When it comes to letter writing, CFCA translators worldwide make an important contribution.
Translating a letter requires more than knowledge of the language. It requires an ability to convey the author’s true sentiment.
Ana Carla Agreda and Paulo Alfonso Pleitez Barrera have translated thousands of letters in El Salvador. They offer tips to make letters easier to translate and for sponsored friends to understand.
What are some challenges in translating letters from English?
Ana Carla: There are some phrases and words in some states that only the sponsors understand what they mean. I am lucky to have translators who can help me.
Paulo: Most letters arenít that difficult, but in some cases there are sponsors who use technical language or language specific to their profession such as nuclear chemistry, law and other professions.
|Tips from Ana Carla and Paulo|
- Talk about the weather, your family or your daily life.
- Encourage your friend.
- Give context. Letters typically sent to friends and family about holidays are sometimes difficult for sponsored friends to understand, especially the events in these letters.
- Try to avoid idiomatic phrases, such as “easy as cake” or “I died when I heard the news.”
- Use short, simple sentences and avoid slang. Here are examples that have caused confusion: “jump the couch” as in losing control or going crazy; to “maul” someone with hugs and kisses; and using the word “kicks” to mean shoes.
- Write legibly, print neatly or type your letter since handwriting can sometimes be difficult to read.
- Provide a brief explanation when writing about American holidays and customs since these will likely be new ‘holidays’ for your friend. Here are some examples: “Pumpkin pie,” Veterans Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, Wise Men (use “Three Kings” instead), Trick or Treat.
These words donít always translate easily to another language. Or sponsors use words that in the U.S. have another meaning.
For example, in English, the word ìvacationî is when you leave to travel, spend 15 days away. Here, it is when the children have free days and donít go to school.
Also, levels of school are difficult. The sponsors say it differently, like ìmy child is in 11th grade.î So I try to relate it to our terms so we can translate it and make it familiar.
Can you share one of the most memorable letters you have translated?
Ana Carla: There are letters so beautiful that they make you think and wish you could be part of that friendship.
Paulo: Each letter I translate is a new experience. You start to feel part of the story. The sponsors always try to transmit new knowledge and this helps the sponsored friend imagine and open their minds.
I remember one sponsor who sponsors several children in different countries of the world. There was one letter I enjoyed translating it a lot.
He described that he had gone to visit children he sponsored in Central America and Mexico. He sent photos of an amusement park in Mexico.
I will never forget it because it transported me to the place he was describing. I imagine it was the same for the child, since the child is limited to the small village, neighborhood or wherever they live.
There are children who donít have the opportunity to see things on the Internet or television to give them an idea of what these places are like. With these anecdotes, the child knows and it makes him use his or her imagination.
We appreciate your effort in writing to your sponsored friends, who treasure every letter!