Categories Learning Spanish - Tips and Resources

Anatomical Spanish Simultaneous Translation Nightmare!


I (Ben) had a great ‘in at the deep end’ Spanish learning experience this weekend! I offered to help translate for a friend who was running a deep relaxation course here in Spain.

He spoke in English, and I had to simultaneously translate into Spanish for the Spanish people who had come to the course.

All went well as I translated to the 70+ people present that they had to first lie down, relax their breathing, put their arms by their side… but things got tricky after that.

‘Put your hands on your cranium…’ OK, craneum is ‘craneo‘, I knew that one, feel your brain, ‘cerebro‘, relax, and on down the body he went, talking them (via me) through the face (cara), the lungs (pulmones), the heart (corazón)…

Then the first major problem arrived. ‘Put your hands over your liver’… said my friend.

Now, I always get this word wrong. Is it ‘hígado’, or ‘hidalgo’… One means liver, the other means nobleman… when I usually get this one mixed up, Marina always laughs at me (e.g. when I describe how alcohol is bad for your nobleman!) so I had to get this right!

And I had a split second to decide which one it was before I announced the Spanish instruction to 75 already-very-relaxed people! I went for Hígado, and luckily no-one made a squeak as they carefully lowered their hands to their livers…

Then, the final nightmare, with the instruction ‘Put your hands under your armpits’.

I know two words/phrases about armpits, one is ‘te canta la ala‘, which is a very very informal way of telling someone you know very very well that they didn’t use enough deodorant this morning, and the other word is ‘sobaco‘.

I knew it sounded a little informal, but it’s all I had, so I went for it: ‘Manos debajo de los sobacos‘… at which point 15% of the assembled relaxed people started giggling!

Someone lying on the floor near to where I was sitting opened their eyes, looked at me, and hissed ‘¡Axilas!’ That was the word I was looking for!!

Sobaco was way too informal still for the setting, whereas Axila was the correct ‘anatomical’ version.

In the end it didn’t matter at all. After 2 hours of simultaneous translation into anatomical Spanish, I felt like my Spanish had leapt to another level, and a lot of the now-very-relaxed Spanish people said I’d done a great job!

It was a great reminder of how it pays HUGE dividends to challenge yourself beyond your pre-conceived limits. Often you are ready to make the jump up to another level with just a tiny bit of help, just a tiny bit more effort (and it’s often when you think you are most ready to throw it all in and give up on Spanish for good!)

So forget about worrying about Spanish being too hard, or about making mistakes in public – forget all your worries, and jump in with both feet as I did this weekend!

Check out more of our audio, get the higher level worksheet pack you’ve been thinking about in our store, and amaze yourself with what you can do with your Spanish!

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