Still here / noch da.

It has been a while since I last wrote a post in this blog. The main reason for my absence is the amount of plans that I have been carrying out lately. After some months of uncertainty about what I wanted to do in the future, it became clear to me what I actually enjoy doing:

  • Translating, specially children’s literature.
  • Teaching Spanish, giving what is part of me – my culture and my language – to people passionate about it.

Once I saw it clear, I decided to find the different ways to differentiate myself from other people with similar goals.

The following is just a list of the steps I am taking to make my dreams possible, which can be helpful for other young translators and teachers.


Finding my way as a translator of children’s literature

Join groups related to my field: I found out that some international associations promote children’s and young adults literature. I followed them in different media such as Facebook and LinkedIn. It is important to being informed about their congresses, new tendencies in literature and interesting authors.

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(IBBY; Photo via: http://www.ibby.org.uk)

(ANILIJ; Photo via: http://espaciodelij.blogspot.co.at/2010_04_01_archive.html)

(NCRCL; Photo via: https://ncrcl.wordpress.com)

✔ Keep learning about the topic: I read a good amount of articles and projects about children’s literature and its translation that I found online.

✔ Let everybody know what I like: even if it might not sound important, it does help a lot. Every time a friend or colleague of mine sees something related to children’s literature, they send me the information. I was able to contact a university professor specialized in this field because a current colleague of mine used to be his student. So go ahead and let people know about your passions!

Contact experts about the topic: write emails to people you think might be able to orient you. You might not always receive an answer and you have to be patient. Most of the people I have contacted are professors specialized in translation of children’s literature. Even though some of them are more research-orientated, I have always received different and therefore interesting points of view.

My last contact encouraged me to join the congress her university was hosting about children’s literature. It was organized by ANILIJ (Asociación Nacional en Investigación de Literatura Infantil y Juvenil, see logo above). Even though I am living in Austria, I decided that was a good opportunity for me and flew last month to the westernmost part of Spain to attend the event. It was a great experience.

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(Photo via: https://xcongresointernacionalanilij.wordpress.com)

Gather as much experience as possible: thank to Babelcube – website I have already talked about – I am currently translating my second book for children.

Contact companies that might become potential employers: this is going to be my next step. I will try to get in touch with publishers by emailing them and attending literature events, like the coming book fair in Madrid.


Finding my way as a Spanish teacher

Join groups related to my field: I think this advice can be applied to everything. In this case, the Facebook groups and online communities share a lot of useful material or recommend specific exercises to do in class.

Keep learning about the topic: as a teacher, you have to stay up to date about new methodology, new exercises, changes in the language, etc. It is important to never stop learning and hear the experience of other teachers. I did a very intense online course for Spanish teacher and after 4 months I earned my Teaching Certificate of Spanish as a Foreign Language.

Furthermore, and to make my profile more versatile, I just finished another online course for examiners of DELE (Diplomas of Spanish as a Foreign Language). There is a certificate for the different levels by Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: A1/A2, A2/B1 for scholars, B1/B2 and C1/C2. The institution in charge of this certificates is the Instituto Cervantes and the certificate i earned was the second one. I thought a deeper understanding of the language knowledge scholars should have would help me in my classes of Austrian secondary schools.

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(Photo via: http://hablaworld.com/what-is-d-e-l-e/ )

Gather as much experience as possible: it is usually not that difficult to tutor different students and start realizing how the work of a teacher is.

Observe how other professionals work: since i have been working in two schools, I was able to work along with different teachers and even sit in in other subjects. I could learn a lot after the students relationship with the teacher and the attitude the teachers have in class. It might not always be the case, but I am sure asking former teachers at high school or even university to sit in their classes is another possibility.

Contact companies that might become potential employers: language schools usually ask for at least one year of experience. However I am sure good education and international experience play an important role as well.


Schönes Wochenende

Babelcube: an interesting platform for literary translators

One of the fields that I would like to specialize in is the translation of children’s literature. Although it might appear quite simple at first, this kind of literature is full of sociocultural markers with a very specific moral message behind. The work of the translator is to give those aspects meaning in the target language.

Apart from that, not only children but also parents, librarians, and educators are part of the target population of these books since they are the ones buying or reading them. So, in general, the translator’s task in this kind of literature is not as easy as it seems.

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(Image via: segundamano.es)

Kika Superbruja, my favorite book collection as a child.

Curious about its title in the original version (German) and in other languages? Check out the author’s website: Knister.


In order to specialize in this field, I realized I had to do three things:

  • Research about the topic (experts, articles, postgraduate studies, etc.)
  • Read this type of literature, both in my source languages and in my target language
  • Find the way to start translating children’s literature

I knew the last point was not going to be easy. However, I suddenly found Babelcube, a platform that connects translators and authors / book publishers. See here how it works:

Thanks to Babelcube, I have translated my first children’s book: 5 historias de Pascua para niños. This learn-to-read book by Katrina Kahler is now available in Spanish in Scribd, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Inktera.

If you are a professional translator looking for possibilities in literary translation, what are you waiting for to sign in and find your future book?

Never stop learning

It is never too late to learn something new. Although we specialize and work in a field for the rest of our lives, I think it is important to keep our minds open to new ideas, concepts, and points of view.

Today I would like to recommend two sources of knowledge that are really useful for me.


The Very Short Introductions Series:

This book series is the perfect opportunity to read an introduction about that topic you have always wanted to know about. Published by Oxford University Press, there are over 400 titles with no more than 230 pages and written by experts in the field.

I am currently reading the very short introduction about children’s literature by Kimberley Reynolds and I am really enjoying this first approach to the topic.

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(Image via: The Guardian)

You can have a look at the complete series in the Very Short Introductions website and purchase them for around 8 euro.


Studying in Coursera:

Coursera is a platform that offers a lot of interesting MOOCs (massive open online course) organized by different prestigious universities. It was founded by Stanford University and today more than 80 universities take part of the project.

Learning courses is completely free; you just need a computer to follow the video lectures, reading the course content, taking quizzes and writing your assignments. However, for those students willing to earn a verified certificate signed by the university and professors that organize the course, there is a fee that varies between 30 and 100 dollars. The certificate is earned once the course has been successfully completed and it is offered for certain courses, not all of them.

For the past 3 weeks, I have been studying my first course in this platform. It is about the innovative concept of Gamification and it is taught by Kevin Werbach, professor at The Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania. The course is really interesting: his video lectures are easy to follow, the amount of quizzes and assignments is accurate, and I am learning a lot.

Check what Coursera courses are waiting for you in its website!


Knowledge is no burden.
Wissen schadet nie.
On ne sait jamais trop.
El saber no ocupa lugar.

High school traditions in Vorarlberg

While working in two high schools, I am able to learn a lot about the educational system and high school traditions in Austria and, in particular, in the region of Vorarlberg.

Austrian students in their senior year are called Maturanten, being Die Matura the high-school diploma. These students not only have to get ready for that exam but also prepare a number of important events:

  • Maturaball: a formal dance similar to prom, where students invite their relatives, teachers and friends to celebrate that they are about to graduate. They usually start dancing a polonaise and presenting every student. Each class performs some kind of small show—sometimes even with the participation of teachers— and plays a video they have previously recorded (Maturavideo). Guests have the opportunity to eat traditional dishes like Wiener Schnitzel while enjoying the night. I was able to attend two of this dances and I had a lot of fun:

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Maturaball HAK Lustenau (October 3rd, 2014) and Maturaball BG Dornbirn (February 6th, 2015)

  • Kläppe Fest: a more informal party that students celebrate and where teachers are invited to drink. The one I went to was in a bar and the theme of the party was ‘sport’, so people were supposed to come disguised. It is always a weekday so the Maturanten party all night long and go to school the following morning before the other students arrive. They usually prepare jokes like painting the students that try to go to class or close the school buildings. As far as I know, this party only takes place in Vorarlberg, since it is the only Austrian region with no actual university. That means a lot of girls and boy leave their towns in order to study somewhere else and therefore, senior year becomes really important for them.
  • Maturavideo and Maturazeitung: a video and a magazine about their class. They have to be really creative in order to make innovative videos and magazines to present themselves and their school. They make some money selling the magazine and can also participate in a competition for the best Matura-video and Matura-magazine in Vorarlberg. The winners were announced a few weeks ago in the regional newspaper and I was excited to see that two of my classes won the first place, one for the magazine and another one for the video. Congratulations!

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The front page of my students’ Matura-magazine: 5b Handelsakademie Lustenau
(Image via: Vorarlberg Online)


The Matura-video of another class in the same school: 5a Handelsakademie Lustenau
I was so impressed how good it was that I was certain they deserved the first place.

After all these thoughtfully prepared events, I wonder how big the graduation will be! My expectations are now too high… 🙂

Teaching history in language courses

When I was asked to explain the Spanish history of the 20th Century to my Austrian high school students, I tried to think of a way to avoid the traditional teaching method: presenting unconnected figures, dates, names and facts like a monologue.

I needed my presentation to be dynamic, entertaining and attractive. It was clear to me that the students needed to take part in the presentation. On top of that, it had to add some kind of challenge to make them pay attention throughout it.

But how was I supposed to do all that?

  • I created a game: they had to connect historical events with the right dates in a given timeline.
  • I made it visually attractive: Prezi is a wonderful tool that will always draw your audience’s attention.
  • I did a cultural approach: I tried to relate the Spanish events to their history and culture in order to make it closer to them.
  • I showed as much enthusiasm as I could: talking about personal experiences helps a lot. Furthermore, if anyone has to be excited about the presentation, that is the speaker!

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The actual content of the presentation was, of course, the explanation of each event with pictures in new slides. However, that 10-minutes-game played an important role on their attention throughout the rest of the class.

I have to admit that I did not mention a lot of decisive events that have happened in Spain during the 20th Century. Nevertheless, I had to consider the interests of high school students and the fact that, even if it was a class about history, we were still in a language course.

About this activity:

  • Level: intermediate and advanced.
  • Class duration: 40 – 50 minutes.
  • Cultural content: Spanish history (20th and 21st centuries).
  • Linguistic contents: past tenses, numbers (students reading the years out loud), vocabulary about politic systems.
  • Extra activities: specific questions about the presentation, essay about the most interesting event.
  • Results: more than positive! After giving this presentation 5 times already, I never get tired of it.

How to motivate yourself to be more productive?

Nowadays, the information we find on the Internet might get to the point of being overwhelming. We try our best to be productive but all those pages, applications and social networks consume our time.

Calendars with to-do lists have been so far my best motivation in order to achieve my daily purposes. However, they are never as effective as I want them to be.

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Until today.

A few hours ago I found this incredible tool that I am sure will make my days more efficient: Habitrpg. It turns your day into a game. Through gamification, a technique I will write about in another post, you get rewarded after achieving your daily purposes, joining challenges or simply making the best out of your time.

Apart from bring really intuitive, its surface is attractive and easy to customize:

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(Image via: habitrpg.com)

I am so excited to go to the next level and check new ways of motivate myself to be more productive.

So, what are you waiting for to create your own avatar and to achieve your goals in an enjoyable way?

30 interesting articles about languages by Olga JeNo

I would like to thank Olga JeNo for mentioning my post about Christmas commercials among the best articles related to languages in 2014. Make sure to check her amazing blog about translation and languages.

Enjoy it:

20 000 lenguas

¡Hola a tod@s! Últimamente nos hemos tomado un break para concentrarnos en la Navidad, la Familia, Papá Noel y esas celebraciones tan tradicionales y características de estas fechas. Sin embargo, no podemos despedir este 2014 sin mencionar los mejores artículos de lengua que hemos estado leyendo este año, los que han dejado algún tipo de huella o nos han hecho aprender algo nuevo. Esta selección no está dirigida sólo y exclusivamente a traductores e intérpretes, es una recopilación para aquellos a quienes les guste aprender, les interesen las lenguas, el periodismo, la sociolingüísticao simplemente sean curiosos o curiosas.

no podemos despedir este 2014 sin mencionar los mejores artículos de lengua que hemos estado leyendo este año

los mejores artículos de lengua del 2014

View original post 1,465 more words

A hundred years ago

For this special day, I would like to recommend a film to any person that loves History and/or languages: Joyeux Noël (2005).

It depicts an incredible event that took place in Christmas Eve of 1914, the so called Christmas Truce. This French film gathers good actors of different nationalities representing the German, French and Scottish soldiers that celebrated together that night a hundred years ago.

In the original version of this film we are able to enjoy the encounter of three languages and three cultures. Daniel Brühl, one of my favorites actors, plays the role of a German lieutenant that speaks the three different languages. However I do not recommend to watch the Spanish version since it does not make a difference between the three mother tongues: all actors are directly dubbed into Spanish.

I hope you enjoy this film as much as I did and I wish you happy holidays.

Marry Christmas

Joyeux Noël

Frohe Weihnachten 

Feliz Navidad

Without an enemy there can be no war.

Christmas commercials in language courses

As a language assistant abroad, I notice how important the cultural aspects are in order to completely understand a foreign language. In my opinion, it is much more efficient to learn a language while increasing our knowledge of the foreign culture rather than just focusing on the linguistic aspects.

Last time I had the chance to introduce Spanish peculiarities in my classes was during a presentation about the Christmas traditions in my country. My idea was to play some videos in order to make the presentation more dynamic and entertaining for my Austrian students. In that moment, I realized the best examples were commercials: they are full of cultural features that should be explained in order to understand, not only the commercial, but also the target population.

Moreover, teachers can make a good use of commercials: listening comprehension, writing exercises about a particular cultural aspect, discussion in small groups, guessing-the-end game, introduction to a certain topic…

Regarding Christmas time in Spain, the following commercials are really helpful for teachers and I yielded good results with some of them:

1. Freixenet, 2000

  • Level: elementary
  • Cultural contents: Spanish Christmas drinks, history of this brand (Catalan sparkling white wine), flamenco dance, Spanish regions (comunidades autónomas)
  • Linguistic contents: vocabulary about food and drink, Christmas wishes
  • Extra activities: complete in small groups a Spanish map with cultural aspects (e.g. Cava in Catalonia and Flamenco in Andalusia), compare Spanish Christmas food and drink with those of the students’ country

2. Noel Cookies Company, 2006

  • Level: elementary – intermediate
  • Colombian commercial
  • Cultural contents: school Christmas performances, costumes, Christmas songs (villancicos)
  • Linguistic contents: vocabulary about animals, professions and Christmas songs
  • Extra activities: Christmas song (fill in the gaps), oral communication (do you like costumes? which one is your favorite and why?)
    • We learnt about this and other challenging videos for translators in university!

3. El Almendro, 2010

  • Level: elementary
  • Cultural contents: Spanish people living abroad, typical Christmas sweet (turrón)
  • Linguistic contents: vocabulary about Christmas sweets and desserts, irregular verb volver
  • Extra activities: Christmas song (fill in the gaps), Christmas wishes

4. Ikea, 2014

  • Level: intermediate – advanced
  • Cultural contents: meaning of the Three Wise Men in Spain, Christmas letters
  • Linguistic contents: oral comprehension, vocabulary about Christmas presents, subjunctive form in Spanish
  • Extra activities: written communication (write your own letter for the Three Wise Kings using subjunctive), comparison in smalls groups the different Christmas holidays between Spain and the students’ country

5. Spanish Lottery, 2014

  • Level: intermediate
  • English or Spanish subtitles
  • Cultural contents: the meaning of lottery in Spain, how the lottery works in Spain (how much, when, where to buy, etc.)
  • Linguistic contents: vocabulary for bars, imperative form
  • Extra activities: guessing the end (stop in minute 1:45), oral and written communication (what would you do with the money? which number would you buy and why?)

By the way, we knew this morning which number was the lucky one of this year: 13437.

Happy Monday!

Translating songs

The inspiration for this new post started two weeks ago. While some friends were playing the guitar, two interesting song books came to my hands. I was looking at the different lyrics when I noticed the following title:

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Aserejé (The Ketchup Song)

A few days later, I found myself in a bar in the middle of Austria hearing this Spanglish version of Aserejé that is obviously unknown in my country. When I used to dance this song as a child, I could not have imagined that this Spanish summer song would became so popular abroad. And for so long. This made me think about the translation in music, a field we do not really study in university.

After doing some research, I understood how difficult this task can be. Translators have to take into account not only the text, but also other aspects related to music, such as melody, rhyme and harmony. Of course, the aim of such a task is that the new lyrics make sense and become as singable as the original ones with the same rhythm.

But if lyrics are supposed to only sound natural in their original language, why should songs be translated? Bellow I propose a classification of what type of songs are translated (or not) and why.

  • Songs that become internationally popular and therefore translated. This was the case of Aserejé and Macarena, another catchy Spanish song that since 1993 is played and danced in a lot of countries.
  • Songs that are released in different languages. Singers with international recognition like Shakira create two versions of their hits in order to reach both their fans worldwide and their national public; in this case, the Spanish speaking population. These versions usually result in successful songs since it is the song writer the one deciding the different lyrics. When this task is given to a translator, it is more likely that the new lyrics sound too literal or unnatural.
  • Songs that are directly written in a language even if the singer is not a native speaker of that language. English is usually the foreign language chosen and, in these cases, the singers do not worry about translating lyrics into their mother tongues. What I find really interesting is how internalization is making bands write their texts in a foreign language in order to get larger recognition. There are a lot of groups that follow this trend, like ABBA (Sweden) and Of Monsters And Men (Iceland). In this regard, I would like to recommend a new Austrian group that I had the opportunity to see a month ago: Pepe The Goose.

Another important aspect of translated song is their role in films. Should songs be translated if the film is dubbed? Let’s see some examples:

  • The story in Les Misérables, the 2012 musical-film based on Victor Hugo’s novel, is developed by beautiful English songs. The actor’s performance and singing were universally recognized and the songs were not translated. But still, the few sentences that the actors pronounced without singing were dubbed. This produces a strange feeling in the public due to the combination of real and dubbed voices as well as translated dialogues and original scenes with subtitles. In my opinion, since it would have been very difficult to find an appropriate translation for every song in so many languages, the rest of the dialogues could have remained in the original language.
  • The best example we would be able to find in terms of translated songs is probably Disney. For a very long time, this company has been creating children films with a good number of songs in a lot of languages. It is remarkable how their songs are recognized by children from all over the world. Songs are essential to understand the thoughts and development of the cartoon characters and that is why translators have to make a good job so that children follow the story in their own languages. Here we find a beautiful example of a Disney song in 25 different languages:

Which one is your favorite? I choose Japanese!

What about you? Do you know another interesting story behind a translated song?

Liebe Grüße