Over the years I’ve done a lot of training in Assertiveness. The basis is “I stand up for myself and not at your expense.” (I don’t fall into aggressive or submissive behaviour to get what I want – I use “I” to express my wishes and needs and cooperation questions in negotiation situations).

In a scene from “24” on Netflix a person in Jack Bauer’s team says: “You did it, Jack.” The Spanish subtitle said “Tú tienes la culpa, Jack. (“It’s your fault, Jack.”) The original scriptwriter composed a more assertive sentence than the translator.

In another scene a character says: “I need you to stay here.” It was translated as “Tienes que quedarte aquí.” (“You have to stay here.”) El “tienes que/you have to..” reflects a power relationship (one is above the other) and is an order. “Necesito que ../ I need you to ..” is a request and reflects a relationship of equals.

When the scriptwriter has deliberately used assertive language, changing that relationship through inappropriate language is not helpful.

How are we going to have a more assertive society if translators do not reflect the intention and spirit of the original?

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