Greatest Women in Translation: Elenice Barbosa de Araujo

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Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

Yes, I know, I let you down this past month. No post on the 20. And, this month, I changed the order of the interview and the guest post series; however, there was no guest post either. Let’s see if we can go back on track now.

Now please welcome this month’s interviewee, Elenice, nominated by Nancy Cristina Martorana.


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1. Why not start by telling us how you met Cris Martorana, our last interviewee?

I was blessed to have Cris as my T/I teacher at Alumni. She’s been my English grammar tutor for many years now. I would say she is one of the strongest influences in my career as a linguist. I admire her for her eagerness to find ‘the word’, to learn the precise meaning of any given expression and its equivalent in Portuguese, and how to use it properly. We share the same passion, I guess. She is an extraordinaire teacher and one of the most loving and caring people I know. I was very flattered to be chosen by her.

2. On your CV, you list 42 books you have already translated. On a Google search, I found a reference to your translation of O livro essencial da alimentação infantil. And I can see you translate a lot of nutrition and gastronomy, as well as children books. How did you get to translate for this area?

These are the books I translated that were published. I did a few more that were either intended for private distribution or have never been published. And a couple other translations were sold to other publishing houses and printed under a different title, so I lost track of them. A few days ago I ran into a tittle that seemed familiar only to learn that it’s one of my works. My very first translation job was a fiction book. I’ve got a phone call a week after concluding my T/I course telling me that a fellow student had referred me. Then, by the time I was about to finish it, another fellow colleague who always resorted to me to clarify her culinary doubts referred me to her editor, so I got to translate my first culinary book. After that, I was doing another fiction book when the editor learned that I had a background in Education and had a deep interest for anything related to cooking and nutrition, especially regarding children’s health, and he assigned me a book on nutrition. He’d been looking for someone cut out for it, for quite a long time. That translation brought me at least a dozen more. From there the more I translated the more I learned. Wherever I travelled the first place I would visit on a new city was the supermarket, and the farmers market, and a range of local restaurants. In no time I started choosing my destinations based on the culinary experience they would offer me. The greater the diversity of cuisines I would be exposed to the better.   

3. You are such a diversified professional! Besides translating in several areas of knowledge (biology, parenting, health, children and adult literature, multimedia & TV, advertising, marketing, travel & tourism, education, psychology, sociology, software localization, general business, and the ones I mentioned in the previous question), you also work with editing, copywriting, and proofreading, dubbing, voice over and subtitling. Phew! That’s a lot! How do you manage everything? Do you usually work a bit with each area or do you usually naturally focus on a couple?

It might seem a lot, but it’s been now fifteen and a half years of hard work. And that’s exactly the beauty of the translation, you may get tired but never ever bored. Everyday we are faced with new challenges, and I have taken on quite a lot. In all these years I have never applied for a position nor send my resume without it being asked first; I was always approached by a client who came to me, referred by someone who knew that I was fit for that job. But as much as I’m a hard worker — and believe, I am — I only work on two or three projects at a time. Translating books allows me to keep editing and proofreading for my regular clients at a short notice. I’m used to working long hours a day, so it’s refreshing to take a break from one subject for working on another. Instead of distracting me, I’m able to focus more on the subject at hand. And then I return to the previous activity with fresh eyes, so my ideas flow faster. In fact, I find the exposure to a wide range of themes and to varied tasks extremely helpful for professional growth. For instance, translating a book gives me a broader vocabulary, and improves my fluidity of speech (or of text, if I may). Whereas editing subtitles or doing interpreting training makes my mind sharper, and considerably improves my concision, which in turn is a valuable asset while translating. But needless to say, I follow the golden rule: I would never work on a theme or area I do not feel confortable with, or for which I lack the required skills and/or reliable research tools. Other than that, it is my curiosity, my drive for learning and discovering new things, and my passion for the language itself and its rules, which navigate me through my career. Give me a challenging subject and I’ll gladly immerse myself in it and find my way though the text.

4. And, last year, you also found the time to work, for a semester, at PUC-SP, teaching Translation of Contemporary Texts from Portuguese into English. How was the experience as a teacher? Did you learn anything that you were able to apply to your own profession?

It was a fantastic opportunity. I took the course, and then to my surprise, I was invited by the teacher to fill in for her. I was able to combine my two callings, translation and education. Teaching is always a two-way experience, and the exchange with the students was very enriching. In addition to learning a lot from all the work involved in lesson planning, I also acquired a greater self-awareness as a professional.

5. Last year, you also took the Literary Translation Summer School at the City University of London. Could you tell us a bit more about the course and your experience?

It was one of my ‘student career’ highlights. It consisted of a weeklong hands-on workshop with a selected group of translators — all native speakers, except for me — under the guidance of one of the most important translators of the Portuguese literature, Margareth Jul Costa. As always in my life it was a bold move, but it absolutely paid off. Although short, it was worth a year at a regular course. I can’t wait to go back.

6. Now a personal curiosity. On our e-mail communications, you mentioned you were busy concluding a book. Could you tell us a bit more about it?

Indeed, I just finished another translation, and it was invigorating. New editor, new publishing house, a brand new theme. I was very inspired by it. The author opens her heart to speak to the mothers of young children about the worries and challenges of parenting. And she is so candid about her experiences in life, that women of all ages, mothers or not, can relate to it. In translation there is no such thing as the luxury of a generous deadline, that’s for sure (neither we can afford it). But despite the steady rhythm and the amount of effort to craft a beautiful text, it was the kind of job that reminded me how much I love what I do.

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate a woman you admire to be our next interviewee.

That has to be my dear friend and colleague Naomi Sutcliffe de Moraes, a brilliant and accomplished linguist. I’m sure her interview will be a hit.


I would like to thank Elenice, once again, for accepting Cris Martorana’s nomination and my invitation to be interviewed for our series. Now I cannot wait for Naomi’s.

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One thought on “Greatest Women in Translation: Elenice Barbosa de Araujo

  1. Pingback: Greatest Women in Translation: Naomi Sutcliffe de Moraes | Carol's Adventures in Translation

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