Lost [Added] In Translation: With Expressions We Traffic

Marissa Kantor Dennis’, With Expressions We Traffic is, in and of itself, an interpretation but it is also a critique of interpretation used in conjunction with therapy as well as an attempt to convey the importance of what can be lost in translation.

Laid out in fragmented columns, the first of which is verbatim an account of what transpired in a clinical encounter between an American doctor, her Spanish-speaking patient and the interpreter who attempts to help them communicate. The second is the author’s commentary on the session outlined in column one. Here she dissects the conversation, adds commentary and points out problems within the framework of having someone interpret during therapy sessions. The third is a reflection from the author where, through quoting and commenting on readings from her works cited, she offers insight into her thought process.

In the introduction, Dennis asks that the reader pays close attention to how they interact with the layout of her writing, asking; where do your eyes go first?; where do they eventually settle?

I started out mindfully read each word in column one before moving to column two, which provided annotations and interpretations that helped me to better understand what had transpired. I tried especially hard to read text that was in Spanish thoroughly before reading the translation and subsequent commentary but found it difficult. I had to fight to read linearly; eventually, I gave up and started jumping around.

I couldn’t understand what was written in Spanish:

Sí, ella es una bruja tam-bién. . . . Y como y me quiso matar como le digo [O: Okay] porque yo soy un millionario [O: mmmhmmm] yo saqué por por eso [fast, garbled] este hospital y los demás hospitales del mundo, y, y negocios que trabajan del mundo están abiertos por mi millón de dólares antes la, de la economía mundial era las torres gemelas entonces un día, yo me golpeé este dedo en la, la bicicleta y me llevaron para el hospital X” allí en el Bronx—ah pues—y me investigaron como tenía el, mi seguro médico y me me salió un millón de dólares [O: okay] entonces investigaron de quién era el millón de dólares y no, no lo reclamó nadie y me lo echaron a mí me llevaron los, entonces me dijeron que me llevaran [inaudible here] . . . y por medio de este millón de dólares me mandaron mis documentos para un shelter ¿se llama X? Aquí, aquí, aquí en Manhattan. Y esas cosas no me quieren entregar eso fue en el 2000. [Ends @ 11:39.]

I was able to understand was the subsequent translation:

Okay, yeah, um, so, the, the Cuban, um, she’s a witch—she’s de nitely a witch. And, um, but, and then I asked him is there, if there was anybody else, and “yes, um, there was, the director of the shelter, this Colombian woman, um, and she tried to kill me, uh, through witchcraft, um, and um, the thing that happened is that, uh, she wants to kill me because I’m a millionaire, um, and it, like, I’m a millionaire, like it all started, um, like several years back, it was, it was, um, it’s because of me and, like, my millions that, um, the hospital, this hospital and all of the hospitals are still open [upswing here]. Because before it was, um, the world economy was based on the twin towers, but then, like, after that, um, it happened that, um, I hurt my  finger one day um and, um, and so I went to the hospital, it was X hospital in the Bronx and they—uh [pause]—they were checking it out and then in the insurance they were checking out the life insurance, and it turned out that, um, that there was a million. And, um, and they were, they, they were checking out the paperwork and figuring out what was going on, and since no one claimed the million dollars, I got the million dollars. And then also, through the paperwork, um, they were giving me a shelter [upswing here] um, which I think he said it was the X shelter, I didn’t quite get the name, um, and, um, and then when I went to get it, like, to get the shelter, like, they wouldn’t give it to me. This was back in 2000—it’s been going on.” [Finish @ 13:16.]

But the translation wasn’t true to what was said:

Carlos begins speaking about Director “R” and talks for over a minute; Olivia doesn’t try to interrupt him… Letting someone talk for one full minute means, most seriously, that the interpretation is not going to be a clinical one, but rather a narrative one, a story of a story, a derivative story, moved from (psychotic) Spanish to (interpreted) English… Look at the linguistic stutters, represented here, poetically disjunctive, by ums and likes and upswings-of-voice that seem to signal uncertainty both of interpretation and original narrative content.

 That last part really stuck with me and I became curious just how many times 'um and 'like' were added in translation. I went through the translated text, found each instance of the two words and augmented them using size and color in order to draw attention to foreign additions made and their implications on what is being said.