misadventures in translation

On my first quiz in translation class a few weeks ago I had to stifle my laughter in the middle of the quiz because of the ridiculous Spanish “words” I was inventing to translate the phrase “four-wheel antilock minivan brakes.”

Today, I didn’t laugh during the quiz but did turn it in with the general sense of unease that comes when you’re nearly certain you royally butchered a key word in the text but you don’t yet know which or how badly.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my version of the short article from today’s quiz, back-translated to English from my painful rendering in Spanish. I chuckled all through lunch.

Please imagine this scene as vividly as possible:

In the results that make obvious that appetite is often a case of “the mental over the material,” a new study says that the memory of a big recent meal can fill you up. But the memory of a stingy portion of food – even an incorrect memory – can make you hungrier and cause you to eat more the next time, said the researchers.

The study published Wednesday in the journal Public Library of Science One, used a naive trick to manipulate the memory of the subject’s lunch: at the bottom of a ferret filled with cream of tomato soup, they installed a hidden pumpa* that they could use to secretly refill or take out its contents while the subjects ate it.

The researchers wondered if the subjects who were tricked by the said manipulation would then remember the sight of the big 500-mg portion of soup they ate or if they would in some manner remember the smaller 300-mg portion they ate. And they wondered if the appetite of the subjects as the hour of dinner arrived would be lead by the lunch they ate or the more satisfying food they thought they ate.

When asked how hungry the subjects were as the hour to eat dinner arrived, the memories of the food the subjects saw – not the the food they ate – had the most influence. Even when their ferrets of soup were being slowly emptied, the subjects who sat in front of a big ferret of soup were less hungry. And they who were presented with a small ferret of soup said they were more hungry – even if the researchers in back of the stage refilled their ferrets.

*I made up a word for pump. It does not exist in Spanish.

Now, the original article:

In a finding that makes clear that appetite is often a case of mind over matter, new research finds that the memory of a hearty recent meal can fill you up. But the memory of a stingy serving of victuals — even an inaccurate memory — can make you hungrier, and prompt heavier eating at the next meal, researchers found.

The study, published Wednesday in the journal Public Library of Science One, used an ingenious trick to manipulate research subjects’ memories of a lunchtime meal they had: At the bottom of a soup bowl filled with cream of tomato soup, they installed a hidden pump, which could be used to surreptitiously refill the  bowl while the subject ate or draw down its contents.

The researchers wondered whether subjects tricked by such a manipulation would later remember the sight of the hefty 500-mg serving of soup they were asked to eat, or whether they would somehow register the punier 300-mg serving they actually ate. And they wondered whether, as dinnertime approached, the subjects’ appetite would be driven by the actual lunch they had eaten or the more satisfying meal they thought they ate.

When asked how hungry they were as dinnertime approached, subjects’ memories of the meal they saw — not the one they ate — seemed to be most influential. Even when their soup bowls were steadily drained, those who were seated in front of a large bowl of soup were less hungry. And those who were presented with a small bowl of soup pronounced themselves more hungry — even if researchers behind the scenes were steadily refilling their bowls.

How I came up with the word turón for bowl, I’ll never be sure. I was aware I didn’t consciously know the word, so when turón popped into my mind, I just went for it. My only guess is that it reminds me of the word tureen in English, which is indeed a bowl. And the word turrón (two Rs make all the difference) is a food and also a word I’ve been seeing a lot recently, since it’s a nut-filled Christmas nougat that appeared in grocery stores last week. I guess I combined the two in my subconscious to come up with the unfortunate turón, which literally means polecat – a ferret. It even has the same accent pattern as the actual word for bowl: tazón. Tazón tazón tazón. Heaven help.


what if I blogged in Spanish?

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I’ve had the thought bouncing around in the back of my mind for a while: What if I blogged in Spanish?

How would that change things? Would I every post include both a Spanish and English translation? That could both be cumbersome to read and time-consuming to write. Would I write one post in Spanish and the next in English?

Would I offer translations for only the recipe portion of my posts?

How would I deal with the inaccuracies that, I am certain, riddle my writing in Spanish?

Could I establish a Spanish-speaking reader base? Is there even a readership out there that would be interested in a verbose English-Spanish food blog?

Is it possible to create dual posts: ones that are connected to each other but somehow separate? Something that could be viewed in Spanish or English with the click of a button?

Is this even feasible?

You see, I have this other language in there – in my mind. During the vast majority of my day it lies dormant, waiting to jump into action. It never just leaps. So much English inertia is at work upon the proverbial box of Spanish in my brain that it must be acted upon by an outside force to get it moving. Usually, that force comes under the guise of a Spanish class. Often, though, when the Spanish class force shoves my mental box of Spanish out of storage and into my mental soup, it leaves the speaking portion behind. So, I sit in Spanish class absorbing information but somehow unable to produce quick, coherent Spanish of my own. Alas.

But it is still there, my Spanish. And gradually it is infiltrating my mental language. Words come to mind. Phrases. Sentences, even. Shouldn’t I give it a proper home, then? A place to express itself?

Would blogging help my vocabulary?

Would my readers – if they appeared – correct my Spanish? Would anyone be interested? Or just annoyed?

These are questions to which I do not have answers. Does anyone out there have experience with this?

My llamo Claire y hablo español. My name is Claire, and I speak English.

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