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Stuck in Translation June 11, 2012

Posted by yvonneploder in Travel Log.

Week three of the program has undeniably been my favorite thus far. I could attribute this to the notion that at this point I feel like Brussels is my city. I know which market has my favorite mangos, I know which tram, bus, metro combination can get me home the fastest, I feel like I have a home with a set of parents host parents that care about me. Its comforting. And then there is the fact that this week centered about visiting the European Institutions themselves: the Council of the European Union, European Parliament, European External Access Service and the head quarters of Coca-Cola for Europe. These sight visits bring to life what we have learned in the classroom- providing me with the unique opportunity to see the EU in action! Giving me access to the very people that have the power to make changes within the union. Good stuff. But PERSONALLY, I absolutely loved friday’s activity: the press release.

Every Friday the European Parliament hosts a press release conference where reporters are invited to come to the Parliament and ask direct questions to EU officials. Each reporter is handed a schedule of the following week’s agenda where individual topics that are to be discussed are outlined. Fascinating stuff. So there I was, sitting in the room with very important EU officials, reporters, and educated members of the European society. A panel of 7 EU officials sat directly in front of me and I noticed that surrounding them were a series of panels, housing two or three people, sectioned off by language. They were the translators.

At precisely 11 am the conference began and the official in the middle began to speak…in French. There was a swift motion about the room as people placed the headphones over there ears and clicked to their designated language to understand what in the world this man was saying. I am pleased to say that I could, with the exception of one or two words, understand the man but I couldn’t resist comparing the speaker’s words to those of the translators. I slid the headphones over my ears and clicked 2. A soothing british voice flowed through the headphones and I was listening to English. I was fas-cin-at-ed. Forget what he was actually saying, I was much more mesmerized by this man’s ability to take in the French speech and effortlessly repeat it in English. There were no stumbles, no real lags in his translation. And as far as my brain could tell, he was doing a pretty good job at conveying the full message of the speaker – jokes and all.

And so, for the remainder of the press release I sat there, one ear in the room, the other latched onto the headphone. The wheels in my brain churned as I tried to keep up with both “sides” of the conversation. I even gave myself a little challenge during a question response from the female EU official to translate her response back in English as it was being said aloud in French. I am proud to announce that even though I am sure that several words were “lost in translation” (haha!) I managed to convey the basics of her response.

As noon rolled around and the last grueling reporter question had been sufficiently answered by the officials, the press release was declared over. Headsets were placed back on the desks, translators turned off their microphones, and we exited the room. Dr. Birchfield then asked us what we had found to be the most interesting subject to be debated next week and as students began to offer up their opinions, I realized I had none. I was so focused on the translation that I had checked out of the actual meaning of the words being transcribed. Their ability to manage 2+ languages so incredibly well grabbed me and made me want to become proficient in as many languages as I possibly could. In short, I got stuck in translation.




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