Greatest Women in Translation: Canan Marasligil

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Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series, dear readers!

Today, let’s welcome Canan Marasligil.

Canan Marasligil

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1. I have to start by mentioning I absolutely loved your website! How creative to add a video to the landing page! Do you think your video attracts more people (especially potential clients) to your website and somehow make them navigate through it to learn more about yourself?

I don’t necessarily think about attracting more people to my website, I think that if they are already there, it means they found me in some way (probably via social media). I like playing with the web – I make my own websites (I have to thank Squarespace for offering such fantastic tools to play with) – and I am interested in how people interact online. So, to me, it is a matter of expressing my own creativity and offering as much interesting content as possible throughout the online spaces I inhabit.

2. On your website, you mention you “have started working with video to explore the links between literature and images.” How does that work?

Although I mostly work with words – as a writer, as a literary translator, as an editor – I am passionate about visual media, and am especially interested in the interaction between writing and images. That’s why I’m into comics, into screenwriting, and that is also why I started to create my own visual language through video. You don’t need much material nowadays to capture high quality images, so it is all about your eye: what do you see, what stories do you want to tell. I was inspired to start my YouTube videos thanks to French writer François Bon who has been creating a wide range of videos on his YouTube channel to talk about literature – he does readings (he is an amazing performer), hosts writing workshops, has a regular “service de presse” where he shares other writer’s work and much more – so I have joined this online community of literature makers he has created on YouTube (I know he probably won’t like me saying he created it, but he did). I have to admit, it is motivating to have an audience ready to watch what you are doing (even if very small, also, it depends how you look at it: I don’t think I could easily fill a room with 100 people which I am doing with a video and I think is amazing). I’ve been told I have an artistic approach to translation, so I think my video-making is also part of that urge to create. I see the world in a certain manner, I am inspired, visually, by the world that surrounds me, so I try to capture how I feel about it, and then edit it into short videos. It isn’t so different than writing actually, it’s all about stories you want to tell. I’m just using a different medium to do so.

3. You also mention “Translation off the page” is one of your favorite topics. Could you elaborate, and tell us why you like it so much?

I have to admit I do more translation work “off the page” than “on the page”. To start, I am not earning all my income from translation – if I would do that, I’d need to translate a few more books per year, which I don’t. This is a personal and deliberate choice, and I have many reasons for it. I am a hyperactive person (people who know me reading this will probably laugh now nodding) and I get bored very quickly when I translate, not because of the work – 90% of the time, I select what I want to work on so I usually love what I translate – but I am a slow translator, I usually don’t work on more than four pages in a day, and I am drained after, not just intellectually but emotionally. You see, I pour all my heart into a translation project, it is not just a job to me. This is why I am also picky with the projects I choose to work on. I recently accepted to translate work I have not chosen myself, and I regretted it.

To me, translating someone’s work means that I believe not only in their literary merits, but in their voice, as a person, as an artist, what they stand for.

I don’t separate the work from the artist. I am not talking about character here, I don’t care how nice or (un)friendly a writer is, I am talking about sincerity and values someone stands for. So, if at any point I feel my values are not aligned with an author’s, I cannot translate them. You have to remember that out of all the languages I could have translated from (I was trained to work in English, Spanish, French), I chose to focus on Turkish (the language my parents spoke to me in) and contemporary literatures from Turkey, and in the current political context, there is no way I can be apolitical about my choices. I guess this kind of “off the page” work is close to what one could call activism. Other types of “off the page” work I do is through workshops, and the idea behind these activities is to give tools to people – children, young people, adults – to play with languages and be creative using their own existing linguistic skills. I always start my workshops by asking participants about the languages in their lives – not how many languages they speak, read or write, but which languages surround them daily – by framing the question in this way, I already tell them: see, multilingualism is all around us, and we are all experiencing it, in one way or the other.

4. Could you tell us a bit about your project City in Translation, and pinpoint one or two fascinating aspects about it that you have come across during your exploration?

City in Translation is part of my work taking translation off the page. It started from my own urban explorations – I am what you can call a “flâneuse” – I like walking across cities. I do this a lot, and I don’t mean just walking from one place to another, it is a practice I am very attached to. Wherever I go, I always set aside some time to do these city walks by myself, camera in hand, without any specific purpose. I am interested in interacting with everything that surrounds me in cities, especially through translation. This means that I look at written words mostly (I could work on sound, but I haven’t focused on that yet), I search for the traces we are leaving across urban spaces, usually in many different languages. Sometimes I understand the languages, sometimes I don’t. It is one way to observe the world we live in. Through this process, I also learn so much about the different cities I walk in. Languages can tell you about the history of a neighbourhood, about its demographics, about the political context, and much more… So, I use this personal and artistic practice to develop content, like I did with the Yearning for Turkish exhibition I created and which was shown in St Andrews and in Norwich, and the various workshops I do with City in Translation. With Yearning for Turkish, I realised that this constant search for languages across cities was also one way for me to find “home” – my understanding of home being in movement, even if I keep seeing one of my main languages – Turkish – everywhere I go.

5. As a social media lover myself, I am also widely present on different social channels, and I am frequently asked how I find time to juggle them and manage to work at the same time. Well, I cannot help it but ask you the same question, since you have an even wider social presence than me, I think. What is your secret? (By the way, you may have noticed I have already started following you everywhere! )

I love social media because I love interacting with people. I met so many interesting people on social media. I am personally active on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and all my profiles are public. I usually share things I am interested in, and bits of my own life without revealing intimate or private moments. So, if I post a selfie, there will usually be a story behind. Sometimes it can just be about showing people I’m happy and I love myself, and if it can help other women (even just one) loving themselves unapologetically, it makes me happy. I also post a lot about social justice issues, about freedom of expression, about women’s rights. I think social media can be a useful tool for creating one’s voice and empowering oneself and each other, to create solidarity, and to show the world that you (and people like you) exist, but not necessarily in a self-centred and narcissistic manner (while we can argue posting a selfie can be a narcissistic act, I am not interested in doing couch psychology and judging people). Also, people follow you on social media only if they want to. I don’t really care about being unfollowed, I am at peace with how I use social media. One thing that’s true though, it can eat your time up, and sometimes I do have the feeling that I am wasting a lot of time on social media, time I could use to write for example. But I think we’re all still learning how to use it the best way we can.

6. You have participated (and still do) in a few residencies for translators, in different countries. Could you tell us a bit about the experiences you have had and the benefits of being a Translator in Residence, in your opinion?

I love residencies. I have done a few, and I am currently doing one with La Contre Allée, a wonderful indie publisher in Lille, France. My first residency was with the Free Word Centre in London in 2013, and that truly changed my life. So many good friendships have started with this residency, and I am still working with many people I met during my time at Free Word. I am interested in residencies where you interact with local communities, not with residencies where you are given a room and space to write. I already have that in my home – life in Amsterdam is good and I am very privileged in that sense. If I travel to spend days, weeks or sometimes months somewhere else, I want to meet people, I want to learn from locals, from the different communities – with Free Word, it was about meeting all the wonderful organisations working around freedom of expression, but also with schools and more, in Senegal, I have learned from local artists, writers and musicians, but also from villagers on the impact of climate change, in Copenhagen I have interacted with academics and researchers working on topics about cities and culture, and in Lille, I am working with libraries, the city council, publishers… I learn from each one of them and I bring my own expertise too, it is a true exchange of ideas, knowledge and lots of fun too.

7. Although I could go on with the questions, let’s wrap up and find out who you pick to be our next Great Woman in Translation.

I want to nominate Marta Dziurosz, who was a translator in residence at Free Word Centre a couple of years after me. She is working in Polish and English. I especially love that she debunks the “native language” myth, which I’m sure she can tell you more about.

Greatest Women in Translation: Sarah Ardizzone

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Welcome back to our Geatest Women in Translation interview series!

This month, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Ardizzone (nominated by Sophie Lewis), French to English literary translator.

Sarah Ardizzone

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1. One of your translations worth noting here is the graphic novel Alpha, the story of a migrant desperately searching for his family (by Bessora, illustrated by Barroux). In this interview you gave to Authors Live, you say that in your career as a translator, this is the one book you were adamant had to be published, so you were very proactive in going to publishers to publish it. Why is that?

Because it tells the most pressing story of our times: that of human migration. Equally, a graphic diary penned by a fictional migrant, who embarks on a cruel odyssey from Ivory Coast to France, and aimed at everyone, from YA (young adult) readers to the grown-up literary market to Amnesty supporters, wasn’t the easiest sell: so I had to work hard to find the right publisher. Barrington Stoke proved just that publisher. They fell in love with Alpha when we ran a Spectacular Translation Machine event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, 2015. Which brings me to your next question…

2. Another of your translations worth noting is another graphic novel, Line of Fire. The original book in French originated “a groundbreaking new translation event” called the Spectacular Translation Machine. What was the event about and how was you experience with it?

Together with co-curator Daniel Hahn, and with the support of the British Centre for Literary Translation, we created the Spectacular Translation Machine at the Southbank Centre for the London Literature Festival 2013. The idea was simple: invite the general public to translate an entire book, as a collaborative and creative endeavour, across a couple of weekends. What better way of re-discovering and celebrating what it is that we think we do when we translate? Around the room, as if at an art gallery, we hung the images from Line of Fire (a graphic diary created by Barroux, who discovered in a skip the real handwritten diary of an unknown First World War French soldier). The public was invited to choose a picture to translate, before receiving the text that accompanied it – together with expert help on hand should they need support or want to talk ideas through. One picture alone received 17 translations… Most of all, people took the time to sit and weigh words with each other, to talk about why they made the subtle and nuanced choices they did, to solicit each other on how they could express a voice more ‘authentically’ or push a turn of phrase further or produce something fresh while avoiding infelicities or anachronisms…

3. What are the challenges and what is so fascinating about translating graphic novels, in your opinion?

Translating graphic novels can be very liberating, because the text tends to be stripped right down to the essentials. It can also mark a shift from more verbose and sometimes ‘fanciful’ literary translation to what you might call ‘urgent quality translation’. There are all sorts of other issues that come into play too, because I’m obeying two masters (pictures as well as words) whose creators in the case of Alpha both have one-name monikers beginning with B! Alpha is a fictional character but it’s an Everyman story, and as a translator that puts the wind in my sail.

4. Your real translation journey began with the translation of Daniel Pennac’s The Rights of the Reader. Can you describe your experience to us?

Well, Daniel Pennac is a master storyteller and thinker – so that’s a challenge in itself, in terms of conveying his originality into the English language. The way he expresses his ideas is so unique and so characterfully voiced that it’s as if he’s pushing the French language beyond its limits – there should be an adjective for it: Pennacian. With The Rights of the Reader he goes to the heart of why we are naturally beguiled by stories, when we are first told them, and why the education system risks making us fall out of love with them as readers. Trying to communicate Pennac’s ideas in English led to some of the most memorable editorial sessions I’ve ever experienced at my publishers, Walker Books.

5. You co-founded Translators in Schools, “a professional development programme to widen the pool of translators and teachers with the skills to run creative translation workshops in schools.” Could you tell us briefly how it works, your current role in it and your experience so far?

I co-curate the programmes we run, in partnership with the Stephen Spender Trust. Recently, we held The Big Translate which was due to take place at the Southbank Centre but, due to recent tragic events in London, took place instead at Heathbrook Primary School – this was supported by King’s Cultural Institute. We are also running a Creative Translation in the Classroom programme, supported by the Rothschild Foundation; following a CPD day, four translators and teachers have now been paired to collaborate on piloting original approaches to translation in the classroom.

6. You are a judge and translation advisor of the In Other Words initiative, by BookTrust, “a new project to promote the translation and UK publication of outstanding children’s literature from around the world.” How are books shortlisted for the initiative, i.e. on what basis are they chosen to be translated?

We’re looking for exceptional children’s fiction for children aged 6 to 12 that has not yet been published in the English language. This year, we’re open to untranslated classics still within copyright as well as recent titles, and we welcome books written by authors of all backgrounds. The deadline for entries is 16th August – so please help spread the word. How do we choose which titles get shortlisted and have 10,000-word extracts translated? That’s the eye-opening bit, as well as the hard-graft. We work through 400 odd submissions, and consider which compelling stories, excellent writing and original, timeless or previously unheard voices stand out.

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

I nominate Canan Marasligil, writer, translator, editor and curator extraordinaire. Canan brings her translator’s eye to everything she does, including the way she walks around new cities.

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.

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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

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Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

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


diane-whitty

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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 ProZ.com 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. 🙂

Greatest Women in Translation: Kim Olson

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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 ProZ.com profile, as well as your LinkedIn profile. Do you think having a ProZ.com profile helps getting projects and clients? Have you ever landed any project/client through ProZ.com?

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.

Greatest Women in Translation: Regina Alfarano

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Dear readers, welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series!

I doubt anybody else enjoys this series as much as I do. I love it! Meeting new people, learning more about them in order to ask the questions, reading their amazing answers…

And today, once again, it’s with a great pleasure that I introduce you to the lovely Regina Alfarano, nominated by Luciana Meinking.

Welcome, Regina!


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1. Let’s start talking about your “firsts”. You were part of the team that founded the second translation university course in Brazil, back in 1971. A few years after that, you also joined the staff starting the translation course at USP. Additionally, you founded the first publishing company specialized in translation publications in São Paulo, Alamo, and the first translation journal in Brazil, Tradução & Comunicação. I can only conclude you had quite an important role in introducing translation studies in Brazil. Could you tell us a bit more about these experiences you had?

Those were very exciting years! And undoubtedly, times of fighting hard battles as well. Translation was not recognized as a specific area. It was seen as a “branch” of Language Courses. So, a university course was considered “unthinkable”. I heard – from active interpreters then – questions like: “Do you really think you can teach students to be translators?” “Do you honestly think Translation can be a course on its own?” Well, I am glad it did not take too many years to see Translation and Interpreting as they were originally thought to be and as they had already been in other countries! The experience was different at Ibero-americana (from 1971-1985) and USP (1979-2000). Ibero-americana held an undergraduate program, while USP held a graduate program in Translation only. Both contributed immensely for the professional development of both areas. The first translation journal – Tradução & Comunicação – was one of my most gratifying achievements. Although aware of the groundbreaking character of such endeavor, I was flabbergasted when right after Volume 1 was launched I received a letter (those were old times [1981], when communication was carried out through letters!!!!!) from the Fedération Internationale des Traducteurs (FIT) with an invitation to present the journal at their International Congress in Vienna, Austria. META was the only translation journal in the Americas (Montréal) at the time, so Tradução & Comunicação was greeted sparklingly and immensely welcomed.

2. According to your own words, one of the most interesting projects you were ever involved in was The translations of William Kennedy in Brazil while being a Fulbright Scholar at the New York State University at Albany. Why was it so interesting?

First of all, being a Fulbright Scholar was, in itself, extremely gratifying. A Fulbright Scholar in the US enjoys high respectability and is recipient of many privileges. Secondly, only in my post-doctorate could I dedicate my research to Translation Studies! USP would not accept translation projects for Master’s Degree or PhD back then. Of course my background in American Literature (Master’s Degree) and British Theater (PhD) were of great help, as was my background in Language and Linguistics. I had visited Albany before, very briefly, after reading William Kennedy’s trilogy – his Albany trilogy. This was 1990. The trilogy was added by a number of books later on. But in 1990 I was absolutely taken by the trilogy – Ironweed, Legs and Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game – and while in the United States, I decided to visit Albany. That visit increased my interest. Back to Brazil I found the translation for the 3 books. Although a trilogy, and practically three books as three chapters of one encompassing work, each was translated by a different translator, and each clearly suggesting to be totally separate. Therefore, the Albany area and its social and cultural scenario – the very core of Kennedy’s trilogy – were lost. Not only that had been lost! I decided to call the publishing house of Ironweed (Vernônia, in the Portuguese version) to try to contact the translator and understand why Kennedy’s language style had been changed (just one example: all swearing names were eliminated). I was informed that the translator could not be contacted. She used a pseudonym and had asked not to be identified! (At a time of such hard struggle for translators’ visibility, rights and copyright.  I was very active both with ABRATES [Associação Brasileira de Tradutores] and SINTRA [Sindicato Nacional de Tradutores], had created ABRATES-SP, and acted as a Director of ABRATES and President of SINTRA ). And worse: she was very religious, and did not approve of swearing, so, she eliminated all the swearing words in Ironweed!!!!!!!!!!!! I was lucky to interview Mr. William Kennedy and was embarrassed to inform him of the unbelievable fact! Mr. William Kennedy had bought the house where Billy Phelan had lived, and not only preserved it but kept it untouched. It was the first and only time I actually visited the physical scenario of a book! The building, the furniture, glasses, lamp fixtures! And William Kennedy sitting in Billy Phelan’s chair and talking about his trilogy! It could not have been more interesting and more of a privilege! I was even more embarrassed, however,  when he said he had never been paid for the copyright of the books published in Brazil!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Not one cent! Not one letter! How horribly embarrassing could that be???? I had the opportunity to meet Mr. William Kennedy one more time (although very briefly) in Paraty, at FLIP 2010. As one of FLIP’s guests he had very busy days and of course was highly requested by participants!

3. You describe your first experience with the translation practice as “a scuba diving initiation”. Could you tell us about your experience and how it shaped your translation career?

I was 18 years old and had just returned to my hometown (Limeira, SP, Brazil) from my one-year AFS exchange program in the US. Someone called from a local hospital. They had just received new equipment imported by a wealthy man who, nearly dying, would have his last chance if the equipment could be put to work. So, they had the “brilliant” idea of calling an 18-year-old whom they thought would translate the manual. As much as I tried to tell them – as I already knew back then, in 1965, that speaking a language did not mean I would be able to translate, let alone a manual – the pressure was so high (‘The man will die if this does not work!’) that I went to the hospital. A piece of equipment, a team of medical professionals and technicians and myself, scared to death. As I translated the instructions I thought ‘I will be the next one to need emergency help here…..’. But slowly but steadily the team started activating the commands – the equipment worked and the man was saved! I felt as if a plow had gone over me! Sweating, hardly breathing, exhausted! But relieved! Would that be the reason why I would never, ever come close to translating manuals? The experience may have shaped my translation career in the sense that I do not, by any means, translate technical material, manuals, and the like. But yet, I do translate medical material, so, it may have been the “scuba diving initiation” to show the challenge, the excitement and the gratification translation can offer.

Translation is not only about languages, knowledge, cultures, and all that comes with it, of course, but about those using it for those purposes: people.

4. Besides this first experience you had, you also say you had total immersion experiences that shaped your areas of specialization (poetry and medical translation). Could you tell us a bit more about them?

When teaching translation I used to say to my students that only poets could translate poetry, which explained why I never included poetry in my Literary Translation Courses. At some point in time, Haroldo de Campos asked me to translate the speech he was going to deliver at a ceremony to honor Octávio Paz. The speech included some poetry. I froze when I received the originals, and immediately talked to Haroldo about it. He said he would give me support if I needed – how would anyone in this world refuse a request by and support from Haroldo de Campos? I decided to take the challenge! Of course I said I would send a first version for Haroldo’s reading, suggestions, etc. etc. To my total astonishment, he did not make any changes at all. And to my double/triple astonishment, sometime later I received a call from Régis Bonvicino, who was organizing a poetry anthology for the Brazil Exhibition in Paris. He invited me to translate Contemporary Brazilian Poets, and before I had any reaction, he added: “Haroldo said you would say you do not translate poetry, but that is not true, you do translate poetry, and he has recommended you”! Again, how could anyone refuse such invitation! And Desencontrários (Unencontraries) was my first delightful experience translating poetry. Others – just as delightful – followed, and I am glad to say I truly enjoyed ‘every word/verse/rhyme’. Working with Haroldo de Campos was most enriching, as expected. Sitting with him, reading poems and translations – invaluable and unforgettable!

As for medical translation, I was caught having to check reference material for one of my projects. Those references showed so many translation problems that they could hardly be useful as references. So, I had to search, re-search and re-search for my research! The project I was involved in included doctors’ research, and again and again, high reading volume. Then, it led me to FDA material research. As the project was of high relevance, I was very involved and of course wanted to do a good, reliable job. Extensive reading and research called the attention of the doctors involved and they recommended me for an even larger project that was medical-related. After detailed information I realized I could face the challenge. That was the beginning of a fast-moving dive into medical translation. One day, my husband, a medical doctor himself, came to my desk, saw the material (we used many dictionaries back then, and many typed copies of translation….. and re-typed pages…..) and asked me: “Are you translating medical texts?” I answered I had been, for some time. He was very surprised! So, it all had to do with my own projects – it all led me quite naturally. The long-lasting AIDS projects both in Brazil and in the US were of profound involvement and partnerships. Thanks to my graduate Translation students at USP who helped me, Brazil was the only country to launch AZT on the same day and at the same time as the US. I was honored to have translated presentations by top Brazilian scientists and researchers on the model AIDS prevention project Brazil developed (and unfortunately interrupted in recent years). The bridge between poetry and medical – as odd as it may seem at first…. – reached its apogee when I translated one of Nelson Ascher’s poem – Mein Herz – from Portuguese into English. As soon as he got my version he called and asked me: “Are you a physician?” “Why do you ask?”, was my reaction. “Because you translated this poem so beautifully, and it sounds ‘medical’”! Coming from a translator of such stature, I could not doubt the ‘bridge’ was viable (and enjoyable!).

5. You say stress and adrenaline are integral parts of translation. Why and/or how?

It has been proven that interpreting is the most stressful profession in the world. The study compared interpreters and surgeons! So, stress and adrenaline are part of the very nature of interpreting, of the fantastic decision-making process and rendition. Interpreting is very often referred to as ‘oral translation’. I would say that is too simplistic! But stress and adrenaline are also integral parts of translation. Clients’ turnaround needs, clients’ reviews of originals – so often – clients’ updates for materials already translated, clients’ requests for additions. And, of course, in no time at all! Clients traveling all over the world – all those requests to be delivered on time and wherever they are. The only way to meet those needs is to draw a map and have color pins to show who is where – Brazilians in Asia, Europeans in the Americas, Americans in Europe. Time zones are absolutely crucial, and projects overlap, since changes were requested after projects had been delivered. ‘The project is over’ – wishful thinking! It does come back….. and back again. When it comes to medical projects, that is potentiated. Huge projects come back for updates two, three, four years later. Many a time, clients’ staff has worked on interim versions (‘minor’, as they say…..). Medical records to be translated for patients who must travel for medical care. Documents required to import medications for all sorts of patients (and many times, children). It is an extremely stressful cycle, fighting against time and having to comply with bureaucracy. Interpreting doctors, nurses, patients and family members about very serious conditions can be the most stressful and the most intense of all experiences. Clients, medical staff in Brazil and all over the world watch the very personal, and many times very sad, testimonials, which must be rendered as any other interpreting session. To be honest – not at all like any other interpreting session. Stress and adrenaline can hardly be measured. And although trembling voice must be avoided, an  interpreter is not always successful when others around are already shedding tears.

[The translation profession] rewards the cumulative years of experience, which is to say, age counts positively; it encourages and demands ongoing learning, which is to say, it is intellectually healthy; it also demands recycling and updating, which is to say, it is continuously evolving; it fits in wonderfully with self-employment, which is to say, one can—or tries to!—manage one’s own working days and hours.

6. You give your students two key pieces of advice: 1. Do not charge less than you deserve for your work; never, ever charge more than you believe you deserve for your work.; and 2. Choose what you really like to do as a profession, and above all, have fun doing it. Why do you think these are the most important pieces of advice to give to translation students?

Dignity is crucial in life – personal life and professional life. Every professional deserves to be compensated for the work done, which goes without saying. But competition may interfere, and ‘professionals’ trying to find jobs unfortunately do charge humiliating fees. So, that is the first part of the first piece of advice: do not charge less than you deserve and the professional field finds to be common sense. And how to find out? Very easily: through professional associations, translation unions, international associations, peers. Competition must never interfere with dignity. On the other end, if a professional is aware of how to charge for the work done, that is what should guide his/her attitude – never, ever charge more. Translators are so often, too often in fact, faced by urgency, by extreme clients’ needs (a few examples above), by the literal plea ‘charge whatever you want’. Of course there are urgency fees, but that is a different issue altogether. There are also pro-bono projects, which are extremely important, gratifying, and no doubt made evident by their own nature. As for regular projects, translators must present their fees very clearly, from the start. Clients should ideally receive a document which shows all services to be rendered, all situations under which they can be rendered, and just as translators expect clients to comply, so must they.

As for liking what we do as a profession, and above all, have fun doing it, I pose a question: how do we feel every time we have to do something that we do not find pleasant, or likeable? It is definitely not a good feeling. When involving others, the result will certainly not be satisfactory. When involving professionals, it can be nearly disastrous! Translation in itself is about making decisions. So, the crucial decision is: I want to be a translator, I like to be a translator, I enjoy what I do, and I have fun doing it (despite all the stress). Then, the decision making process at the core of translating will flow more smoothly. It would never flow otherwise, I am sure.

7. Now it’s your turn to nominate someone you admire and that is a great woman in translation.

I can think of a  number of great women in translation. The one I choose to nominate is Angela Levy. A pioneer in interpreting in Brazil, a prominent translator and outstanding translation/interpreting teacher, Angela has trained and inspired so many translators and interpreters. Angela is to be admired and respected as a professional, as an amazing human being, and as a long-time peer and friend.


Regina, I sincerely appreciate you accepting Luciana’s nomination and my invitation, and taking the time to answer my questions. It was an honor to welcome you on my blog. Thanks a lot! 🙂

Greatest Women in Translation: Melissa Harkin

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Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation series! Since our last “interview” was actually a tribute, it was my turn again to nominate someone and restart the thread. Since my first nomination was a foreign translator (Marta Stelmaszak, from Poland), this time, to be fair, I decided to nominate a Brazilian role model. I must confess I’m curious to see where this thread will take us.

Now please welcome Melissa Harkin.


 

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1. When I created my professional Twitter account, you were the first person I followed. You were my only Brazilian role model. I admired (and still do, of course) your professionalism and your online presence. Could you tell us a bit about your beginning?

Well, I guess my main driver back then was that I was tired of the ‘same old’ pattern in business relationships, regardless of the industry. I was tired of e-mails, machines, lack of customer care, automated replies, etc. I wanted to get personal. However, we are talking about the social media and technology era, so the best way to get personal was to put myself out there using all of that technology, but in a way that seemed I was talking to my clients directly.

That’s when I started adding my picture to all that had my name on it: e-mails, quotes, stationary, social media, etc. I didn’t want to be a logo. I wanted to be me! I wanted people to see a person, an individual, and relate to me.

That was different back then. People in Brazil were not used to business getting so personal. Maybe, that is why a lot of my clients became good friends along the way.

I made sure I replied to everything, even the ‘help me out real quick’ requests from friends that needed to write an e-mail in English and were feeling insecure. I made sure I was replying to everyone’s messages and requests in a timely manner, and I made sure I could add value to their activities on an ongoing basis.

2. You have the most lovely baby boy, Bruno, 1 year old. Although I myself do not have children, I can only imagine how having a baby changes a woman entrepreneur’s life. What advice would you give to a freelance translator who is thinking of having children or is already expecting a baby?

I’m not sure I’m already qualified to give advice in that area. I’m still finding my own new pace and balance. It’s hard, there are a lot of mixed feelings – it’s quite bipolar, actually. One minute you’re dying for some time for yourself, for work and silence, and the next minute you’re feeling kind of guilty about it.

Last year (2015) was a difficult one. I finally realized I coudn’t do all of the things that I did before. I made the decision to focus on getting my job done and decreasing my online presence a bit in order to have more availability to translate. Now that Bruno attends daycare full time, I can go back to adding more activities to my schedule other than just pure translations.

I guess what really helped me out was financially planning my pregnancy ahead of time, so it wouldn’t be a burden when I finally took a break to focus on my son. Two years before getting pregnant I was already buying gender neutral baby items and had two different savings accounts to prepare for the first few months: one for all of the big ticket items and one for 6 months of maternity leave.

There’s not much you can really plan when it comes to having a baby. But the financial part of it is one that you can and I highly suggest you do so. Everything else will probably not go according to plan and you’re either going to have to change your initial plan or just wing it. Whatever happens, don’t lose focus, don’t lose your mind, and ask friends, family and fellow translators for help. I say fellow translators because, family and friends can and will help you on a more personal level, but having good partnerships with fellow translators will literally save your business life when your baby gets sick and you need help with your translations and deadlines.

3. You have recently moved out from Brazil to the USA. Could you share with us the difficulties you faced in the transition and the advantages and disadvantages of working and living in the USA?

I’ve lived here before and my husband is American, so culturally speaking I didn’t really have a hard time moving back. Initially, we were in Florida, and that was hard because we didn’t have any friends there, only my brother-in-law and his family, who lived about an hour away from our home. Having a baby makes the one-hour drive something difficult to take on. We felt quite lonely there, so we decided to move back to Missouri, where my husband is originally from, and to be close to friends and family. That changed everything. We’re happier now, we have people we can count on minutes away from home, we know the place, etc.

When it comes to the translation industry, I can tell you that there are differences in how to do business, such as prices, taxes, ethics, business practices, etc. I’m still learning about all of that here in the US and I do so by networking with fellow translators, attending courses and conferences, reading industry-related publications, etc. It’s been great and business is getting bigger and better on a weekly basis.

4. You work with a pool of translators who usually help you with projects and have already worked as a Translations Manager at a consulting firm. Based on your experience, what are the most common mistakes freelance translators make and, based on that, what advices would you give to translators in general?

Poor reviews and commitment to deadlines. People, please! These are extremely important aspects of being a translator.

How can you deliver a good translation without taking the time to review it? That’s something that drives me nuts. And how can you expect to get more jobs if you keep missing deadlines?

Read the source file before starting your translation so you can get acclimated to the content, take notes on vocabulary, do research, etc. This way, when you start your translation, you’ll not only be more knowledgeable on the content but you will also do a better job translating the material. Take a break after you’re done. Go get some coffee or take a nap and clear your mind. Come back, spell check, read the translation to make sure it ‘sounds’ good and it flows nicely, spell check again, and then deliver your file.

In case of questions throughout the translation that you cannot find the answers to in your research, talk to your client or translation manager. Don’t just send a file with a bunch of comments of what you couldn’t find on your own. Questions need to be asked and answered during the translation process in order to deliver a good product. Skipping this step means you don’t care about that text, the impact it’s going to have on readers, on your client, and on yourself as a translator.

Comply with deadlines! That means you need to plan your day, prioritize, time manage, and make sure your head is clear and focused on the job you’re about to do. Keep track of how much you can translate per day and at what times you feel most productive and use that to your advantage and to plan your work schedule.

5. You are a volunteer translator for Translators Without Borders and also worked for Greenpeace. In your opinion, why is it important to do pro bono work?

It’s important to make this crazy world a better place. It doesn’t matter if it’s pro bono or not. Translators Without Borders is pro bono, Greenpeace wasn’t  ̶ I was an employee there.

Greenpeace taught me a lot, not only about the environment, but about people, community, the future, responsibility and accountability, and all that changed me. There’s nothing more marvelous than helping others, making a difference, and impacting lives. That is why I keep supporting Greenpeace worldwide in any way I can, and that includes having a special discount rate for NGOs that work with causes that are close to my heart, such as slave labor, environmental issues, children, medical procedures for the poor, emergency response, etc.

Translators without Borders (TWB) is an independent non-profit association established in 1993, dedicated to helping NGOs extend their humanitarian work by providing free, professional translations. The funds saved through the use of volunteer translations can then be used by the NGOs in the field, enabling them to extend the scope and reach of their humanitarian work. I fell in love with TWB because it’s not only an opportunity to give back to the global community but also a way of being part of something bigger, something greater, set out to make this a better world for our children and our children’s children.

6. You wrote the English Version of Brazil’s Anti-Corruption Law with Stefano Enepi. Well, you have an educational background in Law and also translate this type of material, right? How is the book useful to law translators? Also, could you tell us a bit more about how you came up with the idea of writing it and how was the writing process?

Because of my legal background, I have always translated all kinds of legal documents and, more often than not, they include quotes from different laws. Throughout the years, I felt there was next  to nothing out there when it comes to Brazilian legislation in English, and we’re talking about a BRIC country that is quite complex to do business with in terms of legal framework. Brazil is also going through a period of sociological change, in which people are tired of corruption and are saying ‘enough is enough’, so when the new Anti-Corruption Law came into effect, it was a no-brainer that it needed to be available in English as well.

I partnered with Stefano Enepi for the review because of his legal background and because he was a resident of Brazil, with deep knowledge of the language and culture behind it all.

It was a great project for us. It put our names out there and it shows potential clients what we can do.

I also chose that particular law for ‘protesting reasons’. I too think that enough is enough. It’s time we come together as a society to make our country a great nation. And fighting corruption is a huge part of that process. I hope our English Version of Brazil’s Anti-Corruption Law helps people, government officials, and companies to do business the right way in my country.

I may no longer reside there, but Brazil is my country and I want to see it become a great nation for our people.

7. What are your plans, goals, dreams, wishes, whatever you like to call them, as a freelance translator entrepreneur, for the short and long term?

Oh boy, where do I start?

Professionally speaking, I’m focused on growing my business and presence in the US right now. In the long term, I’d like to translate more Brazilian laws, work with more NGOs, volunteer more often, and educate others on the Translation and Interpreting market, business, and careers. One dream that I have is to develop continuous education courses for our fellow translators, thereby sharing what I know and have learned thus far as a translator and entrepreneur.

My other focus is my family. My husband and my son are my life and I want to see them happy and healthy every day. I want to grow old with them and be there for them every step of the way. They are the main reason for every good thing in my life.

8. Now it’s your turn to nominate our next interviewee. Who is your role model?

I nominate Luciana Meinking – Brazilian translator with a PhD in Portuguese and English Philology from the University of Freiburg, Germany, and a member of the American Translators Association. She is, by far, the best translator I ever worked with.

Luciana does a great job and far exceeds the ability of an average translator. She always brings her keen analytical skills to the table and is an excellent researcher and linguist. Her many years of study and experience, along with ethics and professional attitude, definitely add value to any translation/localization project. She is trustworthy, consistent, and reliable! I always love working with her and, throughout the years, we learned a lot from each other, especially when it comes to glossary management and researching skills.


Thank you so much for accepting my nomination, Melissa! It’s always such a great pleasure to welcome you on my blog. I loved learning a bit more about you.

Now stay tuned for next month’s interview.

 

Greatest Women in Translation: Sabine Lammersdorf

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Welcome back to our Greatest Women in Translation interview series – the last one of 2015.

As it’s been happening with this series, I didn’t know today’s interviewee. So I’ve been thinking that it has been a sort of networking for me. I get to e-meet the person and to know more about her in order to make up the questions. Fantastic, right?

Now, let’s welcome today’s interviewee, Sabine Lammersdorf, nominated by Giselle Chaumien.


sabine lammersdorf

1. You have two ferrets, Luciano and Mephisto. How is it like to have them around the house being a freelancer?

They are pure joy, fun and distraction. They allow me to escape from my desk and take breaks, although this is not the reason for having them around. I spend many hours at my desk and so Luciano and Mephisto provide the much welcomed mischief, laughter, carefreeness in an otherwise serious work environment. As any other pet would wish for, I take good care of them and attend to their needs; in other words: They enable me to forget work for a little while and help me clear my mind.

2. After your son was born in 1993, you used your long-term maternity leave to attend lectures in mechanical engineering as a guest student and do your Abitur (A levels). How did you manage to study and raise a kid?

Doing my A levels and attending guest lectures in mechanical engineering was part of a long-term plan. After giving birth to my son and at the time I was convinced that he would be content with someone looking after him for several hours, I put a schedule together and started looking for a babysitter. I was very lucky to find a wonderful elderly lady who not only agreed to take care of him whenever I attended night school or lectures, but also became an additional grandmother for my son.

3. What made you decide to attend lectures in mechanical engineering after having worked for 11 years as an in-house translator and interpreter in IT?

My father was a passionate mechanical engineer and I used to spend the better part of my childhood together with my father at his drawing board. I was fascinated to see the sketches on his drawing board come to life, first as small scale models and later as huge and live equipment. He constantly encouraged me to experiment, to play with the most basic laws of physics explaining why they worked – or not (more often than they did).

After completing my studies, I happened to land my first job at a company selling and servicing, including repairing, hard and floppy disk drives. Back then in 1982, hard and floppy disk drives were very expensive, so they actually repaired them. The parent company was Indian, supplying all the then big players in the industry with their hard and floppy disks. My main task was to translate the complete documentation into German and act as an interpreter for the trainer during training sessions and conferences. In order to understand what I was talking and writing about, I spent quite a while in the workshop actually repairing disk drives. Admittedly, I enjoyed this combination of “theoretical” and hands-on work – which is entirely based on physics and mathematics, just as mechanical engineering is.

As disk drives became more affordable and the development focussed more and more on software it was fascinating to learn how strings of electrical impulses made things happen on the screen, offering the possibility to scale down the necessary hardware. I never got round to learn how to programme; at that time, I still worked as a translator and interpreter with a gradually changing focus on software, as I did not feel that my knowledge was sufficient enough at that point to specialise in mechanical engineering. It was really fascinating to learn how computers and large machinery items were combined, especially in the area of high precision machinery.

4. Why have you decided to relocate to Spain after your son was born, after having lived so many years in Germany?

Well, the long-term plan had always been to work as a translator and/or interpreter for a major multi-national company and to relocate to Asia. For many reasons, I found this too difficult with a small child, so I began thinking about European countries which could provide career opportunities for me and a stable, safe environment for my son. As I did not want to learn another language and because I loved the Mediterranean, Spain and France were on the cards. The dice fell on the Spanish Mediterranean Coast which is where we now reside, within a multi-national environment which I actually enjoy. The internet and computer era not only liberated us from typewriters, they also granted us the opportunity to allow us to live and work wherever we wished or to travel the world whilst working, as some colleagues actually did.

5. You and Giselle Chaumien have a blog together, Wissenswinkel, where you both share lots of information for newbies in the translation industry. Why do you feel it is important to welcome and help newcomers in the translation industry?

“Wissenswinkel” is in fact the result of a failure. It all originated from a discussion about mentoring in general on Facebook and as a result of some newbies informing us that they would appreciate guidance and support when starting their own careers. And thus I founded a mentoring group on Facebook, which was in fact far too spontaneous – without any planning in advance. Giselle Chaumien became a member of this group, this is where we actually met and soon discovered that we both felt the same about sharing our knowledge with newcomers. The former Facebook mentoring group failed, and Giselle Chaumien and I decided to find another way of relaying our knowledge and experience free of charge – that is how “Wissenswinkel” was born.

Generally speaking, newcomers leave university or any language institute with plenty of theoretical knowledge; they usually learn everything connected with the translation and /or interpretation process, but are not introduced to real-world practicalities such as company procedures, processes, organisational issues which inevitably arise when being self-employed. This has not changed since I passed my exams, and having had something like “Wissenswinkel” at hand would have saved me a lot of time and would have helped me to avoid many mistakes. 

There are countless workshops, conferences, webinars, etc. subject to attendance fees. However, a newcomer with very little income, if any, might not be able to afford to attend them. The number of limited resources available which are free of charge mostly focus on marketing aspects. Marketing is undoubtedly an important topic, however, there are many more equally important topics which are hardly ever covered and newcomers might find it difficult to obtain further information or answers to their questions. I had the opportunity to learn so much, gather so much information, sharing this is my pleasure and joy.

“Wissenswinkel” continues to grow at a steady pace. We want it to become some sort of knowledge database covering topics from advice and pricing to case studies to explanations of technical terms and terminology. Our aim and hope is that it shall be helpful and that newcomers will not find themselves completely lost at the beginning of their own working careers. Besides that, newcomers are always welcome to contact us via other channels.

6. Giselle describes yourself as “very reliable”. Do you think reliability is an essential quality as a translator? Why (not)?

Well, the translation industry belongs to the service sector and everything related to service in its broadest sense is based on trust and reliability. This is even more important if someone works in a field where they never (or hardly ever) meet their clients. As we all expect our clients to pay our invoices, so they expect us to deliver our product – the translation – as to the specifications agreed beforehand. 

Reliability, trust, and the delivery of mutually objectives are the foundations of any business – and the translation business does not differ from any other business within the service sector.

7. Contracts and other legal documents were always part of your work, so you recently decided to study Business Law. Do you think it has helped doing a major after already working in the area?

I adore legal language and I very much like translating such documents. Legal language is beautiful and sometimes a challenge, as one single sentence may cover an entire page. The more contracts I translated over the years, the more interesting they became and I began researching the possibility to broaden my horizons without having to interrupt my career. Thanks to modern technology and “newish” types of study courses this is now possible, providing me an option to further dig into this very interesting subject, and to explore new fields of business in the long run.

Contract translation work is the somewhat logical consequence of technological product translation work, as whatever the result of a development is going to be sold. I would not say that this helped to take this decision to study, but love of legal language was certainly its root and the beginning of a very interesting open-ended journey 🙂  

8. One can hardly find information about your business online. Your website is still under construction. Do you think that not being visible online hinders your possibility of being found by potential clients?

Actually, I do not think so. A website is nothing but an extended business card or an extended entry in the yellow pages. Just as back in the pre-internet days nobody would actually file through the yellow pages to find a translator, nobody, nowadays looks at the numerous translator websites available. For sure, access to a website certainly makes it easier to showcase one’s work and capabilities, and thus the marketing element becomes easier; however, I personally do not consider it as a major pre-requisite. I do believe in the principle of meeting potential clients where they are visible, for example, at conferences, trade fairs, specialist forums, etc. My approach might be very old-school, however, this approach allows me firstly to establish the client contact and then explore the needs of a potential client somehow more detailed than just being contacted through a website without really knowing anything about the background of such an enquiry. I find it easier to establish long-term business relationships via my old-school approach, many of my clients come through recommendation anyway.

Nevertheless, my website will be completed sometime next year, and I will then see what it can do for me and how to use it. 

9. Now it’s your turn to nominate a Great Woman in Translation. 

I would like to nominate Allison Wright, she is a German, French and Portuguese to English translator based in Portugal and an accredited member of SATI/SAVI (South Africa), and more recently became a member of the Association of Portuguese Translators and Interpreters, APTRAD. Besides her translation work, she has her own blog “That elusive pair of Jeans” and I really enjoy her eloquent writing.

I feel a bit like standing on the red carpet and I would like to thank you, Caroline, for this forum and also I would like to thank Giselle Chaumien for nominating me. A special thanks goes to Isabel Wilkins, who took on the task of putting my “Germlish” thoughts into proper English. She is a market researcher, a true professional in her own field and a very dear friend.


Thank you, Sabine, for promptly accepting Giselle’s nomination and my invitation to be interviewed for our series! It was a real pleasure e-meeting you and getting to know you better. 🙂

 

Greatest Women in Translation: Giselle Chaumien

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Welcome back to our interview series Greatest Women in Translation! This month the interview is a bit later than usual because yesterday was a local holiday here, so I took the day off. 😉

Please welcome this month’s Greatest Woman in Translation, Giselle Chaumien, nominated by Nicole Adams.

Welcome, Giselle!


GISELLE CHAUMIEN

1. Your mother is German and your father is French. Was your upbringing bilingual at home? If so, how was the experience?

Yes, we spoke both languages at home – with our dogs as well, who understood the commands in both languages. I believe that bilingual upbringing works well only when both parents speak both languages well and use them with the family. Time and again we hear or read that it’s difficult for children, but I can’t confirm that for me and my siblings. My mother told me that we spoke a mishmash of both languages in our first few years, but then at the age of 3-4 everything straightened out. We lived in Germany, and I attended a private boarding school in France. Today, when I count or do arithmetic, it’s always in French, but I dream in both languages. Oh, and with my office assistant Filou I speak only German. Do you think that’s a mistake? 😉

In my opinion, there’s something that’s much more important than a bilingual upbringing: our parents taught us that random acts of kindness enrich your life. That’s something that’s much more widespread in the United States and the United Kingdom than in Germany. This principle has come to play an increasingly important role in my life – perhaps it has to do with my age. The life that we share with everyone else is like a big pot of soup, with chunks of meat, slivers of vegetables and noodles floating in it. You pick something out of the soup that you like or need, and that makes you happy. And you should put something else back into it, so that others find something good as well. Thus, in my own small way, I try to give back some of what helped me in earlier years and from which I still benefit today. This approach to life is the real legacy of my parents.

2. You studied in Germersheim, at Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Faculty of Translation Studies, Linguistics and Cultural Studies (one of the best universities for translators and interpreters in Germany), where you later became a lecturer. What was it like to switch roles and become a lecturer where you were once a student?

I had already held a teaching position while I was studying there, as one of the instructors who headed the tutorial for German/French legal translation became seriously ill and it was not possible to find a regular substitute so quickly,  so that was not a problem for me. In the early 1980s I then had a half-time position on a two-year contract; my employment contract with Michelin was reduced to 60% during this period – otherwise I would never have managed such a full schedule. I was teaching German/French legal translation and French commercial correspondence to 3rd and 4th semester students on the one hand, and on the other I was in charge of the tutorials in German/French technical translation for those students taking their comprehensive examinations. I also supervised a number of diploma theses. I greatly enjoyed working with the students. Unfortunately there are hardly any permanent positions at German universities. Teaching people, awakening their enthusiasm for a subject, accompanying them through a part of their professional development – that’s very fulfilling.

3. You have been working for Michelin for nearly 30 years! You began as a French and German teacher for managers, but then had the chance of implementing a translation department there. How cool is that? You programmed CBTs (computer-based training courses) for factory workers, organized professional development courses for managers, installed an intranet for Michelin Germany, Switzerland and Austria, and implemented an Internal Communications department in those three countries as well. I clearly see why Nicole nominated you! How does this impressive professional experience help you nowadays as a freelance translator?

I had the privilege of pursuing an unusual path at Michelin. I gained incredibly valuable experience from the implementation of the projects you mentioned as examples, and I still reap the benefits from that on a daily basis. When you manage a project and you’re responsible for a budget of six figures or more, and you have to procure external services and manage and monitor the implementation in multiple plants, you learn what doing business with an entrepreneurial approach really means. Nobody can ever take that away from you. I should add that Michelin is a very special company, in which people are given numerous opportunities regardless of where they come from, their gender, their disabilities, etc. I had the great good luck and the honor to accompany the executive directors at that time on numerous business trips in Germany and to interpret for them: François Michelin and his son Edouard, two unique and impressive human beings. And yet I took the risk of going into business for myself, because I wanted to put myself to the test once more.

4. Giselle, you have your “Rüsterweg” blog, the knowledge database “Wissenswinkel” and the “Tips for Translators” on your website; recently you also began your newsletter “Café Umlaut”. Honestly, that’s an amazing amount of work. What motivates you?

As I just explained, I had the good fortune to learn a lot and gather valuable experience over the course of my career. I’d like to share all this experience with those who are interested, or, to return to the example of the pot of soup, I simply want to put a few good pieces of meat into the broth so that others benefit from it as well.

It all started with the section “Die Welt des Übersetzens” (“The World of Translation”) on my “Rüsterweg” blog. At some point I wrote about a subject specifically for translators – that was the article “Langatmig, aber zielführend” (“Tedious, but Productive”), about customer acquisition, and suddenly I had loads of subscribers. My post entitled “Honorarfreie Übersetzung” (“Pro Bono Translation”) – an article that was translated into English, Italian, Spanish and Russian and which I translated into French – is surely the most popular of my blog posts with 1,660 “likes”. In spring 2015, I launched the “Wissenswinkel” website – a knowledge database for young language professionals – together with my colleague Sabine Lammersdorf. And then in July 2015 I began writing my “Newsletter”. None of this is aimed at customers – it is neither sales-oriented nor is it financed by advertising or similar means.

Since you asked about the time involved – yes, of course it is a lot of work, but it’s worth it, because in the meantime so many interesting contacts to younger and older colleagues in the translation industry have developed that I really enjoy it.

5. You don’t use CAT tools and never have – why not? Don’t you think it could help you be more productive?

Well, many of my texts are simply not suitable for them, and in many cases my translations are adaptations. Quite honestly, I can’t say much about CAT tools. I hear about “segments” and imagine that in the end, the work of the translator consists of inserting the missing pieces of the puzzle – that’s not my style at all. My translation memory is my brain, and yes, a few glossaries I put together myself. I’m an avid user of the voice recognition program “Dragon Naturally Speaking” and with that I am extremely productive. In my specialist fields such as tire technology, financial reporting, plastics technology, etc., I rarely have to do any research any more – I can simply start dictating and wander around my office while doing so – yet it’s not at all boring. Besides, translation is only one of my sources of income. I also work as a freelance author for several companies, e.g. for corporate blogs, customer and online magazines, and so on, and for many years I’ve done intensive writing coaching for top-level managers. I’m currently expanding the two latter activities and reducing my translation work slightly. And I’ll let you and your readers in on a secret: I’m also working on two of my own books. I can’t tell you anything more about that at present.

6. You are an advocate of high(er) rates, premium markets and the like. Could you tell us a bit more about those topics?

Well, I’m firmly convinced that there’s a place for everyone in the global translation market: the big full-service agencies for the so-called bulk market, the smaller SME service providers that operate in defined market segments and/or have their regular customers in niche markets, and of course for the individual translators who provide their services in their (premium) market, in their own particular playground, so to speak. The market has all those elements, no question about it – just like there are premium tires and low-budget tires. And here we’re not debating what’s “better” or “not as good” or “worse”. As a customer, I have to decide what I want, no matter what the product is: a 13-cent roll from a discounter or bread from a baker who still grinds his whole-grain flour himself; a low-priced tire, because I only drive my small car to town, or a premium tire for a powerful car and long drives on the autobahn; an 11-euro haircut by a hairdresser who doesn’t give appointments, where I have to blow-dry my hair myself; and last but not least the translation of an internal working document or of the financial report that’s sent to shareholders, the customer magazine that’s really an adaptation rather than a translation, and so on.

What makes the difference (and I am speaking here exclusively for “non-literary” translators, as I have no experience with literature translations), is, in addition to the talent required for this profession, outstanding qualifications in the relevant field and above all specialization, which however becomes increasingly differentiated and narrowly focused. I don’t work for agencies, but once in a while agencies contact me because they can’t find anyone for certain niche specialties in my language combination (French/German or German/French – I don’t work in any other languages). Then they are willing to pay nearly my direct-customer price.

Of course, the so-called soft skills are just as important. I conducted a small, non-representative survey on this subject in summer, and described the results over the past few weeks in a three-part blog post on “Rüsterweg” (in German). The major German professional associations and even the FIT shared the article in the social media. This series has now been reprinted by the magazine of the German professional association ADÜ Nord.

In general, the following can be said of the market: there are more and more translators willing to work for very low prices. I’m not talking about countries or continents where the prices are low due to the low cost of living. The agencies are under pressure and competing with platforms via which even students are offering their translation services for little money. On the one hand, I believe our colleagues have an obligation to persuade customers to accept reasonable prices using appropriate arguments. That is possible – I am speaking from experience. But there are many agencies as well that need to educate their customers about the complex process of translation. If all of the discounters in Germany priced their rolls at € 0.26, i.e. double the present price, they would still be cheaper than the rolls of “real” bakers, but the producer and his employees, suppliers, etc. would be happy. The key word here is fair working conditions. I always ask myself how it affects us when we see a T-shirt for € 2.99 in a shop. Doesn’t anyone think about that?

7. On this same topic, it seems that your opinions, even though they are similar to Kevin Hendzel’s and Chris Durban’s, for example, are sometimes criticized quite harshly by some people. Do you think people are more influenced by what “famous” translators say as compared to what we, for example, say? If so, why do you think that happens?

It’s not my ambition to become “famous”. And by the way, I don’t count myself among the “greatest women in translation”. Over the course of my career, I’ve been an employee, as a department manager in an executive position as well; I’ve also been an employer and I am an entrepreneur – in my heart I always have been, even when I was working at Michelin. Against the background of this comprehensive experience, I’d like to highlight a few subjects and problem areas, make people aware of options for optimization and provide a bit of support to young colleagues. Some of our colleagues forget that before you can optimize anything, you have to determine where progress can be made and how shortcomings can be rectified. Why do people attack me, even though I don’t do anything differently than Kevin and Chris? Several highly esteemed colleagues have asked me that recently. It’s certainly easier to throw punches at someone who’s within arm’s reach. 😉 I’m “close” to my colleagues, I’m accessible, and therefore attackable. Those who take a public stance have to expect that. I can live with it – my motto is “Strength lies within serenity”. In the end, my professional success shows that my strategy and my way of doing things can’t be wrong – which of course doesn’t mean that it’s the only way. Lots of different roads will take you where you want to go.

Criticism is important when it’s constructive. Discussions that bring together very different opinions and experiences are extremely interesting when they are conducted in a factual, objective manner. But there’s the rub: critical reactions are not always factual or objective – apparently some people (only a few – I’d like to emphasize that) think that in the virtual world of social media they can just chuck all of the basic principles of respectful interaction with one another out the window. That’s not my style.

But to be honest, I receive so much nice feedback, colleagues call me up and ask for advice or tell me about their success in implementing one of my suggestions, ask interesting questions… it’s wonderful! Whenever my work gives colleagues food for thought and helps them professionally, I’m happy. And that’s all that counts.

8. During the time you worked at Michelin, you also worked as a freelance translator and consultant in your spare time (in the evening, on holidays, weekends, etc.). What advice would you give someone who has a full-time job, but wants to become a freelancer? How can they make the most of their spare time to start their freelance work?

When I started working at Michelin as a German and French teacher for managers at the end of the 1980s, I didn’t earn very much, so I went looking for a second job. I taught at language schools and translated. And yes, I worked very long hours, but I must admit I’m a workaholic. To me, the word “work” does not mean an oppressive burden or stress, but rather passion and joy. I’ve no idea where this mindset came from.

During all the years at Michelin, I held other jobs on the side, and thus built up a solid customer base, pursued my specialty fields in-depth, talked to experts, developed a network, long before the term “networking” in its current form became a buzzword. You mustn’t forget that when I started out, there were no computers, no Internet, no e-mail, no mobile phones. Of course I had leisure time, weekends and vacations, but probably not to the extent of most of my colleagues. I don’t regret that at all – on the contrary. Thanks to all that hard work (and solely that hard work) I am now in a position in which I can lean back, to help my colleagues with tips and suggestions, to reduce my customer base (which consists only of direct customers), and to focus on personal projects like a planned foundation and my books, and I don’t have to worry about what comes after my active professional career.

You asked what I would recommend to our colleagues. I’d like to start by saying that there are simply too many people who become freelancers immediately after completing their studies or give up a salaried position without having any financial reserves. They then accept practically “every” job, even at low prices, work under great pressure and end up in a vicious circle because they don’t have the time to acquire better-paying customers. That’s not a good situation for anyone. I think it’s better when you prepare your entry into the world of self-employment from a secure position, i.e. from a salaried position. That doesn’t have to be in translation.

9. Now it’s your turn. Who, in your opinion, is one of the Greatest Women in Translation?

I could name several colleagues who do great work and successfully reconcile their family and professional lives. They have my full respect. I’d like to nominate our dear colleague Sabine Lammersdorf as one of the Greatest Women in Translation. She raised a son, developed her customer base, specialized in her fields and is pursuing a university degree “on the side” as well. Chapeau! Sabine and I share not only the love of our wonderful profession and our mindset in that regard, but a friendship as well and a pet project – the knowledge database “Wissenswinkel”. I could not possibly imagine a better partner for this project!

Now I feel a bit like I’m at the Oscars, but I’d like to thank you, dear Caroline, very warmly, for giving us Women in Translation a forum here, and Nicole Y. Adams for nominating me. I hold her work in high esteem. Thanks also go to my colleague Monique Simmer for putting my Franco-German thoughts into English. Without a doubt, she is also one of the “Greatest Women in Translation”, a genuine professional.


Thank you, Giselle, for kindly accepting Nicole’s nomination and my invitation to answer my questions for our interview! It was a pleasure connecting and getting to know you better.