Chilean Miner, Edison Peña (and the art of translating the untranslatable?)

I shared this video interview already via FB and Twitter. I’ve also watched it about a dozen times and it still makes me laugh. When the Chilean miners were rescued, everyone thought for sure that “Super Mario” was going to be “the funny one”, but I think he’s got some competition. Edison Peña, (the one who loves Elvis and used to run in the mine for exercise), is hilarious. He’s visiting the U.S. on an invitation to run the N.Y. City Marathon and see Graceland. He was also interviewed by David Letterman where he broke into a spontaneous Elvis impersonation mini-concert.

I have a little trouble understanding Edison’s accent, so I’m not totally sure, but does any native Spanish speaker, (particularly those familiar with the Chilean accent), agree with me that the translator isn’t exactly translating word for word? She seems to add more on to what he’s said, (maybe she’s answering with things he’s said to her in previous conversations.) Maybe there wasn’t a way to literally translate what was said by Edison or David Letterman, but she’s quite funny herself and did an admirable job.

Hopefully Edison will love Graceland, but apparently he isn’t all that impressed with New York. When taken to see the Statue of Liberty he’s quoted as saying, “It is not white? I thought it was bigger and whiter…In the movies, it looks whiter.”

Then after eating a hot dog with ketchup and mustard from a cart downtown he gestured that they were “so-so” and explained, “In Chile, they are better!”

While some Americans might take these sorts of comments as insults, I find them hilarious. Edison reminds me very much of my Salvadoran in-laws when they come to visit. I guess watching so many Hollywood movies gets the expectations up a little too high and reality just can’t compete.

[Quote source: Flores.]


  1. I thought I was the only one that noticed that the interpreters translation was a little off. But she really did play it up for the camera. I am now a fan of Edison Peña! Loved his Elvis impersonation. :)

  2. La traductora no ha sido precisa. Sin embargo, podría decir que su interpretación ha sido correcta.
    Probablemente haya tenido problemas para entender el acento chileno. A los argentinos también nos cuesta un poco entenderlo. Jajaja.

  3. Yes, me, too. Though I’m not in frequent contact with anyone from Chile now, in my travels I’ve been friends with several people from Chile. I also have to say that (while I certainly don’t speak Spanish like a native, but do pretty well)the Chilean accent is a bit harder for me to understand. It’s all in familiarity, I guess.

    I remember one Chilean guy always saying “Como le va?” which I thought was kinda cute. I hadn’t heard that particular expression used very much with other Latin-American friends.

  4. Jajajaja!!! Gracias por esto!! No lo había visto y me encantó!!! Three great personalities on camera!!

    I think the interpreter did a wonderful job, she even translated the sound effects!!! Cómo me he reído – y eso que estoy en la oficina!!! You’re totally right, she did not translate word for word, but her interpretation was completely accurate. His words were funnier, especially when he was talking about trying to poop!

    I’m stealing this for my Tumblr!

  5. That’s hilarious!! OMGoodness this had me cracking up. Yes, I agree too. While the interpreter did not interpret word for word, she did a good job. I’ve never heard a Chilean speak Spanish before so I’m not familiar with their accent. I had to pay close attention to what he was saying. It was especially difficult to listen to him speak b/c of his gestures. He’s too funny!! :D

    • @ LaCabrona – It’s so great, isn’t it? I hope David Letterman interviews the rest of the Chilean miners and they use the same translator. I really don’t have any “must see” TV shows – but that is something I would tune in for :)

  6. Hi there , well I’m chilean and I can tell you that the translator did include some stuff related to the mines , but she kept the message , anyway , you’re all right , we chileans speak practically our own language , by missing some letters and creating our own words , but at the end, you must live here in Chile for a while to understand us , haha ,
    saludos a todos y que les vaya bonito jeje

  7. Hi Tracy, I couldn’t help to come back here and watch the interview, no lo habia visto!! y me hizo reir mucho!! what a great combination of characters. Edison es muy simpatico!

  8. Tu post sobre la entrevista con Cassandra me trajo hasta aca! Creo que mi estilo de traduccion es parecido al de ella. No tiendo a traducur ‘textualmente” ya que siento se le pierde el “sabor”. Ademas, es este caso el chico no aportaba mucho que decir y ella lleno esos huecos con mucho humor. Cassandra se ve es todo un personaje y estoy llegando a pensar que ELVIS IS ALIVE!!!!! ps– sorry, for some weird reason this computer is not letting me use the tildes!

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