual disabilities - but when the terms are strung together it is often assumed that they are. Indeed, my friend who has CP and also a PhD has to regularly prove herself, since people see her body and assume that her mind is also disabled. The term 'developmental disability' means a lifelong disability attributable to mental or physical impairments, manifested prior to age 18. So as I understand it, all people with intellectual disability have a developmental disability, but the opposite is not necessarily true.

Some states in the US put a slash between the terms and use intellectual/developmental disabilities. Some groups use 'and', as in intellectual and development disabilities. Thanks to my friends Betsy and Tom who in the last few days talked through these terminology issues with me and suggest the use of 'or', as in 'intellectual or developmental disabilities'.

As far as the Spanish version of all this, it's pretty much a matter of cognates: discapacidad intelectual o de desarollo.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


chucha is one of those words with what seems like a thousand meanings depending on the country. Below is a video making fun of these sorts of words. It's slow to get going but well worth the fun terminology lesson if you keep going. The many definitions of chucha come in around minute two.

thanks to Tedd for this link and to Victor Manuel for the reminder.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

great translation tool

wordreference has added new search bar add ons for firefox since the last time I blogged about the tools I use

or if you prefer, they have also set up a keyword system

the new ones go in each direction, and also have synonyms, which are useful for going sideways when you're stuck (i.e. find another way to say it in the source language and then go to a source to target dictionary) - and include the Sp > Sp RAE (LA real academia)

Friday, February 24, 2012

back channel

back channel: un canal de comunicación discreto

This came up in this interview of former Colombian president Pastrana on the tenth anniversary of the peace negotiations - Pastrana said it in both English and Spanish interestingly.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


warlords: señores de la guerra

unfortunately it doesn't sound as good if you're just talking about ONE warlord (it's Carlos Castaño in the photo). I haven't heard this term widely used in Colombia, but it's in the title of one of the best books on the paramilitaries in Colombia:

Los señores de la guerra
de paramilitares, mafiosos y autodefensas en Colombia by Gustavo Duncan

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

TRAINING coming up in interpreting for social justice

speaking of the fabulous Wayside, they have a training coming up
March 23rd - 25th, 2012

Luis y Gustavo

1100 Mill Pond Road
Faber, VA 22938
(434) 263-5115


  • To build a cadre of skilled social justice interpreters in the Southeast and Appalachia who can empower immigrant communities by providing language accessibility to promote social justice
  • To encourage local leadership in immigrant communities through sharing skills by training other community members in social justice interpreting
  • To create multilingual spaces in social justice communities where language is used democratically as a movement-building tool of power
(based on income)
Full and partial scholarships available
Under $15,000$170
$15 - $25,000$200
$25 - $35,000$240
$35 - $45,000$280
$45 - $55,000$325
over $55,000$375

Bilingual social justice activists and workers who would like to learn more about interpreting and translating in a social justice context to empower immigrant communities and build alliances across communities.


  • Interpreter Role and Ethics
  • Interpretation modes
  • Use of interpreting equipment
  • Differences and similarities in social justice interpreting
  • Impact of language barriers in social justice movement building
  • How to create a multilingual space

Hands-on interpreting by participants throughout the workshop

Please Note: Participants should be able to commit to the entire program schedule (Friday 10 am through Sunday 4 pm).

Registration is based on a sliding scale. If you are paying for the workshop yourself, use your household income. If your organization is paying, use the organizational income. Registration includes three days of training, meals, lodging and linens.

Full and partial scholarships are available.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012


politiquería: influence-peddling

this rendition caught my eye in Adam Isaacson's report on Montes de Maria over at the fabulous Just the Facts website. Sounds like politqueria is the least of the problems there.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

why I don't love "language justice" terminology

I've been mulling over the 'language justice' terminology used by a lot of my compas who organize to make our movements more multilingual. I don't really like it. My sense is that it makes it sound like making the space fully bilingual is about justice for limited English speakers - or at any rate it seems easy for fluent English speakers to interpret it that way - rather than understanding that it benefits, say, limited Spanish speakers as much or more to have a broader more inclusive smarter movement with access to more experiences and insights. Rather than talk about 'language justice' I would prefer calling it the 'bilingual space committee' or what have you. Of course a bilingual space involves much more than interp and trans, but also bilingual facilitation and more (for how to see the great tips in the resource in this post).

Now if it's a matter of getting proper language interpretation in court, there I'm all for using the term 'language justice'.

But then again, I might be wrong about the connotations of the term - because this image is from the fabulous Wayside center, and though they use the term 'language justice', as they put it:

"Wayside has made a commitment to build and amplify voices and languages not often heard in organizing and movement spaces. We are working in Virginia and DC with organizations that see the need, and the organizing power, of connecting people across race and language especially in immigrant communities. When we begin to see language as a tool of empowerment that gives value to people's culture and way of being, our organizations grow in heart, experience, and perspective. When we begin to see that interpreting is not just for mono-lingual non-English speakers but in fact for everyone who is unable to understand all languages present in a conversation, we can begin to see people working from abundance and not deficiency. When we interpret well, we open space for the jokes, the perspectives and the soul of everyone in the room to come through, building deeper solidarity, democracy, and a broader movement for change."

(fabulous! pero ojo: I prefer to use the term limited English vs. non-English since most users of interpretation will actually speak some basic English, and using the term non can reinforce the idea that interpretation is only for those who speak no English at all)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


leaders: lideres y lideresas

I've been seeing this version in more Spanish language movement documents - recently in several from Bolivia. I have mixed feelings about it. I wish lideres was seen as including women, but I guess this highlights the role of women leaders.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

los indigenistas

indigenista: indigenist

over on my other blog (decolonizing solidarity) I posted the story of three international solidarity activists from the US who were killed in Colombia in 1999. In the Colombian press they are widely called "los indigenistas", which got me wondering how to say that in English and yes, you read that right - that cognate does exist in English. Ward Churchill calls himself one and writes in this Z classic that

"By this, I mean that I am one who not only takes the rights of indigenous peoples as the highest priority of my political life, but who draws upon the traditions—the bodies of knowledge and corresponding codes of value—evolved over many thousands of years by native peoples the world over. This is the basis upon which I not only advance critiques of, but conceptualize alternatives to the present social, political, economic, and philosophical status quo. In turn, this gives shape not only to the sorts of goals and objectives I pursue, but the kinds of strategy and tactics I advocate, the variety of struggles I tend to support, the nature of the alliances I am inclined to enter into, and so on."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

other resources to share with orgs that use interps

in my last post I shared a resource for organizations looking to be more multilingual in organizing, meetings, etc.

along the same lines, here are two more mainstream resources from the American Translator's Association

here is their promo text:

Interpreting: Getting it Right

For non-linguists, buying interpreting services is often frustrating. Many buyers are not even sure they need a professional interpreter since they know someone who is bilingual and willing to help out.

Buyers simply don't see the same problems and risks of miscommunication that you see.

These potential clients need to know what you do and the value your services can bring to their business. That's where Interpreting: Getting It Right comes in. This straightforward brochure explains the where, why, and how of professional interpreting services. It's a quick read that offers practical, hands-on information for language services consumers, perfect for client education.

To preview this brochure online, click Interpreting: Getting It Right.

Translation: Getting it Right

There are hundreds of ways a translation project can go off track – ridiculous deadlines, misapplied machine translation, poor project management. You know because you've seen it all. But have your clients? Be sure they know the value you bring to their business and keep them coming back.

Client education is one of the best ways to build your customer base, and it's easy to do with the Translation: Getting It Right brochure.

Translation: Getting it Right

ATA members can receive 20 free copies just for the asking. Contact the ATA Membership Services Manager for details.

But what if your client doesn't speak English? The brochure is now available in a number of other languages. Check out the links below!

You can also preview this client education booklet online. Click to download a PDF version of Translation: Getting It Right.