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Talent Q&A: Exploring Language with Translator Virginia P

Q: What initially sparked your interest in being a translator?

A: My earliest memories take me to my years in high school, and a question that was difficult to answer: how could I grasp the real “soul” of characters like Romeo and Juliet or Oliver Twist? My first answer was, “let’s study English!” I would surely be able to read some of the stories that interested me in their original versions. Then, I fell in love with the English language itself, whether my ultimate goal was to read a novel or to communicate when traveling.

When I finished school, I decided to study at Teacher Training College since that was one of the careers available at University in my hometown. I got my degree as a Teacher of English and started working. A few years later I moved to another city where I was able to study Translation and Interpretation. This came together with a job as a translator for the committee in charge of organizing the Pan American Sport Games. My knowledge as a teacher was not enough. It was an amazing experience! And I could never stop diving into both grammars, comparing structures, reading…

Q: As a specialist in transcreation and localization, can you tell us a little about the difference between transcreation, translation, and localization?

A: I find them not only different experiences, but also challenging and awesome ones.

Transcreation involves my own self. I let myself create, arrange, add, and remove. When the client trusts me, I feel like a fish in water. Based on my clients’ ideas, I let myself fly… I rewrite those paragraphs I find incorrect, but I also give advice to my client in regards to design. Clients find it really interesting that a translator can offer a file that is rather different from a Word document.

Translation should be as faithful as possible. One should try as many times as necessary to express in another language what the author wanted to  say. I like to write two or three different versions, set them aside for a while, read them again, and pick the best one. When translating, I express clients’ ideas in another language. Not a single personal touch.

Localization touches your heart. As an Argentinian, I rarely can write in “Argentinian Spanish,” so I have to make a big effort to separate Latin American Spanish (that’s what I’m most frequently hired for) from everyday language. I enjoy involving myself in big debates with colleagues from other countries; I learn a lot of different words for the very same thing. For example, I’ve worked with colleagues from other Spanish-speaking countries who are translating the same novel as I am.


Q: What do you feel is the most difficult thing about translating?

A: Digesting the original text. Before translating, you MUST investigate a lot about what you are going to work on. That is something you OWE to your client. It doesn’t matter whether you are a specialist in that specific area. Sometimes your client wants to express a different point of view, so the text should be translated according to that context. Before starting, read the whole text, and determine whether it is everyday language, academic language, or if it will be used for marketing purposes or a technical manual. If it will be used for teaching, a publisher or your client will read it as well.

Q: In your experience, what is a common misconception regarding translators/translation?

A: People believe that translating is easy for someone who has studied a foreign language or that that translating is just “speaking” in another language.

Q: In today’s world, why is learning another language so important?

A: Learning a language is vital in today’s world. Things happen so fast that there’s no better way to learn than understanding two or three languages. And if you love travelling as I do, English opens doors everywhere in the world.

Q: If you could instantly learn another language, which one would you choose and why?

A: German, no doubt. I like the language, their history. I never had the opportunity but maybe in the future when I´m retired…

Q: Are there any common mistakes or incorrect translations that you tend to see with South American Spanish in particular?

A: Yes. There are more incorrectly used expressions than grammar mistakes. I tend to investigate who the translator was; there are many translations done by amateurs. I find this counterproductive. The client may spend less but his/her final project would surely be difficult to understand, if at all.

The same happens with subtitling. There are so many grammar mistakes that are sometimes aggressive. Some of the most typical incorrect translations that I find in subtitling occur with sayings. We should, as translators, adapt sayings according to meaning. Never translate them literally, because they will surely not be understood.

Q: Do you have any advice for those thinking about a career in translation?

A: I always like to say that if you are going to start a career in translation, you should choose one language to translate into, and that should be your native. And study that language deeply. Generally speaking, I see (and the same happened to me) that one goes to school believing that he/she is going to study a foreign language and does not pay attention to his/her native language–the one that we assume we know. The result is dangerous. Just because you attended a course to communicate in a foreign language does not mean you can translate it.

Of course, we are prepared to translate both ways, but later experience teaches you that you will be hired to translate into your native language many more times that into the language you’ve studied. So, study your native language deeply, and do not believe that you’ve already mastered your own language.

And… think hard!!! You will surely find that particular thing that will make you different. There are too many translators applying for the same projects, and we generally feel frustrated after we are rejected from many projects. So, we have to provide something different; you will surely find yours!!!

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By WriterAccess

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