SAP on the news- How do they do it?
Sonia Berah gives “World News” its Spanish voice, but when “World News Tonight” with Peter Jennings airs, you won’t find her name on the short list of credits.
But to Spanish speakers and those looking to learn the language, the Venezuelan born actress-turned-translator, has an important job. She helps give the program its Spanish voice.
“We don’t have any numbers yet,” said Berah, when asked how many people are watching because the program can now be heard in another language. “This is very new.”
People interested in watching programs in Spanish can now do more channel surfing. At one time, Telemundo and Univision were the sole source of Spanish programming. Now, American networks are translating their programs into Spanish over the secondary audio programming or SAP channel. With a push of the SAP button on the remote control, Peter Jennings will go from speaking English to Spanish thanks to Berah and her team.
ABC has made Jennings’ program available in Spanish for the past year. That network is not alone. CBS airs “The Bold and the Beautiful” in Spanish while HBO airs “The Sopranos” in Spanish.
Berah has been the Spanish voice for “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” and “On the Record with Bob Costas.”
But some say more local newscasts should be available in Spanish to tap into the growing market.
Berah, a freelance translator/interpreter since 1989, has translated for presidents, judges, and executives. She began doing news translations in 1997 when CNN started broadcasting in Latin America. During that time, she would interpret for President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Because it can take more words to translate an idea from English to Spanish, translators often skip a word for word translation and give the general idea instead.
Bereh, who works with a team of about 10 people for ABC, said usually about 85 percent of the “World News Tonight” script is translated.
“The day of the World Trade Center attack, we went live for 9 or 10 hours. Nothing was scripted,” said Berah, calling that ability both a gift and a skill.
Before she became a translator/interpreter, Berah was an actress in her native Venezuela where she did everything from avant guard to Shakespeare.
Now, she works for ABC usually about 10 days a month and does other freelance assignments.
“You meet very interesting people,” says Berah. Her third language is French.
About the author: Lisa Goodnight is a journalist based in New Jersey originally from Washington, DC. She has studied Spanish in Spain.