The Translation monster


Since living in Sicily I’ve had several encounters with the world of translation, not always to my pleasure.

I’ve translated banal documents like death certificates, descriptions for Italian tourist web pages, articles on Cinema, food and architecture which weren’t too taxing.

There was the time I translated a local Sicilian oral history book, now that was nearly drove me insane as the book itself didn’t need a translator as an editor, so I simply had to push on and get it done.

As you can guess I’m not a fan of translation, unless it’s for my own purposes or enjoyment, it’s generally dull, repetitive and thankless work. I think it takes a special kind of logic loving mind to survive this kind of fatigue. I’m sure those who have an actual qualification develop a system to make them more efficient and I assume the more you do the better you get at it.


I once did a job as an interpreter for the major of a small Sicilian town who visited a sister city in Australia in a kind of cultural exchange. It was a nightmare I remember the guy wasn’t used to having an interpreter and so when he gave his speech he did not stop for me to translate to the mostly English speaking audience, I had to interrupt him and summaries everything he had just rattled off. It was all too embarrassing for words and to top it off I didn’t get paid a cent!!!!! This is one major reason I don’t do this work here in Sicily as people strangely forget to pay you. There is also the fact that I don’t have an official qualification.


This past week the translation monster’s gone and reared it’s ugly head again. I’ve been asked to translate a medical conference report for a university student who had been quoted €20 a page by a translating agency.

I’ve just finished the first few pages and it’s about the development of treatments for bowel related illnesses (yep it’s pretty shitty subject matter I know!- sorry couldn’t resist!!) the last few pages are references and there is a lot of repetition so I think I can survive this one!

To be honest age must be mellowing me as I feel like its a complex word game, a puzzle for me to put all together. As long as I get part of that €20 a page.

Unwilling Expat

2 thoughts on “The Translation monster

  1. It impresses the heck out of me when someone has good enough Italian that they can have a conversation that lasts longer than 3 sentences, much less translate a document! Ah, I wish for that day to come! How long did it take you to become functional in Italian?


    1. Well when I came to Italy I had done and Italian major at University but studying it and putting into practice are different things.
      I can’t say exactly when I felt fluent but full emersion after about a year or so helped me get at a good level.

      The best thing for it is to have only Italian friends and push yourself to do some kind of grammar course to get the basics and the rest comes over time!

      I after nearly a decade of living in Italy I still feel like I cannot fully express myself in Italian, english will always be my mother tongue.

      But it takes sooo much patience. And I find Italy is such a monolingual country that they make you feel like an idiot for not speaking Italian properly, I am constantly being identified as a foreigner!! Hummm I think there’s a post in this …


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