Guest post: Public Health translation

Hello, followers! Good to have you back!
Our guest series had a great start last week. I’m extremely happy you liked the idea. Thank you!
So here we are again with our next guest, Carolina Ventura, who is a professional translator in the Public Health domain.

Welcome, Carolina!


Me, my translations and the Public Health field: a love story

First of all, I’d like to thank my friend and fellow translator Caroline Alberoni for inviting me to write a post about my experience as a translator for her blog! This is the first time I do something like this, and I can say that I’m enjoying every bit of it – to actually WRITE something instead of TRANSLATING something that somebody else wrote is wonderful for a change!

I decided to be a translator when I was 20 years old. In 1991, I was in my first year of the Biology undergraduate course at Universidade de São Paulo – USP (Brazil), but all of a sudden I understood why I had been so miserable since the beginning of the course: I’d made the wrong choice. I didn’t want to be a biologist after all – I wanted to study languages. In fact, I wanted to continue studying English, something that I’d been doing for the previous ten years at a private English school, but I didn’t want to be an English teacher. I wanted to be a translator.

I abandoned the Biology course and in 1992 I started the English Language and Literature Undergraduate Course at Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo (PUCSP). I majored in Translation and I’ve never been miserable about my choice in twenty years working as a professional translator!

I can say that I chose my career, but the translation specialty chose me. In my first year of the English course at university, my father, who is a professor at the School of Public Health of USP, told me that a fellow professor needed to translate a paper into English to publish it in an international journal, and asked me if I could do it. I accepted the challenge, the author liked the result, and she and my dad started indicating me whenever they had an opportunity. Some say that word-of-mouth communication is more efficient than advertising, and I must agree with it. Interestingly enough, the translation direction also chose me: I can say that 99% of what I do is translate from Portuguese into English, and 1% accounts for English -> Portuguese translations. It’s been like this since the very beginning, but I didn’t choose it.

So, I’ve been translating academic papers in the area of Public Health from Portuguese into English for the past 20 years. “Do I get sick of it sometimes?”, you might be wondering. Well, no! Within the Public Health area, you can translate a paper on perinatal mortality in hospitals of São Paulo on one day, then translate a study on malaria treatment among pregnant women in the Amazon region, and end the week translating a paper about the contributions of anthroposophical medicine to integrality in medical education. Besides enhancing my personal knowledge about a theme that I like (after all, I wouldn’t have chosen to study Biology if I weren’t interested in the Health Sciences, right?), I really enjoy helping to give international visibility to the research production of Brazilian scientists! I like to think about the role I play when papers about Brazil’s achievements (and also failures) in the Public Health area are published in international journals.

I also translate texts from other areas, mainly Education, Applied Linguistics, Communication and Business Administration. This surely helps me not to feel bored about my work, but nothing pleases me more than being asked to translate an academic paper in the field of health. When I translate texts from other areas, I have to spend more time doing research before I start translating, whereas when I must translate a public health text, all I have to do is sit in my chair, turn the computer on, and start translating the text right away!

I work for two kinds of clients, always as a freelance translator: individuals who wish to submit their papers to international journals and scientific journals that have their own translation teams. In recent years, I’ve been working on a regular basis for six Brazilian journals: one about Public Health, Education and Communication; one about Nursing; one about Physical Activity and Health; one about Human Growth and Development; one about Business Administration; and one about Brazilian cities and metropolises. My payment is made in three ways: the papers’ authors pay for the translations themselves; the journal is bilingual, so it pays for the translations; the journal and the author pay 50% of the translation cost each. Unfortunately, the payment made via the Institution that houses the journal can take much longer than expected – well, who said it would always be a bed of roses?

Do I use any CAT tools to help me translate the papers? As this is a fashionable topic nowadays, I feel I must approach it, so here it goes: no, so far I haven’t. I’ve already attended a couple of courses on CAT tools, but translating academic papers involves respecting the academic style, the style of the area (for example: public health papers are written differently from applied linguistics papers, both in terms of academic style and jargon), and the author’s idiosyncratic style, and I don’t think CAT tools are of much help here. Besides, my services are not hired through translation agencies, which means I don’t have to deliver translation memories and the like. I’ve asked some of my colleagues who work with me in the same journals about this, but they haven’t felt the need to use CAT tools so far. No client has ever asked us to translate their papers using TRADOS or memoQ. For the time being, our work can continue to be similar to that of an “artisan of words”, and I guess Google Translate won’t replace us in the near future. Obviously, necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s more than likely that we’ll have to adapt to the new reality soon – and I’m okay with this!

Well, this is the “love story” I wanted to share with you! I hope you’ve liked it! Please feel free to post any doubts or comments you may have!

It’s my pleasure having you as a guest in our blog, Carolina! It’s interesting to see how people have different starts in our profession, and learning more about the Public Health domain was also great! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your experience with us!

Our next guest will be Mariana Sasso, talking about freelance versus in-house translator. Stay tuned!

About the author
Foto para CarolineI have a BA in English Language and Literature (majors in Translation and Teaching) and an MA in Applied Linguistics and Language Studies from PUCSP (Catholic University of São Paulo). My Master’s thesis focused on the translation into English of Annual Reports released by a Brazilian retail company. I’m also a public sworn translator for the State of São Paulo, Brazil.

5 thoughts on “Guest post: Public Health translation

  1. Such a sweet love story with the language world. =)
    Carolina, is your thesis available online (or at PUC’s library)?
    I would like to take a look at it some day if that’s ok by you (I translate Portuguese-written corporate reports into English, and am very curious about your paper.)

    Best wishes,


    • Dear Mariana,

      I think that the best link to my thesis is

      Go to “Orientadora: Profa Dra Leila Barbara”
      I’m the third one: Carolina Penteado Siqueira (this was my name before I got married).
      Please refer to the file “Guia”. It contains the names of the files in the order in which they should be read.
      Thank you for your interest in my thesis! It’d be wonderful to receive your feedback!


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