Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Surprize Job Offer

Last Wednesday I paid a visit to the university’s marketing office in response to at least a week of corresponding via email with one “Pablo Mastroeni” who apparently works in that department. What made me open the message from a random stranger rather than assuming it to have somehow evaded my spam filter and erasing it without a second thought is as much a mystery to me now as the message itself was when I opened it then- which is why it resulted in so many confused and curious messages to follow. He was never clear about exactly why he wanted to see me, but for some unknown reason we had an appointment to see if I could “help with something”.

That “something” turned out to be editing the official student guide book they distribute to internationals when they come to orientation.

Why me?

I still have no idea. But needless to say, I couldn’t have been more willing to lend a hand!
Apparently when he asked Marcella, who works in the internationals office and spent a good two weeks prior to my arrival faithfully writing back and forth with me sorting out all of the details, who she thought would be up for the job I was the first person she recommended. Presumably because of her having seen so much of my writing?... I honestly have no real guess as to what happened, but I was too shocked and thrilled to ask very many questions.


The guide book while conveying all of the necessary information was quite obviously written by a Spanish-speaker who had learned English well enough to communicate but not enough to read smoothly. I had thought so from the very beginning when we were given copies of them with our class information for oral examinations, but would never have expected a chance to clean it up myself. Most of the changes that needed to be made were simple- such as replacing “water to drink” with “drinking water” or “throughout our territory” with “the majority of the country” and the like- but others were so badly phrased I just rewrote them completely.

The bottom line, however, is that I have my very first, albeit unofficial, writing job! They may be paying me with a school sweatshirt, but considering I would have been more than happy to do it for paperclips I don’t feel robbed in the least. Pablo said he understands that I’m in classes and to feel free to take my time- weeks even if I need to- but I’ve been so thrilled about it I already fished my final revisions last night and dropped it off to him this afternoon. He was surprised to see me back after only a week, but also appeared pleased to have it taken care of so quickly and asked me to come back on Friday to pick up a letter of recommendation the head of the marketing department will generate for me to do with as I please!

All other causes for celebration aside, it was so interesting to look at how such subtle differences in word order or usage could give away that it hadn’t been written by a native English speaker- not to mention trying to understand why they made the mistakes they did based upon what I now understand of Spanish grammar. Translation is such an incredibly intriguing thing to me… that language is so perpetually bound to culture... You aren’t simply exchanging words for their equivalents. You’re trying to re-create the same idea with the same implications in an entirely different cultural system. It’s nearly unfathomable that we can do it at all! Because words themselves are only symbols without any correspondence to the objects or ideas to which they refer outside of the minds of those speaking and listening- assuming they are a part of the same cultural system and interpret the symbols the same way. That we can communicate even the simplest thoughts effectively at all is unbelievable!
But we do.
It’s exquisite.
Beautiful.
…Unspeakable.

2 comments:

b said...

im so excited for you.
pretty crazy how that happened.

im glad your blogging.

Alaina and (Patrick) said...

Ashley. You really should study philosophy. So many philosophers debate over whether language or knowledge come first...and beyond that, whether little details of knowledge come first (ie: facts, information) or whole paradigms do. I am proud of you, and am not surprised that they chose you to do their editing. This is only the first of many jobs that you will more than qualify for. I'm sorry I missed your phone call last night, please call again. Love, your sister.