|Getting ready with Alex for my first ZELIG experience!|
A long, long time ago, when I was studying to become a translator, Professor Verlonje explained that one could only become a good translator if on top of mastering the language of a country, one would also profoundly know its background, customs and specific common knowledge. Specific common knowledge is a type of knowledge which includes everything from the songs little children learn at school, to popular television programs, regional reputations, local feuds and even simply what people usually have for breakfast. Without this knowledge it’s absolutely impossible to understand people from an other culture for a 100% and it’s even more impossible to make a 100% perfect translation of what they are saying.
Let’s take the title of this blog post for example. Nathalie goes ZELIG? What is that supposed to mean? Well, any Italian who knows a little bit of English could immediately give you the answer and tell you where I spent last Saturday night and why. Because almost every Italian has once gone ZELIG. And even if he didn’t, he would certainly know at least 10 other Italians who did. That’s because all Italians know, unlike me before last Saturday night, that ZELIG equals cabaret! They know that ZELIG is a cabaret theater in Milan which has been world- , sorry, I mean, Italian famous for years! They know that once a week, one can switch on the television and watch the hilarious performances filmed directly from Milan.
|Daniele Raco, very good comedian. Only a little bit skinny. According to his Calabrese mother, that is.|
Because it sure was hilarious, Daniele Raco’s monologue in which he tried to make it clear to us why it’s impossible for the son of two Calabreses to lose weight. Apparently Calabrese people don’t think of anything else but eating. Their children go to school with two schoolbags: one for their books, one for their numerous snacks and lunchboxes (yes, boxeS). You never enter a Calabrese house without rolling out again as a stuffed little pig, whether you’re the mailman, a bailiff or a Jehovah testimony. And it’s absolutely hopeless to even think about going on a diet when you live in the tip of Italy or are in daily contact with people originating from the place.
So I learned something about my new home country again. Zelig is a synonym here for rolling over the floor laughing and Weight Watchers should never invest in an Italian translation of their manuals. Not even by a translator like me with an excellent specific common knowledge.