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Recently at a conference a delegate congratulated someone on their 64th birthday making a joke referencing a Beatles song, "when I'm 64" and the colleague didn't know what it meant.

What advice would you give colleagues to keep up with the references often made to popular culture by anglosaxon speakers? Any tips welcome

asked 12 Nov '11, 14:23

Marta%20Piera%20Marin's gravatar image

Marta Piera ...

edited 14 Nov '11, 16:30

Vincent%20Buck's gravatar image

Vincent Buck

Unfortunately, I don't think there are any shortcuts to that. You have to have general culture, and if you don't, you're damned. Of course, if you have time (and often you do), you can ask colleagues in the booth, especially if they have the language in their combination (depending on whether you are working in a biactive or multilingual setting). The interpreter is supposed to be familiar with the culture as well, and quite frankly I'm surprised to hear there's an interpreter with English who has not heard of the Beatles song you are referring to. You need to read books, listen to music, talk to people, read magazines, watch tv, visit the country (if you don't live there already)... and ask older colleagues. My tip: figure out in advance what to say in your language when the English speaker refers to "the Gadareen swine".

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answered 14 Nov '11, 15:21

Sirpa's gravatar image


I find it most useful to buy American and British TV series on DVD and watch them in the original language whenever I have the time. It's a fun way to improve your understanding of spoken language and get to know a lot of pop culture. About the Beatles' song, I agree with Sirpa. What you write about your colleague is surprising - to say the least. Next thing is he or she does not recognise Biblical references?? Some things should be a given for professional interpreters who just need to have a vast general knowledge...

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answered 14 Nov '11, 16:18

Oliver's gravatar image


+1. That said, I'm waiting for interpreters with 5+ languages in their combination to tell me how they manage to keep up with pop culture down to biblical references in all of them...

(14 Nov '11, 16:26) Vincent Buck

One thing is to know the song and the lyrics and another thing is to know the meaning! And yes, I was surprised too

(14 Nov '11, 16:29) Marta Piera ...
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question asked: 12 Nov '11, 14:23

question was seen: 3,979 times

last updated: 14 Nov '11, 16:30 is a community-driven website open to anyone with questions and/or answers about interpreting, i.e. spoken language translation

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