The Translator’s Breakfast Club What do translators and a 80s classic have in common?

  • Greater than 2 minutes, my friend!

    Everybody should be familiar with the 80s classic The Breakfast Club, a generational and inspiring story about differences, friendship and growing up. The movie revolves around five very different teenagers who, for several reasons, are given an all-day detention on a Saturday; they know each other by sight but never even talked, as they are all part of different cliques.

    Now, you are probably thinking: “Cool, but what does this have to do with translating?”

    It might sound a bit random, I know, but keep on reading and my point will be much clearer (and funnier)!

    Apart from the fact that a translator’s life can be a bit like a detention sometimes (especially for freelancers), the main thing about this movie are the characters. They make the story by sharing their stories, naked and unbridled.

    Along with this line of thinking, I am focusing on the main characters that are part of a translator’s story; whatever our background or our main field of work is, I think we can all agree that these five characters are somehow present in our life:

    The Criminal

    In the movie, he is in detention for having pulled a false fire alarm. How many times did you have to deal with false alar…. I mean, jobs? All of us, at least once, had to deal with uninterested customers or time wasters, who take a lot of our energy and time but then don’t need the job anymore, or they don’t even want to pay, or they just disappear in dodgy ways.

    The Princess

    In the movie, she is in detention because she skipped class to go shopping. This is an easy one: all of us have a younger, prettier and (most importantly) richer sister/friend/cousin who can afford going shopping in Paris while we’re sitting in the darkness of our studio working on a long project with a super tight deadline. Alas!

    The Athlete

    In the movie, he is in detention for a bad prank at the expenses of another student. You all have met someone like this, someone with almost no translating or writing skills whatsoever, but because they know a foreign language (maybe they studied it in school for a couple of years…) or because they can use Google translate, they consider themselves translators. This is usually a bossy, super confident, self-centered and sometimes dull person, like the infamous stereotype of an American high school football player.

    The Brain

    In the movie, he is in detention after a flare gun was found in his locker, after it went off. Now, many of us are familiar and use CAT tools and have a love-hate relationship with technology (please, don’t say it’s just me…). That’s when the brainy IT guys become our best friends and sometimes we are so grateful that we can even overlook a flare in the locker.

    The Basket case

    My personal favourite! In the movie, she did not do anything wrong, she is in detention because she had nothing better to do that day! Let’s be honest guys, we are all a bit weird like that in our own way, otherwise we would not have chosen to be translators but we would just work in a cubicle doing unoriginal stuff all day. And who wants to do boring stuff all day?!

    In spite of this categorization, I also feel that there is a small part of each character in us, that’s why this movie was so successful and loved throughout decades.

    What do you think? Leave a comment!
    And, if you haven’t already, watch the movie, it’s worth it 🙂

    Giulia Gasperoni

    About Giulia Gasperoni

    Bridging the gap between cultures is what I love the most about translating. That, and copious amounts of coffee! Based in Cape Town, I (try to) make a living from those two passions of mine.

    2 thoughts on “The Translator’s Breakfast Club What do translators and a 80s classic have in common?

    1. Great post, Giulia! I guess, if you look very closely around you, you’ll probably find even more examples of those personalities that you described and to some degree all of them live within ourselves too. 🙂

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