ConVTI (Virtual Interpreting and Translation Conference)



Márcia Nabrzecki and I, Gio Lester, have a lot in common. Besides being Brazilian and translators, we are also advocates, instructors, and mentors. Last year, a common friend brought us together and the result is a 2-day event that we believe will delight those who attend it.

I better tell you a bit about ourselves. My career in Translation and Interpreting started in 1980. Yes, I am a legacy professional and have witnessed and adapted to many changes over the years. I have also been an advocate for our professions: President of two Florida Chapters for the American Translators Association-ATA (2001-2003; 2011-2012; 2015), Director and also Interim Vice Chair for the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (2010-2013), mentor for members of ATA and also of its Brazilian counterpart, ABRATES, and currently I am also the Editor of The NAJIT Observer, a weekly online publication by the National Association of Judiciary Translators and Interpreters. Márcia started her career in 1995. Love for her profession led Marcia to engage in activities beyond translation projects. She is busy mentoring other professionals for Coletivo Identidade, a program that evolved from T&I events in Curitiba and spread to other cities in Brazil; she leads workshops and organizes events such as the monthly barcamps that also started in lovely Curitiba. Márcia manages to find time to lead Pro-Page, Traduções e Projetos, her own company. You can read more about us here.

So, after a few conversations and planning, we decided to throw a party at your place. Well, actually, a conference. Why, you may ask. Well, how many conferences have you missed this year? How many more are on your wish list? The truth is, regardless of origin, language and customs, we all share the desire to learn, grow and save. ConVTI ([//kon-vee-tee-eye//], in Portuguese, Congresso Virtual de Tradução e Interpretaçãomakes all three available to all of us.

Márcia and I feel the same way: earning continuing education credits, networking with colleagues, improving the quality of our services, etc. should not be a hardship. And we have a solution that makes use of modern technology to solve that issue – after all, this is the 21st Century!

Our professions have experienced exponential changes at different levels. Technology’s effects have been both negative and positive: clients expect a lot more from us in a shorter period of time but we have tools that help us work smarter; new market segments are open to us but the learning curve can be discouraging; there are incredible new tools out there but either cost, availability, compatibility, or something else are obstacles.

However, technology has reached a point that allows for presenters from all over the world to congregate on your laptop. And we have arranged just that for you: a great professional event with international talent, respected colleagues, best representatives in their specializations. ConVTI will fill in the gap between events, allow professionals to meet their certification requirements and learn from leaders in various segments. And the latest: HeadVox will be providing simultaneous interpreting for the live sessions.

We have put together a collection of top-notch T&I professionals to delight you. No divas. We wanted an even constellation of professionals who understand the changes in the market and what they mean to us.

Wherever you are, we promise you two event-filled days. On August 26, we will have four 1-hour presentations followed by a 90-minute panel on MT and interpreting technology. The day’s closing event is a live roundtable with all presenters. On August 27, we will have six 1-hour presentations and the closing is another live roundtable with all presenters. ConVTI will cover subjects ranging from the practical side of translation to the technical aspects of it, interpreting technology and changes in judicial interpreting, the business side of our profession, and we are working on bringing sign language interpreting into the offerings. Since Márcia and I do believe in equal opportunity learning, we have plans to have the presentations subtitled in English, Portuguese and Spanish.

And your wallet will be happy too: No airfare cost. No hotel cost. No meals cost – well, that will depend on you. Just take your mobile device to wherever you feel more comfortable and join us. A flat fee of $75 gives you access to the 2-day event. The presentations will be available for sale after the event.

Are your ready for a visit? Have your computers, laptops, cell phones or tablets at the ready. We are coming your way: August 26 and 27.

Visit our website for more detailed information. Also, like our Facebook page, follow the event on Twitter, and subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay updated. Should you have any doubts, send us an email to

If you missed the webinar The Business of Being in Business – Part I: The Professional Side (free webinar to give you a taste of ConVTI), just click here to watch the video. And get ready for the second installment: The Business of Being in Business – Part II: The Commercial Side coming to you on June 24, at 8 am EST – check your local time on Time Buddy. Registration is now open, just click here.

Márcia has talked about the event (in Portuguese) for the TradTalk podcast. You can watch or listen to it here.

About the author
GioBrazilian-born Giovanna “Gio” Lester‘s career in translation and interpreting started in 1980. Gio is very active in her profession and in the associations she is affiliated with. She has held many volunteer administrative positions within various organizations related to our profession, and often speaks and writes on issues that affect us. As an international conference interpreter, Gio has been the voice of government heads and officials, scientists, researchers, doctors, hairdressers, teachers, engineers, investors and more. Gio has been a contributor to The NAJIT Observer since its inception in 2011, and its Editor since 2016. She can be reached at

Greatest Women in Translation: Sophie Lewis


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Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

Please welcome this month’s interviewee, Sophie Lewis (nominated by Alison Entrekin).

Sophie Lewis

Credits at the end of the interview.

1. Besides translating, you used to be senior editor at And Other Stories. What exactly do you do now?

I still edit but as a freelancer. I edit fiction for And Other Stories but also for other publishers, including Peirene Press and Tilted Axis Press. This sits more easily alongside my freelance translating: I try only to take on one major job, whether translation or edit, at a time, and run the smaller jobs of whatever kind alongside. In addition, though, since 2016 I have been running workshops on translation in secondary schools, under the title Shadow Heroes.

2. As editor of And Other Stories, you wrote this article about the Year of Publishing Women 2018. This has everything to do with our series, so why don’t you tell us a bit more about this amazing initiative?

What I didn’t manage to include in the article was an argument for why it’s even more important for a publisher working mainly with translations to publish women: if British publishing is male-dominated, what filters through via translation is so masculine it’s breathtaking. So the opportunity to get the word out around the world that we’re interested in something else, in women’s writing particularly, and then in digging into the systems and nets around women that allow them to write, be published and be translated – or not, was something particularly pertinent to And Other Stories. And with some very exciting books already scheduled for 2018 the provocation is already working its magic.

3. You mainly translate from French into English, and one of your numerous translations was Violette Leduc’s Thérèse and Isabelle, that, in your own words, is “groundbreaking women’s writing”, giving voice to “a schoolgirl in a convent school […] systematically repressed from a young age.” Being aware of the many difficulties women face and of the sex issues the world is facing, how was this experience of translating such an amazing woman writer and such a delicate story?

This was a very tough job. The prose was frequently both precise and purple, anatomical, highly detailed and also emotional and sensual. I had to find words for parts that are never comfortably named in English – the usual problem is the lack of middle ground between offensive slang and medical terminology. So I reluctantly employed some euphemism, while making sure I was as precise as I could be everywhere else. And I tried to keep hearing that teenage girl’s voice. Thérèse is precocious but also sheltered. She herself is finding new ways to express her experience and she does that awkwardly, sometimes, but always with genuine feeling. Following and recreating her experience was nearly as painful and exhilarating as it must have been for Leduc to get it down on paper.

4. Besides Leduc, you have also translated several other French writers, such as Stendhal, Jules Verne, Charles Cros, Marcel Aymé, Emilie de Turckheim, Emmanuelle Pagano. Have you already ventured into translating Brazilian Portuguese literature? If so, what have you translated so far? If not, why not?

I have translated short fiction by João Gilberto Noll and also a fair bit of non-fiction and paratextual stuff – for literary festivals and the like. I need to build up my contacts in publishing, so they know to trust me for this work as well as French books. I also need to read more Brazilian fiction, so that I can better trust my own sense of taste and how the literary landscape lies in Brazil. Lastly, I need to convince the Brazilian authorities to reinstate the translation funding so confidently announced only a few years ago. That would really help publishers make the leap to commission translations of Brazilian works.

5. What, in your opinion, are the main differences between translating from French and Brazilian Portuguese into English?

I find Brazilian Portuguese often more fluid, not being required to be quite as specific as either French or English. But really, the differences between each book and each writer’s style are much greater than the differences between the languages overall.

6. How did your story with Brazil and Brazilian Portuguese begin?

I originally began to study European Portuguese in evening classes. I had some ideas about what my next language should be and so chose Portuguese for somewhat academic purposes. I was the only person in my class to be neither related to lusophones nor in love with a lusophone. It was hard! Then my husband landed a job teaching in Rio, so we switched our Portuguese classes to Brazilian. It only really came together when we reached Rio. We lived there for four and a half years; our son Xul was born there in 2014.

7. Now it is your turn to nominate our next interviewee. Who inspires you the most?

I admire Sarah Ardizzone very much for following an inclination to specialise in working with younger writers and translating a youthful, ‘street’ world that requires immense sensitivity to slang and to street-level politics. As I see it, the work she translates presents at least as challenging difficulties as any other texts could do, but Sarah tackles them both more systematically and more passionately than any other translator I’ve encountered.

* Image created with Canva.
Credit of Sophie Lewis’ picture (provided by the interviewee herself): photographer Anna Michell.
Source of the quote on the image: Sophie Lewis and her authors.

Greatest Women in Translation: Alison Entrekin


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After a one-month break, welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series! I assure you it was worth the wait.

Please welcome this month’s interviewee, the great Alison Entrekin, acclaimed literary translator from Brazilian Portuguese into English (nominated by Diane Whitty).

Alison Entrekin

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1. You were actually a professional dancer! What made you change careers and become a translator?

I hurt my sciatic nerve dancing and had to give it a rest. So I went to university to study Creative Writing, because it was the only other thing I liked doing. It wasn’t until several years later, when I was learning Portuguese, that I decided to study translation with the intention of becoming a literary translator.

2. According to Guilherme Sobota (Estadão), you are one of most popular translators when it comes to contemporary Brazilian literature in English. You have already translated Paulo Lins, Daniel Galera, Chico Buarque, and Fernanda Torres, to name but a few well-known Brazilian authors. You are currently retranslating My Sweet Orange Tree (Meu Pé de Laranja Lima), by José Mauro de Vasconcelos, and will start Grande Sertão: Veredas soon. What are /were the challenges of translating such famous works?

Every work comes with its own set of challenges and they’re usually not what you expect them to be. Sometimes it’s the syntax, like in Cristovão Tezza’s The Eternal Son, which is very Brazilian and seems to resist translation into English; or the vocabulary, like in Paulo Lins’s City of God, which is very colloquial and born of a reality that has no direct equivalent in an English-speaking country. Adriana Lisboa’s writing is very poetic, and I spend a long time trying to find the right balance and flow for her sentences in English. With retranslations, there is the issue of the previous translation being either dated or unsatisfactory in some way, and I feel an unspoken obligation to somehow make the new translation work in ways that the previous one didn’t.

3. Which book did you enjoy translating the most and which did you find the most challenging? In both cases, why?

Budapest by Chico Buarque, for the intense word-play, which is incredibly hard to reproduce, but so much fun. The most difficult to date was Tezza’s The Eternal Son. His sentences are long and winding, with many asides, and English just doesn’t have the grammatical flexibility to pack so much information into a single sentence and still sound natural. But I am sure that my next project, a retranslation of João Guimarães Rosa’s 1956 classic, The Devil to Pay in the Backlands—often likened to James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake for its linguistic complexity—will make everything else feel like a walk in the park.

4. In this article you wrote for the Words Without Borders blog regarding your translation of Grande Sertão: Veredas, you mention untranslatability. I frown when people widely share articles with lists of untranslatable words in any given language. I do not believe anything is untranslatable, after all, what would our job consist of if this were true? Can you say a few words on the matter? What is your opinion regarding translatability x untranslatability?

I know what you mean about those lists. They often consist of words that describe culture-specific phenomena, which require a few sentences of explanation. Or words that compound a lot of information, which is easier to do in some languages than in others. Or words that are incredibly versatile—like saudade in Portuguese—and can be used in myriad ways, all of which require different translations in the target language. Perhaps they are better described as words that don’t have a single corresponding word in other languages. But they can be explained, and explanation is a kind of translation.

As for Grande Sertão: Veredas, it is possible to unravel the underlying meaning and translate it into straightforward English (albeit with the loss of many nuances). The 1963 translation does precisely that, but the translators chose not to go the extra mile (or light-year, as the case may be) and reproduce Guimarães Rosa’s linguistic alchemy, with its unique blend of quirky syntax, neologism and regionalism, which is what makes the novel so special. These things have to be reconstructed in the target language in the spirit of the original, because there are no direct equivalents, but it’s still translation, nonetheless. Anything that seeks to convey the message and spirit of something else is a kind of translation.

5. In some interviews you gave you mentioned punctuation as being the most challenging aspect of translating literature (as here). This is the first time I see someone point out punctuation, and not words, cultural aspects, or puns/jokes, as a challenge in translation. Could you please elaborate a bit more on the topic? What is so fascinating, yet challenging, about punctuation?

I think of punctuation as traffic signals in a text, telling readers when to stop, when to go, when there’s a bridge coming up.

But while the rules of punctuation are very similar in Portuguese and English, Brazilians and English speakers often punctuate quite differently. It’s all about usage. Brazilian writers regularly join clauses with commas where we would use full stops (periods) in English, and readers are used to it. It seems to help the flow, whereas it can have the opposite effect in English. When readers of English come across an odd connection between clauses (i.e. a comma instead of a full stop), they tend to stop and go back to try and figure out what they missed. So much for flow. I’m not saying that every time there’s a weird comma, we should use a full stop in the translation, just that a case can be made for this kind of swap in some instances. You have to analyse the context and ask questions: How does this piece flow? Who is speaking? Does this comma cause readers of the translation to pause where readers of the original keeping going? Does it change the rhythm or tone?

Just the other day I had to make a decision about whether or not to italicize foreign words in Chico Buarque’s My German Brother—with the author’s blessing, of course—as they are not italicized in the original. There are passages where the Italian-Brazilian mother says things half in Italian, half in Portuguese, and others where the brother tries to seduce an Argentinean girl in Portunhol (the Portuguese-Spanish equivalent of Spanglish), to name just a few examples. The transition from one Latin language to another is so seamless and natural in the original, but somehow clumsy in English without italics. I eventually came to the conclusion that italics, like punctuation, signal that something different is coming up, like a sign warning of a road bump ahead, and the translation flows better with italics. But it’s all very subjective, and case-specific.

There are days when I don’t agree with myself.

6. When you mention translation, people in general usually think of two things: interpreting and literature. The dream of most translation students is to become a literary translator. However, translating literature is not a bed of roses, as we say in Brazilian Portuguese. It once took you three weeks to translate three pages of a Brazilian literary classic, as you mention in the essay you wrote for WWB Daily (link in question 4). That is equivalent to 57 words a day! What is the advice you would give a student or beginner – or even an experienced translator – who would like to enter the realm of literary translation?

I think everyone needs to find their niche. A friend of mine, who is a legal translator, says she can’t imagine working on a single text for months on end. She will happily turn out several documents a day, and she does it so effortlessly because she knows the terminology back-to-front.

Literary translators, on the other hand, need patience and staying-power. Books have a habit of taking twice as long to translate as you thought they would. Every novel takes you somewhere different and you have to become an overnight expert in subjects you’ve never dealt with before (you invariably discover that your vocabulary is really very poor). I would say to someone starting out in the field: Always ask about the things you aren’t sure of, even if you feel stupid asking. If you can, read your translation out loud, listening for glitches, sense, transitions, alliteration that isn’t supposed to be there. Revise, revise, revise. When in doubt, revise again.

7. Now it is your turn. Who do you nominate to be our next interviewee?

I nominate Sophie Lewis, editor and literary translator from French and Portuguese.

It was a pleasure e-meeting you and learning more about you, Alison. I really appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions for the interview. 🙂

Greatest Women in Translation: Diane Grosklaus Whitty


Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

Please welcome this month’s interviewee, Diane Grosklaus Whitty, nominated by Kim Olson.


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1. How did you get into translation? And what was the importance of co-translating a book by Mário Quintana, a well-known Brazilian author (and also translator), in your early translation years?

I drifted into translation much as I drifted into a 23-year residency in Brazil, cutting short vague plans to pursue an academic career in psycholinguistics. About two years into my ex-pat life, I started committing translations. I say ”committing” because I had no business tackling the task at that point. But it was 1978 and I was a native English speaker in a high-demand market, long before email, the internet, or even personal computers (I used a manual typewriter back then). Today I realize I got very lucky with Mário Quintana’s book: lucky to have been given the assignment and lucky that it didn’t present any major translation challenges, for which I would not have been prepared. Prime rule for a translator: know what you don’t know. I caught on to that over the years, as I took short courses and attended seminars in translation, and as experience hit me aside the head every once in a while. My four-year stint as in-house translator and interpreter for the Australian Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro (1982-86) was a period of intense on-the-job training. By the time the Australian government closed the consulate, I was ready to take the plunge as a full-time free-lancer.

2 The first thing that struck my attention when researching about you to create your questions was the quality of the detailed information one can find on your website, especially your vast portfolio. How important do you think it is for a translator to showcase their portfolio?

I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all formula. If you’re a new translator starting out and don’t have much of a portfolio, spending time and money on a website might not be as important as investing in ATA certification or a new CAT tool. In my case, however, while I don’t have a degree in translation or a master’s in, say, public health, what I do have is vast experience – more years than I actually advertise! So my site serves to showcase my work in a way a resume never would. I actually created it just a year ago. I source over half of my income from direct clients in Brazil and when the real plummeted in late 2015/early 2016, I pulled back from the Brazilian market for a while and devoted my extra time to  designing the site. I’ve gotten little traffic through it (half a dozen certified document translations), but I think it serves its other purpose well. I should point out that only about 10% of my work is for agencies; busy PMs want a neat and tidy resume to tuck away in their virtual file cabinet plus a list of the CAT tools you work with; they won’t take the time to visit a website. But here’s an example of how it works with my direct clients: I was approached last fall by a publisher about a non-fiction book on Zika. In my email reply to her query, I highlighted relevant jobs from my portfolio and pointed the editor to my website, where she could also look at samples of my work in the ”snippets” tab. I can’t confirm that the website made any difference in the fact that I landed the assignment (my current favorite-ever), but having the information neatly laid out somehow made it easier to pitch my skills.

At the same time, whether you want to showcase your portfolio or not, I feel it’s important to maintain one. For years, I used to do this in a simple Word file, plugging the raw data into a table hidden inside a folder on my desktop. The website transformed a dreary act of record-keeping into the chance to see the efforts of my labor on display.

3. You mention your all-time favorite escort interpreting assignment was working for the Australian delegation at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. Could you tell us a bit what it was like and why you enjoyed doing it?

I think translators and interpreters are insatiably curious, and this particular assignment gave me glimpses into slices of the world to which I would otherwise not be privy. I sat in while the shadow minister for the environment – a devout Catholic – engaged in an hour-long private conversation with an elderly priest who had been a militant under the dictatorship; I also interpreted for the then-minister of the environment, whose appointments included meeting with a group of street children who were learning sustainable crafts. I was actually a “girl Friday” for the 40 or so members of the delegation, untangling logistic snarls, giving lessons in local culture, and accompanying groups through exhibits and sometimes just around town. Perhaps what I loved most was never knowing which of my language or cultural competency skills might come into play. And the Earth Summit was history – who doesn’t enjoy watching it unfold?

4. Besides having an amazing portfolio, you also showcase some great testimonials, such as “You are like Romário in Brazil. Nobody can replace you,” by a filmmaker, and “you choose the words as I choose the notes when I write an arrangement, very carefully,” by a jazz saxophonist and flautist. Do you think having testimonials help build trust with our potential clients and make them choose us?

Yes, definitely. In a world where ”e-meeting” has become the norm, and where scams are a constant plague, I think testimonials help legitimize your claims and add a personal touch. I’ve drawn most of the testimonials from email exchanges with clients (with their permission), and I have two criteria in mind when deciding what to post. First, I want the comments to mention the qualities and skills that I feel I bring to the job. Second, since the bulk of my work is for direct clients, I give top billing to recognizable names in a given field. So if a scholar or publisher contacts me about a potential job, I can direct them to my site, where they will often recognize a name or two, by reputation or even personally (Brazilian academia is a small world). It helped that I had horded positive feedback over the years in a special file. I recommend it for those days when a job, or a client, has you tearing your hair out and wondering why you ever decided to be a translator – you can take a stroll down memory lane and re-visit some of the clients who make your job a pleasure.

5. Besides having a thorough website not many freelance translators have, you also have a Facebook page, something else not all freelance translators have either (not to mention a rather active profile). And you do share some interesting articles there. How important do you think it is, for freelance translators, to be online?

I don’t consciously seek to maintain an active online presence. In fact, I’m not really a big fan of social media. I created my professional FB page on a whim, but then I found that it forces me to pull my head out of my work and have a little fun. When I left Brazil and returned to the Midwest, in 1999, I started my own little email newsletter for my clients back in Brazil, called ”News of North and South” (a nod to Elizabeth Bishop). It wasn’t focused on translation but on news that might be of interest to my clients – Caetano Veloso’s show in Chicago, my experience with ”return-to-my-native-culture shock,” a US report about something happening in Brazil. It was my excuse to send clients an email and remind them I existed, without directly nagging them for work. I’ve discovered that my FB page works much the same way. I post about translation, language in general, Brazilian literature in translation… and try to keep it light and entertaining. And since it’s FB, I also use it to advertise my accomplishments and pat myself on the back. I automatically repost to my personal FB page, because many of my FB friends are also longtime clients. I can’t say the rewards are all that tangible, but the investment is minimal. Over the years, I’ve learned that big rewards can come from tiny investments.

7. Now it is your turn. Who do you nominate to be our next interviewee?

I would like to nominate Alison Entrekin, a force in bringing new voices in Brazilian literature to the world stage. Alison has three skills I greatly admire: a matchless talent for reproducing the Brazilian reader’s experience in English (a way of looking at translation that I’ve learned from her), utmost grace in crafting English prose, and an ability to reflect on the translation process itself – reflections that she generously shares with her colleagues, much to our good fortune.

It was a pleasure to e-meet you, Diane, and to get to know a bit more about you. I really appreciate your taking the time to kindly answer my questions. 🙂

Guest post: On hard skills

Welcome back to our guest series! It is with a great pleasure that I introduce you to this month’s guest, Paula Arturo. I love all her writings and was thrilled when she accepted my invitation to write here.

Welcome, Paula!


Image provided by the author.

While professional translators and interpreters know better, the painful truth is that many of us have that special clueless someone in our circle of friends, family, and acquaintances who seems to think all it takes to be a language professional is to pass a Cambridge exam or spend a summer abroad learning a second language. Though this misconception may appear to be quite widespread, it’s not a belief that is commonly held by high-end translation buyers, such as international organizations, financial institutions or high-stakes financial players; and by that, what I mean is that clients with deep pockets and experience working with translators are usually already aware of the risks of using non-professionals and the benefits of having someone with the right qualifications and experience on their team.

Many young new language professionals aspire to work for such clients, and kudos to them! If you’re a newbie and you’ve already figured out that the bulk market is essentially a race to the bottom, more power to you. The problem is, however, that you might have some misconceptions about what it takes to work for high-end clients. This is so because most workshops, conference sessions, blog posts, and CPD opportunities focus so much on soft skills that people can be misled into thinking that all you need to be a translator or interpreter is a friendly face and emotional intelligence. While soft skills can help land new clients, keeping them and making it to the top of the food chain is an entirely different story.

If you don’t have the necessary hard skills to deliver results, clients won’t be returning or recommending you to anyone else. No matter how much marketing you do or how SEO savvy you are, hard skills are essentially what marks the difference between one hit wonders and multiplatinum holders. So where to begin?

1) Get a mentor, not a guru. We all have role models, i.e. people we look up to and whose accomplishments we want to emulate. Find that person and try to get them to be your mentor. Mentors don’t just pass down knowledge and skills, they also provide professional socialization and guidance to help you get started on the right foot.

2) Work with a reviewer. We all learn from others, and having a reviewer is key to improving the way we look at, interpret, and rewrite our translations. Reviewers challenge your linguistic choices and force you to rethink them or improve the quality of your work. You can’t possibly learn and do better if nobody’s marking your errors, and becoming an exceptional translator means being open to constructive criticism and change.

3) Become an expert. Your subject-matter expertise must be on a par with that of your client. If you can’t hold a conversation with a subject-matter expert in your desired area of specialization, you’re not ready to handle high stakes work. Of course, there may be a difference in the degree of subject-matter knowledge and expertise between you and your client, especially if you come directly from the field of translation and not from your client’s field, but you should still know enough about the subject-matter to talk about it intelligently and know the right questions to ask.

4) Read, read, read, and then read some more! This should be a given. A translator who isn’t an avid reader cannot possibly acquire enough general, background, and specialist knowledge to correctly understand the subtleties and nuances in certain types of texts.

5) Never stop working on your writing skills. Colombian Nobel laureate Gabriel García Marquez once said in an interview he would sometimes have to force himself to set his texts down and stop making corrections to them or he would never send anything to his publisher. Franz Kafka was constantly correcting course and was known to destroy his work out of dissatisfaction with his own writing. Translators have to be exceptionally good writers, and that is a life-long pursuit.

Of course, this is not a comprehensive list, just a start. The takeaway here is that if you aspire to sit at the cool kids’ table you’re going to have to achieve mastery in your craft. So, the next time you choose sessions at a conference, sign up for CPD, or otherwise invest in your training and education, ask yourself this: Am I maintaining a healthy balance between soft and hard skills? Or better yet, am I focusing on hard skills as much as I should be?

Great tips, Paula! I totally agree with you. It takes a combination of well-mastered hard and soft skills to be a professional translator/interpreter. Thank you so much for accepting my invitation and kindly taking the time to write such great advice to our readers! It is a pleasure to welcome you here.

About the author
paula-arturo-high-res-photo-201x180Paula Arturo is a lawyer, translator, and former law professor. She is a co-director of Translating Lawyers, a boutique firm specializing in legal translation by lawyers for lawyers. Throughout her fifteen-year career, in addition to various legal and financial documents, she has also translated several highly technical law books and publications in major international journals for high-profile authors, including several Nobel Prize Laureates and renowned jurists. She is currently a member of the American Translators Association’s Ethics Committee, the ATA Literary Division’s Leadership Council, and Member of the Public Policies Forum of the Supreme Court of Argentina.

Greatest Women in Translation: Kim Olson


Welcome back to our interview series!

Please welcome this month’s interviewee, Kim Olson, nominated by Doris M. Schraft.


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1. What’s your connection with Brazil and Brazilian Portuguese?

The connection goes back a long way! Where I grew up, public schools began to introduce foreign languages (French or Spanish) to students in the 4th grade. I had a Spanish class a few days a week and was hooked. I had a vivacious teacher who would turn our practice of naming objects and colors into games of catch, and who stealthily prepared us to surprise our regular teacher by teaching us how to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish. In high school, I added German and was blessed to have another marvelous teacher who brought culture and language to life. During that time, I was also involved in activities that brought together a number of foreign students participating in exchange programs such as AFS and Rotary Exchange, Brazilians among them. That was my first exposure to Portuguese and Brazilians.

I knew at that time that I wanted to study languages, but wasn’t quite sure what it would lead me to afterwards (I really could have benefited from ATA’s school outreach program!). My desire to be in a more international setting led me to Georgetown University in Washington, DC where I entered as a Spanish major. A meeting with the assistant dean of the School of Languages and Linguistics the summer before college got me thinking about studying Portuguese “as a way to open up more of South America.” Portuguese had not been a language offered in my school system, but I’d gotten a notion of it from meeting Brazilian students. When it came time to register for classes, I selected both Spanish and Portuguese, making the decision to leave German for a time. By my second semester, I’d officially changed my major to Portuguese and was pursuing a minor in Latin American Area Studies. Language majors were encouraged to study abroad and I was able to do so during my junior year as an International Student Exchange Program participant to PUC/RJ. After completing studies at Georgetown, I was determined to get back to Brazil and decided the best way to do that would be to go back to PUC/RJ and obtain a degree in translation.

2. After holding two undergraduate degrees in Languages/Translation, you moved to International Business for an MBA. Why did you decide to change areas?

I saw this less as a change in area and more as an expanded scope of potential activities. When I returned to the U.S. after PUC, I looked for a job in Washington, DC, seeking a job in which I could use my language skills. I eventually took a support position in the Latin America and Caribbean Investment Department at the International Finance Corporation, the private-sector arm of the World Bank. I was very intrigued by the work performed there, but my non-business background proved to be somewhat of a barrier. That’s when I decided to pursue an MBA at nearby George Washington University. I earned my degree over a four-year period as I continued to work full-time and translate on the side. By the time I finished, the entrepreneurial side of business school had taken firm hold and before long, I set out to run my own business. That of course involved translation.

3. When asked where I could find more information about you, you provided me with your profile, as well as your LinkedIn profile. Do you think having a profile helps getting projects and clients? Have you ever landed any project/client through

As a freelancer, I have to create as many possible channels as I can for obtaining potential clients. The process of setting up my profile, selecting particular ways to describe my work and sorting through sample translations for posting helped me think through how I want to be perceived. Early on, I was diligent about checking the site daily and got a few projects.  One turned out to be quite interesting – selecting snippets of audio in Portuguese to be used for language teaching purposes. That project lasted almost a year and made for a nice change of pace from straight translation.

4. I could not help but notice that you got your ATA certification in the same year I was born. That makes me feel like a baby and a complete amateur compared to your vast and rich experience in translation. What were your greatest learnings in all those years of experience that you feel are worth sharing with translation babies like myself? 🙂

In the process of learning a foreign language, we all know that you have to be willing to step outside your comfort zone and risk sounding slightly ridiculous as you practice vocabulary, string together what you hope will be grammatically-correct sentences and hone your accent. That willingness over time translates(!) into taking chances in the professional realm, often in the form of assignments. I don’t mean straying from your languages or areas of expertise, but rather, keeping an open mind when potential projects present themselves to you. This willingness to take a chance can lead to some fascinating assignments that in turn help you build more confidence as you diversify your abilities and gain experience.

Along with this willingness, I’ve also learned to embrace what appear to be new directions. I’ve learned to follow what sparks my interest, investing in it intellectually and otherwise. It’s only been in the past 10 years that my focus has moved more towards the sciences, for example.

Another thing I’ve found that is also related to stepping out of the comfort zone is that I should not be shy or reluctant about engaging with colleagues. They are my greatest resources for ideas and solutions. Sometimes those solutions involve joining together to tackle a large project.

5. What have you learned so far with your experience leading a team of translators in producing the online English version of a monthly magazine published by the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)?

This initial point is not new, and is reinforced as each month passes. My colleagues are incredible sources of wisdom, solutions and inspiration. I have become a better translator because of what I have learned from them.

I’ve also realized that

I truly enjoy the process involved in producing a high-quality translation product that allows the client to showcase its work.

I thrive on the attention to detail involved in project management and I love editing the pieces and helping to finesse the articles. I’ve learned, too, that I really enjoy the variety of articles that come across my desk. Many of the subjects have sparked a desire to learn even more.

The main thing I’ve learned, though, is that success can be found in many places.

A challenging request from a client might just set you on a path to something fun and rewarding.

6. ATA 57 was the first time you attended an ATA Conference as a speaker. How was the experience? What are the benefits, in your opinion, of presenting at a conference?

I attended my first ATA Conference in 1989 and remember being amazed at the level of knowledge and expertise people had and were willing to share. After many years of attending conferences, I reached a point where I finally thought I had something to offer as well. By then, I’d been leading the incredibly talented translators on the FAPESP project for nearly four years. It was a measure of success that I felt was worthy of talking about.

I found the experience itself to very rewarding (despite my more-than-anticipated nervousness). Again, the process of preparing my presentation helped me focus on key points. My session was quite well-attended and people seemed genuinely interested in my experience. That interest and eagerness to learn more from me and my experience was extremely gratifying.

7. Now it is your turn. Who do you nominate to be our next interviewee?

I would like to nominate Diane Grosklaus Whitty. I met Diane when she became part of the current project team and we have worked together on other projects as well. I’m allowed to marvel at her beautifully rendered translations and reap the benefit of her painstaking and thorough subject-matter research on a regular basis. She inspires me!

I loved reading your answers, Kim! Thank you so much for kindly accepting Doris’ nomination and my invitation! It was a pleasure e-meeting you and getting to know a bit more about you.

Tricky to master


Although it takes years to learn a foreign language and to use it fluently in writing or communication, it is not unattainable or impossible mission. A translator knows how to do the best translation which will suit desires of the language it is translated into.

People often joke about translation fails; there are a lot of pictures and photos presenting various and funny mistakes.

The purpose of this short article is to avoid those little and horrible mistakes and to do your job in an adequate manner.

  • You have to bear in mind that when someone tells you, “Pigs might fly,” it does not mean that pigs suddenly became mythical beings or birds – it means that something is not possible. You should always choose the adequate proverb for the country in which language you are translating.
  • You have to be familiar with the right meaning of the word, with the field that you are dealing with. Think about “net,” for example, whether it is related to sport or economics.
  • Try to avoid spelling mistakes. This kind of inaccuracies are not likely to be accepted, for example:

Thank you for you’re [instead of your] time.
Are there any dinner specirals [instead of specials]?

  • Be aware of punctuation!

Incorrect: Big boy’s drive big toys!
Correct: Big boys drive big toys!

  • Your grammar has to be perfect. You need to know where nouns, verbs, adverbs, or adjectives take place in the sentence. Respect the word order and see how the adequate structure of the sentences makes you an excellent translator!

Did John cut an apple with a knife?
Did John cut a knife with an apple?

  • Bare in mind names of people and places. They are not likely to be translated! It is acceptable to transcribe them but it is gaffe to change them in that way.

John (Gia, Ivano – Italy, Ivo – Bulgary, Jean – France, Jock – Scotland…)

  • Your vocabulary needs to be excellent. Turn two sentences into one, or three if you please, but please, do not change their meaning! It is the worst sin in this field of dealing with language. Sentences need to sound best possible in the language they are translated and they have to be understandable and correct.

Dogging point!  (?)
(It may not mean the same thing in Germany as it does in car parks in Essex)

  • If your language does not have an adequate word for the one that needs to be translated, you can use apostrophes and leave it as is or you can describe it using the appropriate sentence or homonyms and synonyms. Try to keep it original and not “destroy” it.
  • Some jokes cannot be literally translated. So, if the joke you have to translate keeping it funny is about cheap Scots, remember who is considered miser in your country!
  • I have already mentioned that your grammar needs / has to be perfect. If not so, you can be laughed about or you can change the meaning.

Your Grammar has to be perfect.
Not: Your Grammar has to is perfect.
Nor: Your Grammar has to will perfect.

Translating and interpreting is not an easy job to do. The fact is that people work on the above-mentioned skills for years and often make mistakes. The interpreter needs to know both languages he/she is working with. If only one language is mastered, the result can be catastrophic. Grammar,  verb tenses and vocabulary are essentials in this field of work. If one of these lacks, the job will be done poorly and in an inadequate way. It is important to follow the rules and to respect them.

Stay calm, check everything a dozen times and keep it original, whether you are ordering a shirt or translating official political documents!

About the author
cristina-oliveiraCristina Oliveira is an English and German translator and works as a freelancer, mainly on the online market. At the moment she is taking a master degree in teaching English as a second language for young learners at the ISCE Douro.



This is the first sponsored post on the blog. From now on, we will occasionally host sponsored posts on the 15th of the month.

Greatest Women in Translation: Nancy Cristina Martorana

Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

This month’s interviewee is Nancy Cristina Martorana, nominated by Angela Levy.

Welcome, Nancy!

nancy martorana

1. You are American, but moved to Brazil in 1956. Why?
2. Every translator has a different story on how they became a translator. What is yours?

Since the answer to these two questions is interrelated, I will merge my answer.

I came to Brazil with my parents when I was only 10. At the time my Dad was an executive transferred to Brazil from a parent company in the United States. I did my schooling at Escola Graduada de São Paulo, better known as Graded School, and knew early in life that I wanted to pursue a career that involved languages. I had actually been in Brazil before, between the age of 8 months and 16 months, also because my Dad was transferred to Brazil from Romania (where I was born). However, My Dad’s company (ITT) won a bid to install basic infrastructure in Iran (Persia, at the time) and I was to spend the next 3 years in that country. Although it was my first language, I do not remember anything, not even after hearing it spoken by the natives years later. Because of all the countries we moved to, my mother decided to get a French governess, wherever we went to make my language learning more consistent. To make a long story short, I already knew in high school that I wanted to do my college at the translation/interpretation school of Geneva. However, I was rejected because I was too young (minimum age of 18) and had to speak three languages fluently to be accepted. This irritated me immensely to be discriminated, especially because of age. Today, as a teacher, I understand fully – years of experience are needed to pursue a career with any degree of success in translation/interpretation; as I tell my students, layers of knowledge are compacted year after year.

3. Although you teach both consecutive and simultaneous interpreting at Alumni, you have more experience with simultaneous than with consecutive interpreting. Do you prefer one over the other? If so, why? If not, what do you like and dislike in both?

In addition to consecutive and simultaneous interpreting, there are other oral forms, like intermittent and focus groups. Basically, consecutive requires rephrasing and own-writing-deciphering skills and the others are direct delivery of the language. I find consecutive the most difficult of all forms since it requires notetaking and notereading (your own notes!). I have done a total of 3 consecutive interpretations in my career, and although some people do prefer them (to my great surprise), I think that associative learning (memorization of translated word associations) is easier than rephrasing. However, consecutive training is a good learning method.

4. However, you go even beyond and also translate (both technical texts and books). Do you prefer one over the other (translation x interpretation)? If so, why? If not, what do you like and dislike in both?
5. Do you only translate from Portuguese into English (your mother tongue)? Why don’t you feel comfortable translating into Portuguese, even after living for so long in Brazil?

Again I will merge the two ideas since one leads into the other.

Actually, I do not like technical texts or books. If you consider that any text which is not conversational is technical, including literary texts, then I would have to say that I only like certain technical texts, including literary texts, where the technicality comes in knowing the language perfectly. Then, after a translator has sweated many hours looking up technical terms and can say that he/she has relatively mastered the subject, even though he did not do 5 years of college to learn the terminology, he is comfortable enough to say that he likes technical translation, but, mind you, only in that particular subject that he has mastered. I, for one, love to do cosmetics (actually very technical) because I have been translating its terminology for many years, and, even though I don’t know all the terms, I am comfortable to accept, even welcome, the challenge of finding those I don’t know. On the other hand, I will promptly refer any engineering or equipment maintenance texts to my colleagues who now master and welcome these fields, because of their years of exposure.

Books was the second question and my answer was that I don’t prefer them either. I think it all depends on your customer base. All my customers have short deadlines, and I don’t mean “for yesterday,” but short texts, commonly institutional, that don’t take more than a few days to complete. Because of the fast translation turnover of my customer base, I must give anyone wishing to translate a book a l-o-n-g delivery date, since I must translate the book at the same time as I fulfill the translation needs of my regular customer base. Sometimes it works out, and books authors accept the terms.

Lastly, you broached the issue of translation versus interpretation. This depends on one’s personal vision of one’s career. For example, it is difficult to be a teacher and also available for simultaneous interpreting, because you cannot miss too many classes. I saw many students invited to join the Alumni faculty after they graduated, but, since they were excellent interpreters, and the pay is much different, they chose to pursue a better paying and more personally satisfying career in interpretation, and very rightfully so, since they were very good at a very difficult profession. As for me, I was frustrated at the beginning of my profession by a colleague whom I was practicing my Portuguese (and she, her English) with. After scrutinizing my second translation into Portuguese, she had marked my paper with only a dab of red ink. However, all the joy I felt in seeing the few corrections (mostly commas), were abruptly crushed by the words, “It’s all grammatically correct, but it isn’t Portuguese.” I had failed to realize that Portuguese is very nominal, whereas English is very verbal. Now that I know, I can’t really say that it is too late, because my customer base has always been avid for translations into English, which I was better at than Portuguese, so why sweat it?

It is better to go with what you know!

As for the pay, my students reward me in so many other ways; I embrace teaching with great satisfaction – I love to teach; I found my core in teaching translation/interpretation.

6. You introduced the didactic material of the simultaneous interpretation oral skills segment of Alumni’s Translator and Interpreter Course and are responsible for updating it throughout the years. In your opinion, what topics should every interpretation course cover?

Yes, when Alumni added another day to its course to cover oral skills like simultaneous interpretation, I and the teacher responsible for “the other way around,” namely from English to Portuguese, asked how we should put together this course, what should be given. The answer we received was whatever and however we thought best. After many, many, many hours of toilsome thought, I decided that the best place to start was filling in the gaps of what was needed in the original Alumni course (creating a glossary based on the pertinent terminology of the interpretation job) and this led to organizing and managing the target of oral delivery. As mentioned before, I prefer associative learning (memorizing basic translation associations) to what I would call a “philosophical” didactic approach, but admittedly with tips on how to enhance delivery of the know-how.

Updating? Always, since language lives and breathes, always changing and updating itself. We translators must keep abreast.

Topics? Those that all translations and interpretation require, i.e., all involve some degree of marketing, management, economics and business. No matter what the topic, these are always addressed, because we are taking about companies that want to make money selling their wares. Apart from these, interpreters must know a little (or perhaps a lot!, but a little is good for starters, and experience provides the lots) of everything, because one never knows when a lecturer will make an example from a totally different field, or cite a current event from today’s newspaper. We interpreters always have to stay on our toes. For those more interested in literary translations (I would say that you practically have to choose between one or the other), the prerequisite is definitely knowing one’s own language. Even with all my college English and reading, and the many layers of knowledge that I have accumulated over the years, I could never equal this with the same dose in Portuguese, never! Moreover, I have to constantly update myself in my own language, as it lives and breathes at a heartbeat that I passionately desire to grasp.

7. Now it’s your turn. Who do you nominate as our next great woman in translation?

I would have to say it is Elenice Araujo. Hopefully she will accept.

And she has! 😀 Thank you, Nancy, for accepting Angela Levy’s nomination and my invitation, and for kindly taking the time to answer my questions. It was a pleasure to e-meet you!

Greatest Women in Translation: Angela Levy


Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series! It’s with the greatest pleasure that I introduce you to this month’s interviewee, Angela Levy, nominated by Regina Alfarano, our last interviewee.

I must admit I was shocked when I saw Angela’s name on Regina’s interview. I thought: “Wow! Look how far we have come! Having Angela on my blog would be amazing, but there’s no way on Earth that she will accept it. She’s a great name in interpreting and has already been interviewed by Jô Soares! What is my blog compared to Jô’s show?” To my greatest surprise and honor, she promptly accepted it. My contact was through her daughter, Vera Levy, always kind and prompt on her e-mails.

The interview is quite long, but totally worth it, I guarantee. Angela herself asked if there would be any problem in it being long, and I told her to feel free to answer however she preferred. I love great stories!

Now, without further ado, welcome to my blog, Angela!

melissa harkin

1. In your interview to Programa do Jô (a Brazilian talk show), you mentioned you learned English by yourself. How did you manage to do it at a time learning resources were limited?

It’s an interesting story. My father was one of the many lawyers who worked for the Consulate and was a very close friend of American Consul General Cecil M. P. Cross, during World War II. The consul came to my home one Sunday, to give my father a lift because they were going to Santos for a Luncheon at Ilha da Palmas. The consul was early, my father was still getting prepared to leave, still dressing, etc… – and asked my sister, Anna Maria, and myself to “entertain” Cecil till he came downstairs. We were elated at the prospect: we had seldom been with the consul, but we had always loved the English language and anyone and anything that came from the States, so rejoiced at the chance of a conversation with Mr. Cross. He was a very nice, even – tempered, accessible man, and we told him we would like very much to learn to speak English, but our father would not let us have lessons. And he asked why the “Big Bad Wolf” (his nickname for my father) was being so much against our plans, and we explained it was because we were studying at a school (I was 14 and my sister 15) where we spent all day (from 7 am to 5 pm – including Saturdays) and he would let us have English classes when we were through our entire course, because then we would have time to study. And Mr. Cross said: You look as intelligent and resourceful as your father, and I’d like to make an official bet with the two of you: sign a paper stating that in one year’s time you will be speaking English as well as I do! We were game, he asked for a “nice leaf of paper”, and drew a contract, very “official looking”, stating: The undersigned, Cecil M. P. Cross, etc., etc. and the two of us (complete names, of course…) would do exactly that (explaining the bet, of course…). The three of us signed the document – which he put in his folder – and we said : “Thank you, sir”! He answered: There’s more: promise me you will not say one word about this agreement to your dad, your mom, your other sister or anyone else, anywhere else. This is between the three of us only. You promise? We did, my father came down the stairs and they left, leaving the two of us completely speechless, frightened to death of the promise we had just made, wondering how to go about it, where to start… The month was February, we were on summer holidays from school, and the first thing we did on Monday was to go downtown and scout for a book which could help us. The only thing we found (it was war, and imported books were hard to find) was The Pocket Book of Basic English. We bought it and, to our dismay, found nothing in it that we hadn’t learned in school (very basic, indeed…). So we put our minds to work, and decided to try unusual methods: movies, and American songs (we could sing a few, lyrics and all, but without understanding a word…). So we went on Tuesday to Cine Metro, on Avenida São João (now, of course , demolished), to watch “Two Girls and a Sailor”, starring Gloria De Haven, June Allison and Van Johnson… In the 2 pm show we watched the film and read the subtitles and, I can tell you that was the last time in my life when I read subtitles! The next show at 4 pm, we only watched the movie, without reading the subtitles, knowing the story from the first show and paying attention to what was being said (and not understanding about 95% of the words, I confess…). We watched that movie  about 6 times during the week and also started memorizing the words to songs, and trying to write them down (in a very broken, misspelled English…). The next addition to our venture was pronunciation, because we found an old book, Pronunciation of American English Words for Brazilians, in my father’s library, at home.

This program of ours went on and on. We joined a correspondence club, “The Caravan of East and West”, and started to receive so many letters, from English Countries, that my father, without knowing the whys and wherefores of that “ocean” of strange letters in our home mailbox, decided to rent a post-office box for the two of us…

We belong to a very musical-linguistic family, and people say this natural ease that we have to learn sounds and imitate them perfectly (Japanese, German, whatever…) is rooted there.

The next step was showing people that we could speak the language. Here, we had the help of 2 cousins, who did not understand our all-encompassing desire to learn English perfectly, but decided to come along in our bold shopping expeditions. We would enter nice-looking shops, pretended one of us couldn’t speak Portuguese and wanted to buy some items, and one of the other three would translate the choice into English and then back to Portuguese to the saleslady. It worked, and everyone was nice to us…

Well, the happy ending to my story, I’m proud to say, is that, exactly one year after that famous contract was signed, we went to the American Consulate: two very tall Marines were guarding the door and we said to them we wanted to talk to Mr. Cross, and they asked if we had and appointment with him. I said no, we didn’t, but we have just arrived from the States and our father (we had adopted the names Suzy Badminton, from Sun Valley, Idaho, for me; and my sister was Judy Wilkins, from Chicago, Illinois), and both our fathers were very good friends of Mr. Cross, and we had an important personal message for him. The marines were baffled at first, we insisted and told them that Mr. Cross would be mad at them if they didn’t let us in. One of them called Mr. Cross’s secretary, she came down and brought a list with names of all Americans (very few – it was war, remember?, 1943, and we were teenagers) who were expected here and of course didn’t find our names on it. She asked why we wanted to see the consul and we repeated that we had a personal important message for him and would she please ask him to come and see us? She asked who were our fathers and I said: Please, tell him that “The Big Bad Wolf” has sent us, and she got really mad and said: Do you expect me to give this ridiculous message to him? I said: “Yes, miss, and I’m sure he is expecting us. It’s a secret message.” She was dismayed, but took us upstairs, asked us to wait and went to get the consul. He came walking very fast and, when he saw us he asked: “Oh! It’s you, what can I do for you?” (all this in English , of course – and, believe me – he didn’t notice we were speaking English…). We asked if he remembered the contract we had signed a year before, and he said: “Good Lord, you are speaking perfect English!” I answered we had learned from the “Big Bad Wolf” to always keep our promises, no matter how hard it could be… We had a nice little chat with him and he suddenly got up, saying: “I have to tell the Wolf about this miracle!” I begged him not to, because our father would be furious, and we’d be grounded for months… He said he would just ask our father to come and see him, and would not mention us. He did that, my father’s office was quite near, he asked Mr. Cross if it was important, he said yes, our father came (of course he had free entrance to the Consulate), went up to the 2nd floor and, when he saw us, he asked, in Portuguese, of course, looking very mad: “What on earth are you two doing here?” Mr. Cross said to him to forget we were there because he wanted to talk to him. They started a chat, and Mr. Cross, little by little, included us in the conversation; they continued to talk (now the four of us) and as it had just happened with Mr. Cross, it took my father about 2 minutes to “register” that we were speaking English… When he did, he was speechless at first but then exclaimed: “You are speaking English! How come?” We told him about the contract, Mr. Cross went to get it out of his files, showed it to “The Wolf”, who read it through, and came out with the shortest comment ever: “Well, I’ll be damned!…”

2. You are the pioneer of simultaneous interpretation in Brazil. How was your first experience in simultaneous interpretation?

My sister was the “Cultural Affair Specialist” at the American Consulate for 18 years but, before that, the two of us worked and taught at União Cultural Brasil-Estados Unidos, the official binational center in São Paulo at that time, before Alumni was founded. One fine day (May 8, 1950, to be precise), the American Consul came to see us and said: “I have a job for the two of you”. I always answered, every time I was asked that question, “I’m game”, even before being told what the job was. And he said: “It’s for tomorrow morning and you’ll be doing the same thing you do for us here: when they speak English, you translate it into Portuguese, and vice-versa. But he omitted the only word that we really needed: si-mul-ta-neous-ly… He then asked us to be at Automóvel Clube, on the corner of Viaduto do Chá and Libero Badaró – then the seat of that club – the following day, at about 10 am, “to test the equipment.”

On our way there the next morning (May 9, 1950), we were wondering what he had meant by “test the equipment”, since in our work at UCBEU the only equipment we used were two mikes – one for the speaker and one for us, for the translation (I had never heard the word “interpreting” connected with translation). “We’ll soon find out” I said. Getting there we asked for “Jack, the technician”, as the consul had told us to do. He came and I said, trying to sound very efficient: “We are the translators sent by the American consul”. He answered: “Oh! The interpreters! Come, let’s test the equipment.” And I asked him the question which betrayed me: “What equipment?” He looked “panic-striken” and asked: “But you are interpreters, right?” I answered in a flash: “Not yet, but we learn very fast…” The poor man had no choice, for the banquet was set to begin at 1 pm, and it was already 11 am. So he said, resignedly: “All right, then who is first?” I was the bold one and so I said: “I am”. He seated me at a very small table, covered with wires and strange looking apparel, handed me a pair of earphones so heavy that when I tried putting then on, my chin fell on the table and I almost broke my front teeth. And he added: “Take good care of this pair, it’s the same one used by the Japanese admiral when he surrendered to Gal. MacArthur, on Tokyo Bay, in 1945…” I was totally lost, and asked: “What am I supposed to do? How do I go about it?” And he answered: “Simple! They will start: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a pleasure to’ – and you, POOM!” “I what?” I asked, horror-striken… “You start with the Portuguese, of course… always half a sentence behind the speaker.” Incidentally, that was the first and only lesson I learned about simultaneous interpreting from somebody else. All the others I learned by “banging my head against the wall” – meaning always experimenting, groping for answers to the ever-present problems with words and all that never before I had faced.

Well, the event started, it was a banquet for over 200 people, the introduction of IBM to Brazil. And our small table was placed right in the center of the room, where we could hear everybody’s voices, and the waiters shouting: “João, água na mesa 3”, and things of the sort, all the time… I don’t remember most of what I heard and had to say, but  I do remember thinking: “I like this job, but this work cannot possibly be done this way, with all the noise around the interpreter…” And, zaz! I learned, by myself, my second lesson when I realized I had missed 2 sentences during my thinking spell: Don’t think of anything but the words that come to you through the earphone..

Of course, I must have made millions of mistakes, but I also got many things right, because Jack (the technician) left me a nice message, which I still have with me: “You had me worried at first, but you finished like a veteran.”

My sister said she never wanted to ever hear about or be near that “factory of loonies”, but I loved it, and went on to research how this was done in developed countries – for one thing was certain to me: real interpreters couldn’t ever work in a small table smack in the middle of the guests, the public, whoever was supposed to be listening (at this important event, there were only 9 speakers – 3 Americans, 6 Brazilians).

Now, about how I discovered the existence of booths is another story, which I will keep for some other time.

3. You are co-founder of Alumni and was coordinator of the school’s Translation and Interpretation course, having trained most of the market’s professionals. What are the most important lessons you used to give your interpreting students?

Well, besides the classes, the practice and the constant “pushing ahead”, these are the most important lessons  – or rather advice – I give them; and of course, suggestions on how to accomplish them:

a) Study your A and B languages every day;
b) Learn something new every day in the work areas of your choice (Law, IT, Medicine, Engineering, Technical or any others you’re trying to specialize in);
c) Always keep in mind that you’re not just a trained parrot or, in translation, a simple scribe, but a transformer of the language being spoken – or read into another totally different cultural universe, a different society with different habits, rules of etiquette and choice of words for different areas, social classes, cultures, etc.;
d) Develop your sense of intuition;
e) Develop your reflexes: keep them always present and preferably exalted;
f) Develop your power of concentration;
g) Develop your spirit of analysis and synthesis;
h) Do memory drills every day;
i) Develop a mammoth intellectual curiosity;
j) Live all your life with an absolute intellectual honesty;
k) Develop  an all-encompassing sense of tact and diplomacy;
l) Always maintain a professional attitude, however baffling the situation may be;
m) Never accept to interpret or translate a subject, theme or ideology that goes against your innermost life principles;
n) Tips on dress codes for beginners.

4. You are 87 years old, with more than 60 years of experience in the market. How do you keep your professional skills in shape?

I’m 87 now and in December will turn 88. I still teach all my classes at Alumni, which is a great help in keeping my mind alert. I still do my memory drills and try to do simultaneous when I watch the News on TV. And I have a Translation/Interpreting agency with one of my daughters and my granddaughter, who is already showing great talent in both T and I. I take care of the English part of translations for our clients, but simultaneous I’ve left to my students and younger colleagues and, specially, to my granddaughter, Luiza.

5. In your interview to Diálogo Nacional, you said your dad was really important and marked your infanthood. Why?

Because he was a man ahead of his time in every way, and his influence marked not only my childhood, but also my adolescence and my adult life, until his death in 1952, when I was expecting my first child. He was self-taugh in English, Spanish and French. Contrarily  to my schoolmates’ dads, he had long talks with his daughters (not only with sons, which was customary then), commented the daily news with us every day, taught us to write poems and articles on interesting subjects, to like opera and classical music, to sing opera bits, folksongs and, along with my mom, was always there for me and my sisters, when we needed advice, suggestions and help, or needed a good scolding…

6. You say a translation/interpreting university course is not enough to properly prepare a professional. Why not?

I’m all for young people going to University, but, in my experience, at least in Brazil, translation-interpreting courses teach too many subjects which won’t be of any help in their professional career and too little of those which they will need badly in the future. Of course, in great part, the guilt lies with the official education curriculum, which they are bound to and forced to obey. But the worst feature of all is that Universities are obliged to accept all candidates who pass the entrance exam, and I personally think  it’s quite impossible to prepare T/I professionals in classes with 40 or more students. Still, I always say that a university course accustoms the student to the habit of research and a methodic style of studying; hence it is very important in the professional preparation of T/I students, regardless of the main area of their study.

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next interviewee. What woman has inspired you in our profession and/or you consider to be a great woman in translation?

I nominate Nancy Christina Tucker Martorana, an American who was my student in the 1970s and is now my colleague, working in our T/I department, teaching Simultaneous and Consecutive Interpreting ever since she graduated. I consider her a great woman in Translation because, besides being an excellent teacher of T/I, she is a perfect interpreter and translator, her work areas are many, she excels in all of them, and has a very sweet, likeable, warm personality.

Once again, I’d like to thank both Vera, for kindly and friendly handling my communication with Angela, and Angela, for kindly accepting Regina’s nomination and my invitation to be interviewed for my blog. It was an honor to welcome you here and a pleasure to get to know you better.

7th Abrates Conference: Official coverage – Part 3 (final)

Should you have not done so yet, read Part 1 and Part 2 before proceeding.


The first presentation I watched on the second day of talks was Patricia Moura Souza’s on the Translation Office 3000, a management software for translators. Patricia acknowledged that, although the TO3000 is not user-friendly, it turns out to be a great management tool for translators after you learn how to use it. It took the speaker three months to fully understand the program and totally depend on it for managing her translation work. So we can consider she is now a strong advocate of the tool – its ambassador, if we may say. According to her, some of its benefits is that the user can create and control budgets, invoices and payments by creating groups for services provided (such as translation, interpreting, editing, etc.). Patricia even reveals its greatest secret, that is not clearly understood from the interface: the vertical menu, on the left, refers to all the clients (general data) and the horizontal menu (in the top) refers to the selected client (data by client). And its three greatest functions are: relationship with the client (contact details, pricing list, payment methods, etc.), workflow control (list of projects, specific information, delivery calendar) and financial control (invoices, payments, balance sheets, reports). Now something I particularly loved was that it has a specific tab for marketing! And you can also add other tabs. Other basic operations: you can use your CAT tool wordcount, you can customize fields, and there are all sorts and colors of filters! You can find Patricia’s PowerPoint presentation here. For more information about her experience with the software, read Como o Translation Office 3000 mudou a minha vida – parte 1 e Como o Translation Office mudou a minha vida – parte 2. You can download a 30-day free trial here. Should you love it and decide to buy the software, use this link.


Patricia Moura Souza

Next, I watched the beginning of Leonardo Milani’s talk on professional attitude, but unfortunately I had to leave early because my own presentation was next. However, I was able to grasp one important point: your productivity in terms of words per hour/day is not the same as quality. It does not indicate if you deliver a quality translation or not. And, for him, it is irritating to ask for productivity.


Leonardo Milani

As I said, up next was my presentation. I talked about how to use Facebook professionally as to positively, and not negatively, influence your professional image. However, I will write a more detailed post specifically about it in the upcoming days. Stay tuned.


Yours truly

After my presentation, I ran to João Roque Dias’, on technical drawings. I must confess I just wanted to take a peek at it, so I did not even sit down. I stood in the back of the room taking pictures and tweeting a bit about his presentation, after all, the subject was not something that interested me, since I am not a technical translator of that area. However, to my great surprise, I had to take a seat, because João is certainly a captivating speaker and managed to catch my attention. The Portuguese speaker used attendees to compare both methods of ortographic projections, European and American, with “people” projections. According to João Roque, the translator should always be attentive, because symbols, displays and controls are not always translated. And picture captions should never be translated if the picture itself is not available for reference. If they are, they must be consulted. For example, a “disk” can mean different things in technical drawings, and the picture will tell which one it refers to specifically. João gave some tips about the translation of different types of documents with images. For example, in patents, bid documents and specifications, the text to be translated is almost 100% related to one or a few images, so we should start by studying the images and check if there are inconsistencies with/from the text. In manuals, instructions and leaflets, on the other hand, the text to be translated is clarified by numerous images, so we should study them as we go along, checking for inconsistencies with/from the text. At the end of his presentation, the charismatic speaker had some exercises about his talk and those who got the answer right earned cool customized freebies. It was certainly a pleasure to meet João Roque Dias in person at the conference.


João Roque Dias with Reginaldo Francisco

Closing ceremony

To sum up the best Abrates Conference so far, we had the surprise visit of Vera Holtz, a Brazilian actress, dear friend of Liane Lazoski, current President of Abrates. Her presence was also a surprise to Liane herself, and was organized by recently-elected President, William Cassemiro, and Vice-President, Renato Beninatto. They sang a song together; it was a quite touchy moment, summing up yet another fantastic conference in great style. You can watch her surprise entry and them singing here.


Vera Holtz and Liane Lazoski

New Abrates Board

Since only one slate signed up for the elections, the “Criando Pontes” (Building Bridges) slate was officially elected on Sunday, after the closing ceremony. So here is the next Abrates Board, to take office in July 5:

William Ferreira Cassemiro – President
Renato Beninatto – Vice-President
Dayse Boechat – 1st Treasurer
Ricardo Souza – 2nd Treasurer
Paula Ianelli – General Secretary
Iara – Second Secretary

Supervisory Board:
Filipe Alverca
Adriana Caraccio-Morgan
Manuela Sampaio

Liane Lazoski
Peterso Rissatti
Ana Valéria Ivonica Silva

Besides continuing all innovative actions of the last Boards and expanding the acknowledgement of the association, some of its proposed actions are to: expand the Mentoring Program, hold smaller events in other states of the country, offer courses at affordable prices to members, partner with universities, create departments (such as for Literary Translation and Interpreting), optimize the call service, improve the use of social media, etc. Suggestions from members will be always welcome.


Elected Board

Next conference

Although there is no defined date for the next conference yet, the venue is already set: São Paulo. According to the elected President, they will try to make it happen during the same period, early June. See you next year at #abrates17?

Read more…
João Vicente de Paulo Júnior: Mas quem foi que disse que tradutor tem que ganhar pouco? – VII Congresso da Abrates, by Juliana Tradutora
Ricardo Souza: Tradumática – VII Congresso da Abrates, by Juliana Tradutora
Sessão Sintra apresenta: mesa-redonda sobre tradução literária e direitos autorais – Ernesta Ganzo, Daniele Petruccioli, Renata Pettengill, Lenita Esteves e Petê Rissati – VII Congresso da Abrates, by Juliana Tradutora
Expressão regular: uma poderosa arma para o tradutor, by Bianca Freitas on the Pronoia Tradutória blog
Takeaways of the Abrates Conference, by Translated in Argentina
Winning clients as a freelancer: An LSP perspective, Eugenia Echave’s PowerPoint presentation
MT Options for the Individual Translator, by Kirti Vashee

And there are plenty of other links in Parts 1 and 2 as well. Enjoy!