Monday, September 12, 2016


I speak two languages. English and Spanish. Because they’re both commonly used, I’m often asked to translate for various things. I’ve had Spanish speaking friends who ask me to go with them on a doctor’s visit to translate. Sometimes, for church, I’m asked to translate a meeting. Or, as a nurse, I need to translate an assessment so the patient can understand.

I learned Spanish while living in Spain, by hanging out with friends. We would talk about every-day things, we’d talk about weather, about plans, about activities, or transportation.

We didn’t really use words or terms that I’m asked to translate now. Recently, I did an assessment with a Spanish speaking patient, and I realized the few words that I just never used before.

Afterward, I talked to my husband and asked him about the different words. Words like tingling or numbness. Words like stroke, cataracts, blurry vision. I don’t ask a lot about suicide, or advanced directives. We went through each one, until I at least heard the words once or twice.
The nice thing is that even if you don’t know the word, you can still explain it. It makes the translation a bit long winded, but that’s okay.

Instead of blurry vision: Do you have a hard time seeing? Like it’s not clear?

Instead of tingling or numbness: Do you have a hard time feeling your feet? Do they sometimes feeling like they’re falling asleep?

Hubby and I once translated a church meeting from English to Spanish. His first language is Spanish, and mine is English. We started just passing the microphone back and forth when one of us got lost. I had an easier time translating stories because I understood it as the speaker told it. My husband had an easier time translating doctrine because he knew the terms in Spanish already. As a team, we did pretty well.

Translation isn’t a perfect science. It’s hard, especially when you’re in a situation where you can’t prepare. I really admire those who do it on a professional level. I get tongue tied when I have to go from one language to another for too long.