September 30 is International Translation Day. According to the UN, which recognized the date two years ago, “International Translation Day is meant as an opportunity to pay tribute to the work of language professionals, which plays an important role in bringing nations together, facilitating dialogue, understanding and cooperation, contributing to development and strengthening world peace and security.”
Most of us love what we do (well, I know I do!), so I decided to ask ten translators from different areas what translation means to them.
Below you’ll find, in alphabetic order, Alison Entrekin, Brazilian Portuguese into English literary translator; Anna Ligia Pozzetti, Japanese-English-Brazilian Portuguese interpreter; Carolina Ventura, English-Brazilian Portuguese sworn translator; Judy Jenner, court-certified English-Spanish interpreter; Laila Rezende Compan, Spanish-Brazilian Portuguese subtitler; Paloma Bueno, Brazilian sign language interpreter; Paula G. de Brito, Brazilian translation student; Paulo Noriega, English-Brazilian Portuguese dubbing translator; Sherif Abuzid, English into Arabic translator; and Thiago Araújo, Brazilian game translator.
1. Alison Entrekin
- scrutinizes her friends’ turns of phrase for future usefulness;
- shouts “PAUSE!” mid-film and races off to take note of whatever the main character just said because it’s exactly what she needed two months ago;
- fiddles with texts after she has delivered them;
- carefully curates lists of novel swear words, slang and saddle parts because, well, you never know when they might come in handy;
- stalks truant words in dreams with a gold-panning dish and a butterfly net;
- knows that “thesaurus” comes from the Greek word for treasure;
- suspects that other translators have better and rarer words than she does.
A few facts about words:
- The best words come in shampoo bottles and appear mid-lather, when your hands are too wet to do anything with them;
- There are more words in my shampoo bottle than butterflies in Peru.
Alison is an Australia literary translator who translates from the Portuguese.
2. Anna Ligia Pozzetti
For me, translation means connecting cultures. When it comes to Japanese and Portuguese, besides the close relationship that both countries have, since the largest Japanese community outside Japan is located in Brazil, the cultural and language gap is significant. To be able to translate those languages, it is crucial to deeply understand what differentiates those cultures to be able to transfer the specifics in a way the other part can understand. It is an amazing journey of searching and studying, choosing carefully the right word, even for a small project. There are so many things that both countries can learn from each other in order to evolve and improve that, for me, it is an honor to enable communication and be part of this experience. It is the best job ever!
Anna is a Japanese into Brazilian Portuguese translator and interpreter with more than 7 years of experience managing Komorebi Translations.
3. Carolina Ventura
As I am a certified public translator (aka sworn translator) who translates mainly school and personal documents, to me, translation means enabling my clients to fulfil their dreams of studying, working and living abroad. While many of my colleagues think that academic transcripts, diplomas, certificates or police records are dull documents and that translating them is boring, in each one I see a dream waiting to come true, and I’m always happy and honored to be part of the process. I also translate texts in the free, non-sworn modality, like scientific papers originally written in Portuguese for Brazilian journals that also publish them in English. In this case, I think that translation is the means to disseminate the findings of Brazilian scientists in other countries, something I’m very proud to do.
Carolina has been working as a certified public translator in the State of São Paulo, Brazil, since 2000, and as a freelance translator since 1996.
4. Judy Jenner
Translation means the world – and that’s not hyperbole. As translators, we have the power to enable global trade and communication at any level, in any field or sector. We help make the world work. Being part of that is incredibly powerful, and I am grateful that I get to do this for a living.
Judy is a German and Spanish translator and federally court-certified Spanish interpreter in Las Vegas, Nevada. She serves as an ATA spokesperson and runs her boutique T&I business with her twin sister, Dagmar.
5. Laila Rezende Compan
I’ve been asked a lot of questions about translation, but this is the first time someone asks me what translation means to me. I thought about this question and how I could put my feeling into words for days, and here it is:
Translation means to me a bridge that can take us to learn something new – a new song, a new dish, a new culture. Thanks to translation, we are able to talk to people from other places and learn new knowledge. However, deep down, I don’t think I can actually define what translation means. It’s a simple word with an extremely complex meaning when I analyze the greatness it carries.
Laila is a dubbing and subtitling translator, speaker, subtitling teacher, and creator of the blog Tradutor Iniciante.
6. Paloma Bueno
Translating is like building bridges. To me, videos, texts, and even sign language videos are translation, because all of them involve research and review.
Paloma is a Brazilian Sign Language translator and interpreter | Audiovisual Accessibility.
7. Paula G. de Brito
Explaining what translation means to me can get a little sappy, if I’m honest. Before I decided to study it, I was preparing to enter Medical school and, since it wasn’t what I wanted to do in life, I was pretty unhappy and hopeless. Then, I found myself translating a couple of short stories and games, in an attempt to relax, trying to feel better. So, when I think about the meaning of translation, I immediately think “life-savior.” In many moments, translating kept me going. And I know that it is bigger than me and my life dramas. Translation affects so many different people in so many ways. It’s so powerful that I can’t help but love it. Translation to me, among other things, means the world.
Paula is Brazilian and is an undergraduate student in Translation at Universidade Paulista, Brazil.
8. Paulo Noriega
To me, translation is an attempt to transfer the same emotions, feelings, and experiences of the source language into the target language, regardless of the media, using the available linguistic tools. It’s like trying to put the pieces of a puzzle together using different pieces but trying to recreate it as close as possible. It’s knowing how to win but also learning how to lose, because there are inherent losses in the process. Despite the linguistic adversities, tight deadlines, and client interventions, translators have the duty to make all possible efforts to transfer the original message to its target-audience in the best way possible.
Paulo is an English into Brazilian Portuguese translator specialized in dubbing translation. He has translated more than 300 hours of audiovisual productions and is the author of the blog Traduzindo a Dublagem, one of the first Brazilian blogs dedicated to dubbing translation.
9. Sherif Abuzid
Translation is a window to other worlds. Being a translator since 2004, I read and translate in different fields and work with people from different cultures. This has helped me understand the world better and made me a better person. Translation taught me diversity is inevitable and I have to embrace the other. My job as a translator enabled me to read stories from people all over the world and learn new skills and consume a huge amount of knowledge.
Sherif is an English to Arabic translator and blogger with about 15 years’ experience in translation and localization.
10. Thiago Araújo
Translation is my profession, my call, my way of supporting myself, but it goes deeper. Translation is my way of expressing my creativity through someone else’s words. Particularly in game localization, one can often be extra inventive, let their imagination run wild. Translation keeps me motivated. With so many challenging wordplays, precise researches, rich poems, tricky puns, humor, cultural adaptation… There’s not a single moment of boredom. I truly feel like I’m reading a book, or rather like I’m the writer myself — except that I tell a different story every month, even every day, and I love it.
Thiago is a fan of games since childhood. He has been living his dream localizing games (currently almost 90 titles) for the past 7 years, also coordinating small teams of Brazilian translators.
What about you? What does translation mean to you?
6 thoughts on “What does translation mean to you?”
To me, it means bridging the gap.
Translation is, for me, an opportunity to learn new things every day (these past few days have been about mobile technology for example). The aspect that I love most is the research, digging deeper and deeper to ensure you find just the right term. Of course, this has a downside, as my extremely (and I mean that) curious nature means I will keep digging even after finding that right word. A few shovels more and I should come out to the other side of the word, you know? My second favourite part is the QA, and in particular making sure everything is consistent. Weird?
I also love the “side effect” of learning new things every day, with every project. And I also love to carefully craft the translation, sometimes even improving the text when compared to its source quality (or lack thereof). I think this crafting is my favorite part.
And I don’t think you’re weird at all! That’s what make us great professionals. 🙂
Thanks for reading and commenting!
Translation teaches me new things every day, makes me alert in every situation trying to find a synonym, a better word or regretting a not so good choice and, finally is the second-best job ever (the first would be a journalist reporter in a newspapers Travel Section) and, as Sheriff, brilliantly said “ teaches us diversity”, no matter what!
Nice job, Caroline. Congrats…
Thanks, Anita! I’m glad you liked it.
It’s a great job, to keep learning with every single project!
Thanks for your contribution!
Hi, you really share a great piece of content and useful information for translators out there. Being part of the translation industry, I completely understand the importance of this blog post.
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