My Italian is about as good as my Spanish or French or German.
I can get by--barely, at times--and have to rely on either the good English of the person I’m talking to or interviewing, or the use of a translator. But even when using a translator, things can get confused.
Years ago, during an interview in Alba, I attributed a quote to a person who had been dead for years. The name simply got mixed up in translation.
I was tasting wines at a walk-around tasting, and I greeted the winemaker. I asked my translator if this was the person whose name was on the label, and in fact, he was a close relative. But not who I thought he was.
My translator, however, said, yes, this is Luigi--or at least that’s what I heard. So when I wrote my story, I quoted Luigi about the wine, the vintage and trends in Alba and that was that. Until I got a terse note from a reader who wrote, in effect, "How could you possibly quote Luigi? He’s been dead for years."
Another time, on the same trip, I instructed my translator to ask a famous winemaker about the use of small barrels in Barolo and Barbaresco.
The winemaker gave a long, detailed description about the process, most of which I didn’t understand literally. But I could pick out words here and there as he delivered an animated explanation, waving his arms and hands to orchestrate his feelings.
After he finished, my translator gave me the answer to my question about whether he used new barrels, or liked them, or would consider them in the future.
My translator simply said, “Yes.”
The vintner’s name?
That I knew: Angelo Gaja.
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