Sunday, October 9, 2011

El Nou d’Octubre and More Unrecognized Translators





The years slip by. Once again it’s the Ninth of October, the National Festival of Valencians, anniversary of the bloodless capitulation by the last Muslim ruler of Valencia to King James I of Aragon – Christian of course – in 1238. A much restored mediaeval stone cross at the end of the main street of the village where I live marks roughly where his rearguard halted while he entered the city.

Last year on this blog at this date, I told about the Jewish translators who assisted James and his henchmen in the 1238 negotiations and subsequent administration: to find the post, enter octubre in the Search box on the right. This year, something more contemporary.

Valencia today is a major Mediterranean port and tourist attraction. From the terrace of our flat we have spied all summer two or three large cruise ships a week tying up in the port for 24 hours at a time. Some of them are so enormous above the waterline, like floating blocks of flats, it’s a wonder they don’t capsize (see photo). Each carries literally thousands of passengers. It disgorges them into the city for fast sightseeing and shopping, and I doubt most of them even taste an authentic paella. But few of these lightning visitors speak Spanish, and knowledge of English – let alone Italian, German, etc. – is very limited in Valencia. So they need interpreters. Only they’re not called interpreters. They’re called guides or hostesses. We’re back again to unrecognized translators, not counted in the statistics of the translation industry. I’m reminded of my own early days as a travel agency courier in Spain under the Franco regime. That's how I first came to Valencia in 1953, before the Great Flood (La Riada) of 1957 led to major changes in the city's landscape. It was a period that now seems almost as remote to young Valencians as that of James I of Aragon.

Image: Cruise ship, probably Italian, as seen from our terrace.

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