Humor and stories for interpreters: Educational interpreters

David Bar-Tzur

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An interpreter working in a classroom

(Image from

Illuminated letter Hell explained by a chemistry student.

The following is an actual question given on a University of Washington chemistry mid term. [Webmaster: This actually has nothing to do with interpreting, or even language per se, but it is the funniest thing I have ever read, and I just had to share it. WARNING: This contains sexual material.]

The answer by one student was so 'profound' that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well:

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant.

One student, however, wrote the following:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today.

Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.

This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, 'It will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you,' and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct......leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting 'Oh my God.'


Illuminated letter Classroom wisdom

TEACHER: John, how do you spell "crocodile?"
TEACHER: No, that's wrong
JOHN: Maybe it s wrong, but you asked me how I spell it!
TEACHER: What is the chemical formula for water?
TEACHER: What are you talking about?
SARAH: Yesterday you said it's H to O!
TEACHER: Willie, name one important thing we have today that we didn't have ten years ago.
TEACHER: Tommy, why do you always get so dirty?
TOMMY: Well, I'm a lot closer to the ground than you are.
TEACHER: Ellen, give me a sentence starting with "I."
ELLEN: I is...
TEACHER: No, Ellen.... Always say, "I am."
ELLEN: All right... "I am the ninth letter of the alphabet."
TEACHER: Now, Sam, tell me frankly, do you say prayers before eating?
SAM: No sir, I don't have to,. . .my Mom is a good cook.
TEACHER: Morris, your composition on "My Dog" is exactly the same as your brother's. Did you copy his?
DESMOND: No, teacher, it's the same dog!
TEACHER: What do you call a person who keeps on talking when people are no longer interested?
PUPIL: A teacher.

Illuminated letter I was in Chemistry lab once, waiting to interpret when I saw someone with a t-shirt that said, "Si hoc legere nimium eruditionis habes." I took two years of Latin in high school and I could tell it said something like, "If you can read this you have ... education." I asked the wearer what it said, which was, "If you can read this you have too much education." I was so relieved that I don't have to stop learning! Although I am apparently border line.

-David Bar-Tzur

Illuminated letter For all you educational interpreters out there who have an offspring in the same school with you, let me share how I get my teenage son to say "Hi" to me in the halls.
Son: "This stinks. You're gonna look over my shoulder the whole time. I don't have to say hi to you in the halls do I?"
Me: "No, son, you have a choice. (A) You can either say 'hi', or (B) when I see you I will shout 'yoooohoooo sweetie-pie, momma loves you!' and then when everyone turns to look at me, I'm gonna pick my nose. So you better say hi the first time.

At this point he checks my expression, realizes I am serious (after all, I'm an interpreter and have no problem with lots of people looking at me), then sighs and shuts his bedroom door. First day of high school, I didn't see him walk by me, but he tapped me and said hi. Small victories.... I'll take 'em.

-Michelle Cornutt

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