IUP Department of Foreign Languages Spanish associate professor Marjorie Zambrano-Paff presented a paper titled "Mediated Humor in the Legal Setting: The Construction of New Identities," at the 2011 International Society for Language Studies conference.
Okay, kind of an esoteric title. But a lot of times, the actual content of these academic papers is really intriguing and thought-provoking. When I read more on the Spanish Department's website, I realized that her research and conclusions needed to be told.
My translation of her work? Well-credentialed Spanish professor + study of the fairness of immigration hearings = media interest. Especially in those states that are dealing with so many of those issues (Texas, Arizona, California).
I contacted her for a copy of the paper. Long story short, I sent out information to media with my own title (a little more casual and less academic): "Humor in Immigration Courtroom Not So Funny to Defendants."
Here's the general idea of what she found--my words, not hers--when judges try to be funny, even with good intentions of relaxing the defendant, it doesn't really translate. I get that. I'm reading a book by Kelly McDonald, a marketing expert in Texas, who keeps stressing that you can't just word-for-word translate colloquialisms from one language to another. For example, "Got Milk?" in English does not mean the same thing as "Got Milk?" in Spanish. I don't remember the Spanish words for it, but in Spanish, this phrase means, "Are you a nursing mother?" Yikes.
Not long after I sent out the information on her research, a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times e-mailed me, asking for more from Dr. Zambrano-Paff. Not sure when the story will run, but when it does, it means that 317,274 subscribers will know how interesting IUP faculty are!