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How one little word can make you exceedingly happy

If you’ve been following me for a while, you probably know by now that I not only translate and interpret, but also teach and train (not only) future translators and interpreters.

Anyone who has ever tried to teach someone else anything, has most likely figured out pretty quickly that the teacher or trainer always learns something in the process, as well.

One great thing about teaching translation and interpretation is that as you expand your students’ vocabulary, you inevitably learn those terms, too.

Especially when it comes to speeches for my interpreting students, I try to use a wide range of topics and registers (i.e. the kind of language used, e.g. sophisticated with lots of “big” words, or more laid back with even a little slang). You never know how a person will present, so being prepared for all kinds of speeches is always a good idea.

Some terms keep popping up everywhere, others only in specific contexts. Some are rare, but good to know, others occur frequently but are hard to remember. Some are a little odd, others may be unusual, but fun.

One of those unusual and fun terms is also one of my favorite quirky ones: pugnacious.

The Chambers Dictionary defines it as “given to fighting; combative; quarrelsome” and the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary gives “inclined or eager to fight” as definition.
The German equivalent is the equally unusual term “streitbar” – which I also love.
Both don’t come up very often in either language, written or orally.

So imagine how tickled I was, when I had to interpret “streitbar” during a recent assignment for an organization of the European Union. It was not a speech per se, but rather short inputs to which various persons then responded. This was a mixed setting, so input and responses could be both German and English.

I happily used “pugnacious” in my interpretation – and I’m sure I smiled a little while doing so.

But then I really smiled when the English-speaking person responding to this interpreted answer said, “I really thought the word ‘pugnacious’ really says it so well…”

Spot-on use of an unusual term AND getting (indirect) confirmation, that’s what really makes an interpreter happy! 🙂

Any words that make you happy? Please share in the comments!


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