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Running, cooking and translating… but not all at once!

I do rather like multi-tasking, mainly as there never seems to be enough hours in a day or week to reach the bottom of my to-do list! However, I only like multi-tasking if I can do it without affecting the quality of each task! 

I was out running this morning, enjoying the sun on the Welsh hills, as it has been rather scarce lately! While I ran, I was catching up on some Spanish language time by listening to the end of episode 230 from El Último Runner, Radio MARCA’s weekly running podcast, presented by Natalia Freire.

Resident trainer, Franc Beneyto, was talking about training strategies mile, 3km and 5km running races. He stressed the importance of training slowly —of not always training at top speed — to become a better runner, to perform better in the race.

There are times to train fast, to do intervals, hill repeats, fartleks, just like there is a time and a place in our busy lives for quicker meals cooked from scratch. Franc Beneyto said something that has been turning over in my head ever since. “los mejores caldos se hacen a fuego lento”. 

‘Caldo’ is a traditional homemade chicken stock, a base for so many traditional meals. ‘Caldo’ can also be a soup. I have been pondering how I would translate the phrase as it is so bound in Spanish culture. However, within the context of running, and translating for a British audience, I eventually decided on “the best homemade stocks need time and a low heat”. I’d be interested in hearing suggestions from fellow translators. ‘Caldo’ is the essential base ingredient for so many regional varieties of soup. The ingredients vary from region to region but the simplest recipe I found from http://www.aspoonfulofspain.com included chicken carcass, water, leek, potato, onion, and carrot. 

At home I make super-powered chicken stock by freezing carcasses and making batches of stock with three or four at a time, including onion, carrot, celery, bouquet-garni and any other vegetable leftovers lurking in the bottom of the fridge! I thin freeze it in portion sized pots, ready to elevate everyday dishes to a new level. One of the many valuable lessons that lock-down has taught me is that seasonal, quality, locally sourced ingredients taste better. But the effect of time on these ingredients is almost magical.

Image shows a bowl of chicken stock and cooking pot. Shutterstock.com / Tatiana Volgutova

I love winter-warming dishes. They take time, and time means that they need more love. It is possible to make these dishes quickly using the same ingredients — or even buy them ready-made — but they do not taste the same. Rushed, they are better than edible, but always somewhat of a disappointment. A rushed dish can never reproduce the unctuous delight you dream about whilst it cooks. These homemade dishes, cooked low and slow, keep improving the longer they are cooked. 

At the weekend, I often start cooking a casserole or Bolognese in the morning to give it the time it needs and the time it deserves. The luxury of time is not something we often have in our busy lives but investing extra time and love in a dish is always worth the effort.

It struck me that this is also true of translation. Translations can be done extremely quickly now with the advances in Machine Translation and the latest developments in Neural Machine Translation. But depending on the quality of the machine translation, a human translator is always needed to perfect the output.

The best translations take time. They need the right ingredients. They need quality ingredients. The best translations need to be ‘cooked slowly’. They need to be ‘tasted’ and then ‘seasoned’ appropriately and skilfully for the intended audience. A translator could perform a translation quickly, but they would know that just like a ‘caldo’, it would have been better with more time. 

Over time, the ‘flavours’ of the translation can develop into something exquisite. The best translations take time to hone, craft and perfect… like the best ‘caldos’. The best translations impact their audience, reflecting the quality of the business or author they represent. 

If you want the best translation, not just a good translation, give it time – it is worth the wait. The text your translator delivers at the end will exceed your expectations, and hopefully, just like the best ‘caldo’ cooked on low heat, it will leave you asking if there is more in the pot!

© CAT Davis Translation 2021


23rd March 2021

Today marks a year since we in the UK first went into lockdown. It’s been designated a National Day of Reflection. It feels like one of those anniversaries in life that you don’t want to celebrate but don’t want to leave unsaid either. I almost feel a sense of grief for all that so many have sacrificed, all that has been lost in this last year. 

Not knowing how to respond to this feeling, I did something I have done frequently this year, and made a cake! Whether Marie Antoinette actually said, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“, or as we say, “Let them eat cake!” I do think cake is almost always a good idea!

I don’t think any of us could have imagined 365 days ago that we were embarking on a very abnormal entire year!

British writer Damian Barr said: “We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm. Some are on super-yachts. Some have just the one oar”. It resonates with me. Some people might well feel like they don’t even have a boat, be wondering whether they will sink or swim. But I don’t think any of us have found it easy to weather the COVID-19 storm. The mental health repercussions are and will continue to be enormous.

In our different ways, we have had to adapt to changes that we never imagined would be necessary. I think I have seen my parents, my children’s grandparents, three times in the last year. They only live 150 miles (approx 240km) away. Successive lockdowns and discrepancies between rules on either side of the English-Welsh border have made more frequent visits sadly impossible.

Like many across the world, we have chatted on Skype, Zoom, and WhatsApp as well as on the phone with family, friends, and work colleagues. Even though there was rarely any news to share, we have spoken often, contact is important, support essential, and learning to listen to the unsaid, vital.

It somehow feels highly appropriate that both my sons are actually in school today. Tomorrow they won’t both be. We are privileged to have been able to take education for granted in the UK. This year, we have learned about home learning, remote learning, blended learning. We have experienced the joys of being more involved in our children’s education and the frustrations when it goes wrong. We have learned to juggle the school-work-home balance like never before. Children have learned that they do actually really miss being in school when they can’t go. They have learned of the nervous joy of returning to school, which isn’t like it used to be — but is so much better than not being there — even if you have to wear a mask.

As I sit and type, I remember the things we missed but also the things we discovered. My eldest son (14) missed a Spanish exchange trip to Córdoba and an archaeology trip to Provence. However, to pass the time, he navigated eBay and bought himself a tractor mower as a lockdown project. It arrived with 3 wheels and not working, and he now proudly drives it up and down the lawn. He researched and worked out how to fix it, sourcing the necessary parts himself.  The skills he has learned will last a lifetime and may never have happened without the craziness of COVID-19. This has also recently resulted in his interest in buying old broken mowers, restoring them to working order and selling them. If only all businesses were able to say they made the same percentage profits this year!

My youngest has learned to ride a bike. All that time at home has paid off. A life-long skill that will take him far – and fast! He also learned to swim on holiday last summer. Sadly, the only swimming that has gone on since is in the bath as pools are closed. He has also lost his first baby teeth – thankfully, the tooth fairy learned to negotiate all the new rules and regulations!

As a family, we have explored countless new paths around our village, discovering more about the wonderful part of the world we live in. We’ve stood on the doorstep and clapped for our incredible NHS. We made rainbows and baked and cooked…. a lot! We stayed home when we had to, and we stayed safe. 

Image shows rainbow made from tissue paper hearts, in a window

We have all learned a lot this year – not least in terms of language. Terminology has had to adapt to the rapidly changing situation. ‘Lockdown’ severity has been described in ‘levels’ in England and ‘tiers’ in Wales. The aim was to ‘flatten the curve’ and reduce ‘community spread’ by enforcing ‘self-isolation’. The aim we were told was to achieve ‘herd immunity.’ ‘Contact tracing’ has helped to identify ‘clusters’. We wear masks and maybe get ‘maskne’ to avoid ‘aerosol’ droplets. We have learned of ‘viral shedding’ and the importance of reducing the ‘viral load’ to reduce the severity of the illness. We have watched ‘R number’ (the rate of infection) rise to over 1 and beyond, and thankfully fall. For those lucky enough to have made it abroad, ‘quarantine’ was introduced. ‘Social distancing’ has become the norm but remains challenging, and there have not been enough hugs! We have attended ‘drive-thru test centres’ to get a ‘PCR test’. Students and teachers now take regular ‘lateral flow tests’. This week, we received the wonderful news that over half the adult population in the UK have now received a ‘vaccine’, although we don’t yet know what effect ‘variants’ will have.

Epidemiologists have been on our screens on an almost daily basis. As I wrote the last paragraph, I was acutely aware of how many technical medical terms have become part of our daily discourse. Much has been lost, but much has been gained too. The months to come will remain challenging, but I think we enter them better prepared than we were last year. 

‘Normal’ is different now – maybe it always will be in some way. Experiences change us, and we are not the same people that started lockdown a year ago. My children are now delighted to get out of bed and go to school – that’s one thing I never thought would happen!

Stay safe, stay sane and keep smiling!

© CAT Davis Translation 2021

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