Thank You, Carl

Por lo que! Therefore, so that, because of, for this reason…this is one you should not be missing now.”

Thank you, Carl. I will never forget this Spanish conjunction ever since that day in second semester when we were sight translating some awful Hugo Chavez speech.

Your classes were hard; intermediate and then advanced translation into English where we covered economics and politics, a bit of legal and a smattering of technical. While learning constructions and solutions to tricky phrases was important, the real lessons I learned about being a translator had less to do with the translations themselves and more to do with who I really am.

Translators are curious beasts. They are constantly checking, and looking up words, ideas, isms; drawing connections between languages, syntax, semantics and historical usage. For this innate inquisitiveness and relish for knowledge is what allows someone with two or more languages to become a translator in the first place.

I did not learn this fact from any one of your lessons. Rather, the constant exposure to the way you lived your life and handled your profession taught me more about what makes a translator great than rendering hundreds of texts from Spanish into English. Your trusty 1000-page Merriam-Webster was always in your satchel to quell any doubt that may come up. Though, your ritual of looking up at the ceiling before diving into the dictionary was a lesson in discipline to pause and think and recall. Sometimes it worked, sometime not, but you always made your brain work and earn its place within your head. And it always seemed to irk you when you had to open the dictionary at last. It irks me now too when I have to look up things I should know.

Being well read and having a habit of reading good publications is an obvious requisite for a translator; you reinforced this notion by bringing me newspaper articles on shared interests from the Wall Street Journal and The Economist. One time when I asked you what your plans were for the weekend, you eagerly responded, “I have about two weeks of the Journal to get through”. I had to change my plans on the spot.

Going through the texts and homework assignments was always a pleasure as there would invariably be short quips or anecdotes about your time in Mexico or an old Latin professor. Your stories illustrated further your seemingly endless expanse of knowledge and your record at the London Bridge Pub quiz proved it. Although your team usually won the kitty, you were gracious enough to come and visit our lowly team during the breaks. Thank you for that.

Thank you for reminding us that a healthy mind leads to a healthy body and that a healthy body leads to a healthy mind.

Thank you for inviting me to play handball with you and your crew. And thank you for embarrassing me on the handball court.

Thank you for your off-the-cuff jokes in class.

Thank you for not liking Susan Boyle because “real singers don’t need microphones”.

Thank you for always talking about the Germans in a German accent.

Thank you for keeping in touch after graduation.

Thank you for explaining that “vital” and “essential” are not exact synonyms.

Thank you for teaching me to trust my ear if things “don’t sound right”.

Thank you for reinforcing the idea that learning is active, not passive.

Thank you for breaking me down to the core so I could grow into my potential as a translator.

Thank you, Carl.

Carl and company. Third from right, white shirt.

 

See? I didn’t make this up.

 

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9 comments

  1. No tengo palabras, no hay mucha gente como él. Gracias, Carl.

  2. Joder, Dustin. Se me ha puesto la piel de gallina.
    Cómo disfrutábamos de esas clases. Y cómo alucinaba yo cuando en The Mucky Duck, muy al principio, había coincidio algunas de las veces con Carl y su grupo de Trivia, y sabían preguntas que ni los mismo que las escribieron sabrían responder.

    A Carl le recuerdo siempre con humor, apasionado en sus conversaciones. Y sobre todo, y me he acordado muchas, muchas veces de una imagen concreta (supongo que me hacía mucha gracia cuando ocurría): llegar a clase y que Carl me dijera: “So, party girl, when and where is the next party?” Y yo a veces le decía: “Soon, soon”, y no podía evitar sonreír. Me parecía genial.

    Le recuerdo mezclándose con nosotros, a quien más que alumnos consideraba colegas; hablar sobre mil cosas, reírnos. Escucharle era, sin duda, un momento especial. Política, música, libros, “la madre Patria”; los comentarios de “con ese nombre debería haber sido emperador de…”.

    Recuerdo haber ido a verle al despacho en varias ocasiones, para preguntarle acerca de algunas correcciones, para entender por qué el uso de algunas palabras y no otras. Y Carl, siempre paciente, me explicaba esto o lo otro.

    Mi imagen, la que quiero guardar y la que hoy tengo en mente, es la de ese Carl que en clase podía discutir sobre un término concreto en esos discursos de Hugo Chávez que comentas, y luego, en casa, nos ganaba a todos jugando al Beer Pong. O yendo a buscar cerveza a las 12 de la noche o las 2 de la mañana, quién se acuerda ya de la hora, porque se acababan las provisiones en una de las fiestas de casa, pero aún nos quedaba mucha conversación. O en la cena de despedida de máster, en la que hizo un brindis que todos aplaudimos a rabiar.

    No fui una de las más cercanas, pero sin duda él siempre estuvo cerca. Y se hizo querer. Me quedo con eso.

    El bueno de Carl. Y solo queda darle las gracias por habernos dado la oportunidad de conocerle.
    Un abrazo grande, DK; sé que esto ha sido un palo muy grande para vosotros. Aquí estamos, para lo que haga falta. Como bien decía Amaia ayer, a veces no lo decimos lo suficiente, pero os quiero, chicos.

  3. Gracias, Tere y Mamen. Bonitos recuerdos, eso sí.

  4. Laura Merino

    Dustin, me has arrancado una lagrimita. Muchas gracias por este homenaje.

    Aunque no tuve la oportunidad de conocerlo tan bien como vosotros, Carl iluminó muchos momentos de mi tiempo en MIIS. Desde la primera conversación, Carl me dejó fascinada con su sabiduría inagotable, su sed por seguir aprendiendo y su capacidad para despertar curiosidad en las mentes de sus alumnos.

    No me perdía una de sus clases porque disfrutaba la pasión que le echaba a cada texto, a cada palabra, y como bien dices las lecciones más valiosas que aprendí de él fueron sobre la vida, no sobre palabras.

    Me quedo con las conversaciones interminables en su “cueva” y esos momentos entraniables en clase en los que nos reímos tanto.

    Os mando un sentido abrazo y si hay algo que pueda hacer por vosotros, no tenéis más que decirlo.

  5. Verena Fehlandt Boylan

    Thank you all for these wonderful memories. I have been learning about the work/academic side of my brother, moved by the effect he had on so many of his students over the last 38 years. His legacy will live on through the scholarship set up in his name and I have no doubt that he would smile a wry smirk to know this piece of news. Gracias a todos.

    • Hi Verena,
      Thanks for the comment, and I am glad that you are getting to see another dimension of your brother. It’s true, every word that was written or spoken about him, every anecdote and smile, tear and laugh. The scholarship is a wonderful idea and I hope to be able to support it with whatever I can.
      Thanks again and best regards,
      Dustin

  6. Carl Palminteri

    Nicely done. Thanks…we all miss him!

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