Found in translation

AutoreChristopher Williams
Found in translation
C W
My Italian pal,
If you remember, Bruno, you would often open our phone conversations with
the words ‘My English pal’.
Our friendship and working relationship go back a long way, to 1977 if I’m
not mistaken. I was working as ‘lettore’ at the Languages Faculty in Bari. Just
round the corner was the Labour Law Institute, on the fth oor, in the Law Fac-
ulty building, where I soon got to know not only you but also other colleagues
working there – Umberto Carabelli, Silvana Sciarra, Maurizio Ricci, Roberta
Bortone, Gianni Garofalo, Aldo Balducci, Franco Liso and others – some of
whom were later to play a decisive role in my working career. The atmosphere
one breathed in that Institute was at the same time exciting and collaborative. As
a group you seemed to be very focused and outward-looking.
One day you asked me if I’d like to translate into English a lengthy article
you’d written. I willingly accepted. I can still remember you giving me the ar-
ticle in Rosa Marina near Ostuni one hot summer evening on my way down to
Calabria. This was my rst ever encounter with legal language. Thank you for
trusting me all those years ago. If you had given that translation to someone else,
my entire career might have been completely different!
These were the days before personal computers and the Internet. I can still
recall vividly the manuscripts you used to give me: chunks of typed lines were
liberally interspersed with hand-written additions and deletions, often in red
biro, or maybe blue or black. If the hand-written additions were several lines
long, they were sometimes written on a separate strip of paper and sellotaped
together. I used to relish the challenge of being able to translate these texts into
decent English. I have always thought that if, today, I nd myself teaching and
researching into legal English to earn my ‘daily bread’, it is above all thanks to
all the translation work I did for you over the years which gave me a grounding
in legal terminology. For sure, I’ve translated more pages for you than I have for
anyone else.
In those early years I was on a sharp learning curve. You would patiently
explain some of the terminology that I initially found hard to understand, and
we would gradually arrive at a nal version in English that corresponded to what
you wanted to say. You had that rare gift of being able to teach me things without
it seeming that you were the teacher and I was the learner. It was as if we were
equals, which of course we weren’t.

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