Here’s a comment I left on the FoxTranslate blog in order to enter a contest they’re having. The contest is to share an interesting translation experience you’ve had (though technically, mine relates to interpretation rather than translation).
I speak Russian and I’ve had quite a few amusing experiences interpreting for English speakers who did not speak Russian and Russian speakers who did not speak English. I’ll share two of them here.
I went on a trip to Russia with my mom a few summers ago. We went to many cities and towns, not just the usual St. Petersburg and Moscow. In a small village called Svirstroi (and I do mean village–according to Wikipedia, the 2010 census showed that a grand total of 989 people live there), my tour group was in a small grocery store. It was so small that most of the products were behind the counter. A couple from our tour group wanted to buy something for thirty rubles, so they pointed to the item and said something like, “The one for thirty rubles.” The woman working at the counter replied, “Тридцать рублей?” (which means “thirty rubles” in Russian). The couple shook their heads and repeated their request; the Russian woman repeated what she had said. At this point, I went over to the couple and explained to them what the Russian woman was saying, then I told the Russian woman (in Russian, of course) what item the couple wanted. Once everyone understood what was going on, the couple was able to buy the product and leave to explore Svirstroi more.
The next experience I had was in the Munich airport when I was coming home from the aforementioned trip. While buying a bottle of water and a newspaper during my long layover, I noticed the woman in front of me at the checkout counter was having trouble understanding how much money she owed. A quick glance at her passport revealed that she was Russian, so I helped her out, much to the cashier’s relief (the cashier spoke German and decent English, but unfortunately no Russian).
Anyway, thanks for having this contest–I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s experiences (and hope that you enjoyed reading mine).