When you are unsure about what you have heard, why do you not try to ask them to spell it? – A case of unfair rejection

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 »  Articles Overview  »  Art of Translation and Interpreting  »  Interpreting  »  When you are unsure about what you have heard, why do you not try to ask them to spell it? – A case of unfair rejection

When you are unsure about what you have heard, why do you not try to ask them to spell it? – A case of unfair rejection

By Marcia Pinheiro | Published  11/3/2012 | Interpreting | Recommendation:
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Quicklink: http://www.proz.com/doc/3655
Marcia Pinheiro
English to Portuguese translator
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And my client said: Q para capa, compreende? (Q for cape, understand?)

I then got extremely confused since CAPA is spelt with C, not Q.

All desperate, I and the employee from the energy company tried to jointly guess after I told her, in English, what had happened: Look, I am not really sure about the name of the street. I know for sure that the second letter is I, the third letter is R, and the first letter is equal to the fourth. I understand that it is a street in Chatswood, 2067. He says Q for sure in Portuguese, but that gives me QIRQ. He also then says para capa (for cape), and capa is a word in Portuguese, but the word is spelt with c, not q. It must be something between a c and a q, is it not?

She then tries to guess from what she understood that her prospective client was saying to me: Would it be Church St?

I had heard something completely different, but at least sometimes they (those supposed to communicate in English with me) guess better than me what those supposed to communicate in Portuguese with me have said, even because at least sometimes the latter mix English with Portuguese as they speak, so that I decided to have a go.

I then tried: Alguma chance de que você tenha falado Church St, Rua da Igreja em Português? (Any chance that you have said Church St, Street of the Church in Portuguese?)

Nao. Nao foi isso (no, it was not that), he calmly said.

The energy company employee then turned to me and said that she would go away for a while to try to guess. We were left to the waiting tunes.

That is when I started thinking deeper about what we had just gone through. I then remembered that my father used the word kappa to spell things at least sometimes in Portuguese and he meant k for kappa. I then inferred that it should be something from the army since he was from the army.

One must notice, however, that there is no such a word either in Portuguese or in English (kappa). The same sound in Portuguese corresponds exclusively to one word, the one I thought of, capa.

If you try the dictionaries, you will not find kappa easily.
Notwithstanding, some of them will bring the word kappa and will then say that kappa is the tenth letter of the Greek alphabet or k in Greek (see www.merriam-webster.com/table/dict/alphabet.htm, for instance). If you try the Internet in general, you will find some websites, such as http://www.rfu.org/cacw/basic4KraftPulp.htm, http://www.investorwords.com/5629/Kappa.html, and http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/Cohen-s-Kappa.htm saying that the Kappa Number is a well-known constant.

As the music was still playing and the energy company employee had not returned, I dared trying to yell: Você quis dizer Kirk St? (Did you mean Kirk St?)

He had hung up, unfortunately.

When the employee came back, I still heard: We will probably get another interpreter if he calls back (meaning that I had been of no use, perhaps obstructive).

I did tell her, though, my conclusions about what he had said (in English, obviously): Look, I thought and I thought about it and I then remembered that my father, from the army, used kappa to spell as well; this when he meant k.

What I did not do was repeating to her that the client actually said Q in Portuguese, not K, as he said Q for Kappa, what then made it all be impossible.

Ah, well, I understood: At least sometimes we will pay for interpreting everything, is it not, like could I not have thought of K for Kappa by the time that we needed?

Yep, my friends, you may be sure: No lingos collection will ever be enough for you in this sort of profession and the more you know about language, the worse it is, since if you do not know how to spell, then you have more chances of committing the same sort of mistake that the clients commit whilst speaking, what will then, at least sometimes, save you from the repulsive unfair rejection… .

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