By Mari D. González
I grew up in Mexico. We have a very unique religion that sets us apart from the world. Although on the outside it might be seen as pure Catholicism, the essence is Indigenous. The most revered deity is the Virgin of Guadalupe, not Jesus. In that sense, we are not necessarily Christians but Guadalupanos (Dr. Jalife-Rahme). Mexican’s virgin is the western Virgin Mary fused with the Native American goddess of Tonantzin.
Para Los Pueblos Originarios de México, the natural world, and the Cosmos are very relevant. Southern Mexico’s original languages are very spiritual and grounded in nature. For example, the word “heart” is often used in the indigenous languages’ conversations to express that one is talking from deep within and with endearment. We have the word “corazonada” which can be translated as “from the heart” which is very common among Mexicans to express intuition.
The closer I get to my indigenous spirituality, the more relevant and absorbable Vedic concepts are for me. Therefore, when I read the word “Heart” in the book, The Teachings of Ramana Maharshi, I understood it with a deeper, close-to-home experience.
I am on a quest to learn more about my indigenous spiritual roots to make awakening more relevant to my own experience as a Spanish speaker who grew up in Mexico. English is my second language and the British/US culture is an added layer to my worldview. From the perspective of the Spanish language and Mexican culture (High-Context), I perceive both the English language and the British/US culture as narrower (Low-Context). It is expected that several concepts will be lost in translation between Indian thought translated into British English and the Mexican perspective when reading Indian sacred books in English. I find it helpful to trust my “heart intuition” when I find myself at a concepts’ crossroads.
Mexico’s 5,000 years of culture, civilization, and spirituality–Mayan, Tolteca, Zapoteca, Olmeca, Totonaca, Mexica or Azteca, and Tehotihuacana–are comparable to India’s old history. Unfortunately, just like Indians lost a lot of sacred books to Moslem control, old Mexico lost most of their venerated writings to the Catholic Spaniards during their 300 hundred years of colonization. During that time, what was not lost, it was syncretized. However, Indigenous culture is very palpable among Mexicans. It is in our genes. It is what sets us apart. The way we socialize, relate to others, see the world, our food, and our spirituality are more Indigenous than Spaniards. Our philosophical history is not easily available to study and there are not be accessible books to read and study. The essence of our philosophy has been taught by parents to their children just as in our whole culture.
Currently, more youth and adults are making efforts to revive, reconnect with, and conserve our Indigenous culture. We see more people in leadership positions wearing Indigenous attire with pride. We are in the introspection identity development stage due to the high toll on the Mexican economy, public health, and political corruption. What has kept us going is the culture which includes our millenary spiritual values and indigenous cosmology whether we have Indigenous genes or not.
An Argentinian Yoga instructor told me once that for Mexicans it is easier to connect to ancient Indian wisdom because of our old indigenous roots. Yet, we still need to make the necessary adaptations and avoid wrong interpretations. This will ensure relevancy and meaningfulness to our individual and cultural experiences. Love (heart), awareness, and spirituality as in humanness are “one” in Indian and Mexican philosophies or any other philosophy for that matter.
Yet, we need to understand that even when our destination might be the same–finding the ultimate truth,–our paths to arrive are not the same. We all take different modes of transportation and roads. Additionally, as human beings, we also have the inherent need for meaning continuation. In this process, we go from our uniqueness–diversity or analysis–into that Oneness–inclusion or synthesis.
* Tonantzin Image by Monaghan BGH 290; Gunn Allen SH 45
By Mari D. González
I found this article, “Educational Interpreting 101: It’s a Lot Harder Than It Looks,” by Katherine Allen and Natalia Abarca very interesting. Katherine states that “I had been repeatedly tapped for the task simply because I was bilingual.” This is how my career as an interpreter began, too.
By Mari D. González
The greatest opportunity for today’s interpreters is beyond adopting new interpreting software. It is about internalizing the technology the way we have assimilated to smartphones and have found new things to do with them.
Traditional Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) has lowered the cost of interpreting services and exponentially expanded the number of interpreting assignments. Wireless mobile-accessed remote interpreting has added a new dimension. It has opened the doors for new settings, unconstrained locations, and streamlined processes. These provide more control and benefits to the interpreter.
With mobile-accessed remote interpreting, interpreters can have more freedom to create new work relationships, develop their own work systems, and enjoy the convenience of the Internet with limitless options for where interpretation can be provided. The greatest bonus is the mobility. The interpreter is not confined to a particular place nor is he or she expected to travel to a required location.
By Mari D. González
Inter-ethnic relations have been taboo in the U.S. because assimilation has been expected from immigrants and minorities. Assimilation has mainly occurred among people from countries with less cultural and linguistic distances (Anglo-Saxon, Ireland, France)—for whom the term expatriates are used—or among people who are not seen as “others.”
In the last decade due to fast technological advancements such as the Internet, social media, and cell phones, many immigrants are not assimilating. While there is a great level of acculturation to the American way of doing business—mostly by college graduates, immigrants and ex-pats bring and keep their own worldviews, perspectives, and values representative of their first language and culture of origin.
Minorities in the U.S. who live in silos have strengthened their diversities. The more an ethnic group is segregated, excluded, or other-ed, the less it assimilates. Diversity is a positive aspect. It enriches any company, organization, or team. Silicon Valley, Tech Venture Capitalist, Paul Graham explains, “The United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population; it stands to reason that most of the world’s best new ideas will be thought up by people who weren’t born here.”
The challenge is when communication styles clash let alone the perpetuation of harmful stereotypes. It results in misunderstandings, frustration, decreased productivity, and lower morale. We all have seen this!
Por Mari D. González
Recientemente recibí la siguiente pregunta sobre la traducción del término “cross-cultural” al español.
“Hola Mari: Me parece muy importante que hagas la diferencia. Sin embargo no me queda claro la traducción al español de ‘cross-cultural’ es ‘croscultural’? El problema podría radicar en que ‘cross-cultural’ e ‘intercultural’ son términos que son usados con el mismo significado en francés y español pero no así en inglés.”
Esta fue mi respuesta:
“Gracias por tu nota. Yo uso el mismo término en español “cross-cultural” sin traducir. De esa manera se indica y aprecia el significado único de cada término. Dependiendo en las preferencias de estilo al escribir, también se podría usar “croscultural” sin la doble “s” ya que el español es una lengua fonética y no necesita dos eses. ”
De acuerdo al Profesor Asistente de Marketing (Mercadeo) en la Escuela de Negocios de la Universidad de Chile, Sergio Olavarreta S. Ph.D., “cross-cultural” no se traduce para enfatizar el aspecto comparativo de este. Olavarreta añade que, “el prefijo trans- en español tiene acepciones diversas y no es equivalente” en su artículo titulado, “Aspectos metodológicos en la investigación cross-cultural.”
By Mari D. González
New technology is not the greatest threat interpreters face today. Most interpreters have accepted that new technologies are here to stay and they are adapting to them. The greatest challenge for interpreters continues to be the fight for professional recognition represented in fair pay, benefits, and working conditions. Professional interpreters expect salaries comparable to similar professions.
Most interpreters have slowly adapted to remote interpretation. Video remote interpreting has been praised by end-users–mostly hospitals–and also by conference interpreters.
For those who have refused to join large remote interpreting corporations, new technology and the need for training is not their major concern. They complain that the largest corporations have done very little or nothing to upgrade their professional standards and working conditions. Many interpreters resent these corporations for using new technologies to lower the interpreters’ profile to call centers.
Last year, I interpreted for the Organization of American States-Inter-American Commission on Human Rights‘ week-long strategic planning discussion sessions, hearings and broadcast conference. This was my first experience interpreting for a high-level, international meeting. I met OAS-IACHR’s Secretary, Commissioners and staff, some of whom had been ambassadors and saw first hand their impactful and inspiring work. I was teamed up with a colleague of mine. It was an intense, exciting, and very rewarding experience.
Initially, I was scheduled to work all five days, but because of the competitive bidding process interpreting agencies go through in order to reduce costs, a less-expensive interpreter was hired in my place. However, by the end of the first day, I was told that that interpreter was not able to continue and was asked if I was still available. I began on the second day. The “less-expensive” interpreter I was replacing asked me if she could stay to observe me. I told her that I didn’t mind. Thankfully, she left after an hour. She was a California court-certified interpreter, but was unable to work at a high level conference.
Conference or simultaneous interpreting requires a unique set of skills. CETRA’s blog explains, “Simultaneous interpreting is complex and demanding. It requires listening, understanding, sharp memory, accurate structure, inflection, and syntax, as well as a mastery of key terminology. Additionally, a command of two cultures is necessary to interpret idioms and address the audience in the correct register–formal and informal. Because simultaneous interpreting happens in real-time, there is no room for mistakes.”
Most conference interpreters have master’s degrees in interpreting. Others have master’s degrees in a related area plus professional training from a certificate program. The foundation of my training has come from interpreting at community meetings and my degree in intercultural relations. For me, interpreting is a natural way to operate requiring the ability to perceive a message from two different perspectives without changing its meaning. My favorite settings are international conferences, executive and official meetings and business presentations, training sessions, and community events.
For more information about my interpreting services and scheduling, please email me.
By Mari D. González
I conducted a series of training sessions last year for a company whose employees are close to 50 percent Latinos of which about 30 percent are not fully bilingual. The communication across cultures is as challenging for English-dominants as it is for Spanish-dominants.
Several Asian-American employees also work for this company. Their communication style is different from Americans as well as from Latinos which enriched our training activities and discussions.
At the end of the mixed-group training sessions, I asked participants to brainstorm on what they had learned and what has worked for them in the past that they can apply when communicating with someone outside their primary culture and language.
My question was, based on what you have learned during training and from your own personal experience, what do you recommend when working with people from different cultures?
I wanted the “takeaways” to come from them instead of me. This is what they came up with:
- Have a positive attitude.
- Do not be afraid to ask questions.
- Use “yes or no” questions.
- When unclear, ask again, paraphrase and repeat.
- When something is critical, communicate face-to-face.
- Use non-verbal communication such as hand gestures.
- Ask for help when needed; simply say “I need help.”
- Talk slowly, not necessarily louder.
- Avoid the use of slang.
- Show it instead of telling it.
- Use pictures and visual aids if possible.
- Give a warning upfront if your second language skills are limited.
By Mari D. González
I completed a translation project over the weekend and felt satisfied to deliver my work before the deadline. My client who does not speak Spanish fluently celled immediately to ask me to edit my work because she had found a mistake.
She discovered that in previous translations I have used “1ro” to abbreviate “first,” but this time I used “1.o” instead.
Why the change?
I wanted to follow the Royal Spanish Academy‘s (Real Academia Española-RAE) standard. In doing so, I confused my client and it is very likely that I’d have confused the intended audience who are more familiar with “1ro” too.
While in Mexico the agreed abbreviation for “primero [first]’ is “1o” without the dot or the “r” in between, in the U.S., the most common abbreviation is “1ro” which emulates “1st.” Both deviate from La RAE’s standards to accommodate to national preferences.
Because in intercultural communication as in translation meaning matters more than literal interpretation, I corrected my translation to follow not La RAE’s recommendations, but my client’s suggestion.
Assimilation is a process in which people with a different culture of origin completely adapt to the culture of residency, leaving behind traits from their culture of origin. That has been the expected social standard in the US. Yet, Latinos have not and will not assimilate. Latinos and Americans are “acculturating” to each other. Acculturation and assimilation are two different terms and should not be used interchangeably.