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Member Spotlight: Josefina Marino

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Each month, we invite DBC members with a connection to our theme to share their personal experiences with us. Interested in sharing your story with the DBC community? Email us at


DBC Member Spotlight

Josefina Marino


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Please introduce yourself to the DBC members.

Hi everybody! My name is Josefina Marino and I am from La Plata, a big city in the center of Argentina (just one hour away from Buenos Aires). I am a 29-year-old translator and I also teach English as a second language to children who need personal tuition or extracurricular training. One of the best part of my job is planning which books to put on our shelves (both in Spanish and in English), organizing the book fair every year and share my love of books with my little children. By night, I enjoy cooking for my boyfriend and my family, playing with my dogs, Lola and Pañuelo, watching soccer (have you heard about Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata? That's our local team!) and movies and… oh, yes, reading, of course! All of those activities are a huge part of my self-care routine.

Why is this month’s topic, translation, near and dear to your heart?

I have always been intrigued by the way in which languages work and, most importantly, by how learning a foreign language can broaden your horizons, help you understand and accept what is different from you and give you another perspective of life.

I also enjoy learning about words that are untranslatable. I find them so fascinating! I am sure that you are familiar with the Japanese term tsundoku, but did you know that mamihlapinatapai holds the record for being the most concise word in the world and one of the most difficult to translate? It belongs to the very rich and deep language of the Yámanas natives, who live in Tierra del Fuego (the southernmost tip of South America), and it describes “a look between two people, each of them waiting for the other to start a course of action but still not daring to be that person”. Captivating, right?

What are your favorite works in translation?  Why?

I have found out that the two books my students most enjoy reading (both in Spanish and in English) are The neverending story, by Michael Ende, translated from the German, and My sweet orange tree, by José Mauro de Vasconcelos, translated from the Portuguese. I feel like I should also include some truly haunting stories from The Arabian nights (the Spanish version of the title is “One thousand and one nights”). And recently both volumes of Goodnight stories for rebel girls, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, have become extremely popular. So I've been using some episodes of the podcast “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls” in class for the past weeks (wasn’t Harriet Tubman incredibly courageous?).

Personally, as a big fan of historical fiction, I love Argentinian author Cristina Bajo and Spanish authors María DueñasArturo Pérez Reverte and Carlos Ruiz Zafón. In their books, all of them teach history while engaging readers in fascinating and thought-provoking stories. Both The kite runner and A thousand splendid suns, by Khaled Hosseini broke my heart, but in a good way? Does that make sense? And finally Waiting for Mr. Bojangles, by French author Olivier Bourdeaut, is another book that touched my heart (Nina Simone makes an appearance in this debut novel).

 When did you discover your love of language?  Why did you decide to make that your career path?

I have always been an avid reader (I was extremely happy whenever my Literature teacher assigned us reading material). I studied English for many years during elementary school and high school and all those years allowed me to start reading books in a different language from my own.

I think I discovered my love of languages when I was a little girl and I understood that each language is not just a set of words, but a part of culture, one that can show lifestyles, values, and beliefs. When I became aware of that, I realized that studying a foreign language would allow me to enter a whole new world! (Anthony Burgess said: “Translation is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture”) And that felt empowering. So I decided to go to university (Universidad Nacional de La Plata), study Modern Languages and become a translator and a teacher of English as a second language. Now I am learning German, but I still have a long way to go!

 Are there any additional resources (movies, articles, podcasts, music, etc) about translation that you would recommend to our readers?

A few months ago, in my book club, we saw and loved two TED talks by inspiring women: “The danger of a single story”, by the amazing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and “Tales of Passion”, by Isabel Allende. Both of them deal with creativity and modern feminism. I am also a huge fan of the Netflix series “Merlí” about a philosophy teacher who encourages his students to think freely and more widely by using unconventional methods and resources. Last but not least, the wonderful Poetry Translation Centre connects poets from Africa, Latin America and Asia to English-speaking audiences. In their workshops, poets and translators collaborate and work together to celebrate poetry and diverse communities. Moreover, there is a free archive of international poetry in the website!

  Is there anything else you’d like our members to know?

If you would like to try and read a bit of Argentinian literature, I would definitely recommend The invention of Morel, by Adolfo Bioy Casares (a fugitive in an island falls in love with a tourist, but a strange phenomenon keeps them apart), Where there’s love, there’s hate, also by Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo (a novella about a homeopathic doctor and a manipulative young woman, with a hint of Agatha Christie), Hopscotch, by Julio Cortázar (a challenging but amazing stream-of-consciousness novel about an Argentinian intellectual living in Paris), and Things we lost in the fire, by Mariana Enríquez (a collection of imaginative and macabre stories which show contemporary Argentina). And if you ever come to Buenos Aires, please remember to visit El Ateneo Grand Splendid, a beautiful bookstore that used to be a theatre. You can even have some coffee on stage while you go over the books you are thinking about buying!