The other day I received a call from a potential client (by the way, as a freelancer, does one still refer to agencies that hire you as clients or employers?) who asked me if I could interpret in a medical setting. Unfortunately the time did not fit with my schedule, but I politely reminded her that I was available for translation, for which I had not time constraints. She then went on to confirm with me –well, more like remind me- that I hailed from a remote island in the Caribbean where Spanish is spoken. Of course, but, what was the point? Well, her clients’ demands are mostly for Mexican Spanish so she would need Mexican translators. Hard to argue with that logic.
I had recently gotten in the habit of pointing out that I specialized, if you will, on Latinamerican Spanish, as opposed to Peninsular Spanish. I felt quite content with how the extra detail looked on my CV and cover letters, like a tiny branch of parsley on top of a slice of deliciously baked salmon. I was also glad this shift in the industry was happening: finally they understand that Spanish is not one unified block of sameness!
And I will not deny I was excited when recently I was engaged by a local LSP to translate into my particular brand of Spanish. This excitement was again awakened in me when at my school’s Career Fair a month ago I saw the representative of a large translation agency really brighten up when she saw where I was from in my CV. She stated that they were currently looking for translators of that particular variety. What can I say? I even felt vindicated.
And then, as I sat filling out freelancer profiles online for different LSP’s, I ran once more into the varieties of Spanish, but this time I was not amused: when it came to specifying your working languages, Spanish was limited to each and every Spanish-speaking country, and there was none of that “Spanish (International sort)” available. So now, it turns out, Spanish translators are supposed to work only into their particular country’s Spanish.
I am not sure what to think about the sudden awakening of LSP’s and their prise de conscience about the differences of Spanish. Yes, I was right in feeling vindicated: there was some disrespect implicit in that plain “Spanish” sitting by itself in drop-down lists. And yet, I do not see the same specification sitting by French, English or Portuguese, languages widely spoken in very different areas of the world and, although not as varied as Spanish (what other language, after all, is the official language of 21 countries in the world?), do exhibit very unique particularities in each region they are spoken. (Brazilian Portuguese by itself is a Leviathan of accents, lexicon and phonetics dotting the landscape of a vast territory of varying ecosystems and realities.) When did LSP’s get so strict about localizing Spanish?
Even though there might be many reasons to rejoice about this shift in the industry (as I at first did), it still represents an effort at sweeping up a vast, complicated thing and boxing it into perfectly fitting categories. Geography saved the industry the trouble of having to invent these categories: just divide it all by country and call it a day. In a globalized world, the globe was divided into continents and regions. In a localized world, the globe is further divided into smaller and smaller chunks, but still irremediably disconnected from each other in the minds of those that would reduce culture and language to the sum of its parts.