By Michael Davy
When I originally applied to work as an intern for Astromántica Cartonera my expectations were that I would be spending my summer on the Galician coast learning more about libros cartoneros. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 I was unable to physically be in Spain. Thankfully, Carmen Luna, the director of Astromántica Cartonera, offered me the opportunity to remotely work as a Spanish to English translator for one of the cartoneros they were set to publish. The cartonero I had the pleasure of working with was based on a chapter of Pantelleria L’ultima isola originally by Italian writer Giosuè Calaciura, the chapter is based on the story “El verano feliz de la señora Forbes” by Gabriel García Márquez.
For as long as I have taken Spanish classes until this summer I had never done any formal translation work. The process of translating a piece from Spanish to English is a lot different than the type of translation someone might do for a homework assignment. An assignment generally has one correct answer, but when you translate longer pieces, especially pieces of literature, the translations become less straightforward. There is much to interpret and many mistakes to be made. After awhile I learned that I needed to translate holistically instead of translating word for word as I was used to. I also noticed that my Spanish vocabulary improved immensely throughout my time translating. I stopped looking at Spanish from the perspective of what everything meant in English, and I started looking everything for what it meant in Spanish. After my experience I now have a fresh-new perspective on what it means to be a Spanish speaker and what it means to have a command of the Spanish language.
Translating for Astromántica Cartonera was one of the most fulfilling experiences I’ve had so far in my college career. Even though I couldn’t be in Spain, I was still able to improve my Spanish skills, and gain a deeper understanding of cartoneros.
Michael Davy is a junior majoring in marketing and a certificate in Spanish studies for business students. He completed this internship through the International Internship Program at UW-Madison. Prior to translating for Astromántica Cartonera in summer 2020, Michael worked for a semester with Cartonera Collection in Special Collections and then returned in the Fall to complete the internship at UW-Madison Libraries.