Wednesday, 8 October 2008

I'm not a translator

Sorry, haven't posted in a while... only excuse is I've been working (and sleeping) alot. I know, not much of an excuse. So I'll tell you a little story from today at work, that would be entirely unnoteworthy without a little embellishment, so I'm throwing in my internal monologue in brackets throughout the story!

Today, my years of french immersion came back to haunt me! Now don't get me wrong, I'm very, very glad to have the french at my disposal. I'd just rather not use it if I can get away with it. Which I will admit is a very good way to completely loose whatever vocabulary I once had. But I digress. I was at work, sitting at the desk JUST about to leave for my lunch break, when the phone rang. I answered, and the emergency room nurse was asking if we had any people that could translate french. (*brain frozen* Not me. I'm so not a translator!) So I asked her to wait a minute while I checked.
As you have probably already noted, I did NOT reply "sure, I'll be right down", no, I asked the rest of the people standing around me if anyone knew french. There are actually a good number of nurses and doctors up here that are much much more fluent than I am. So I figured I was doing the patient and doctor downstairs a big service by trying to find someone else to translate. No one knew french. (Sigh... why must I be the only french speaking one here? I'm certain I heard two doctors conversing in quebecois french just 20 minutes ago... where are they anyways?) So I went back to the phone and said someone would be right down. (I suppose my stumbling will be better than nothing at all. I can do this!) I told the charge I was headed downstairs to translate.
I walked down the hall, pushed the elevator button (I can do this, no problem, I bet they just want me to translate basic instructions, I can DO this!) Elevator doors open. (Crap, what was I thinking?) I walk over to the nurse's desk, to be greeted by a very relieved nurse who says "Oh good! You speak french!" (You say that like I'm something amazing... you haven't heard me speak... I'm sure I've lost all my french... I'll be a complete wreck... what was I thinking to volunteer for this... maybe I should confess and go back upstairs... leave before the frenchman laughs at my horrid attempt at translation!) Me: "Well, it's been awhile since I've spoken much, and I'm not so good with technical terms" Her: "no big deal, the doctor just needs you to translate some instructions." (Calm down Heather, she's confident in you, you can do this) About 10 minutes later when the doctor finally gets off the phone... I walk over to the patient, "Bonjour" Her: "Salut!" (Hmm, did I sound french, she's responding in french. I should know only beginners use "bonjour", "salut" is much more common... shoot her accent is really thick, I guess she really doesn't know much english. Silly, of course she doesn't know much english, that's why they called you down here, to translate. I was hoping she might have a bit of english!) I quickly explain that it's been ten years since I spoke much french, and apologize in advance if I forget words or sound a little rusty. She doesn't seem concerned. The doctor gives the first part of his instructions, I internally collapse. (I don't know how to say this. What is the name of that part of the body, how do I explain the problem? How do I... Oh yeah, the french love to talk with their hands, I'll use my hands as much as possible) So I talk, with my hands to help me, which wasn't much of a stretch, since I talk with my hands a lot anyways. It did help, and the patient was so good about throwing in words and explaining back to me what she thought I said. The patient also had a few concerns she wanted the doctor to know about, so I translated back... kind of. See the thing is, once I get my brain on one language, my vocabulary for the other seems to instantly diminish. No, wait, my vocab is actually pretty good in both languages, I just can't seem to make the right words come out when I really want them to, so I sit there, the word on the tip of my tongue, struggling to find that thing I really want to say. I laughed at myself, explained the ENGLISH in a roundabout way, feel like a doufus for forgetting things in my native tongue, what kind of horrid translator must I appear to be? But I must say, I figure I understood at least 80% of what the lady was saying, the other 20% was lost to me due to the speed it was said and the thickness of her accent, but I got what was implied. Both parties appeared to be satisfied at the end. And so I returned upstairs to the ward, went on my break, and the first words out of my mouth were "I'm SO not a translator!"... and yet still, our ward clerk says: "so you know french, I'll remember that for next time they ask." Sigh.

Oh, and a quick note to say: I'm not sure if any of you remember the trip Laurie and I took last year, and the fact that we never finished narrating it. Laurie has (finally) finished and sent me a copy of her account of the Ireland portion of our trip. I figure, better late than never. So I'll try and remember to post that sometime in the next week (I just need to grab some pictures for it when I've got free time, which may be minimal for the next 4 days)

Late addition to post. I almost forgot the regular weather update! Temp high: +4C Temp low: -7C (this morning)
Sunrise: 7:03am Sunset: 17:40 (5:40pm) And yes, I've seen some northern lights. No, I haven't managed any pictures yet.


**Sam** said...

That was a great story Heather! Made me giggle!!!

And your GREAT with your words!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the update, I figured 80% was real good. Miss you.