Translation is a lifestyle - Interview with translator Nora Torres

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This is the number 17 in our series of interviews with translators from all over the globe. Translation is a very diverse industry - we want to introduce some of the people behind making the world a more multilingual place. This episode is an interview with Nora Torres of www.translartisan.com. Find links to others at the end of the article.

Tell us a bit about yourself

foto-nora-facebook-250x300I’d first like to thank you for inviting me to take part in this series of interviews. I’ve been an English-Spanish translator for over 30 years now, and my career has evolved in depth and breadth over time. After earning a BA in Translation with a Major in Law from the University of Buenos Aires in 1982, I got a job at the Translation Department of the largest government-owned bank in Argentina. I went freelance in 1991, and started working for foreign clients around 2001. In the past 10 years, I’ve become an expert back-translator and specialized in the translation and linguistic validation of clinical research material. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or contact me through my website.

How did you decide to be a translator? What makes you passionate about languages?

I only started learning English formally when I was 12, but I had been exposed to it since my early childhood. If you allow me to go personal about it, my mother died when I was 8, and she had been seriously ill since I was born. That meant I had lots of lonely time, day in, day out. I liked to sit down on the floor for hours and read my father’s books, many of which were old picture books in English that I loved to go over once and again. When I started studying English at a language school, I found it really easy and a language-related career was a natural choice when I completed my secondary education.

What have you done to improve your translation skills in the last year?

Last year, I signed up for a 6-Week Clinical Terminology for International and U.S. Students Course offered by The University of Pittsburgh via Coursera. It was a wonderful learning experience, and I enjoyed it greatly.

How do you prepare for a translation project? translartisan-300x241

First thing when I accept a project is checking whether (i) I have all necessary files, (ii) the translation memory and glossary(ies) provided, if any, can be opened and used, (iii) instructions are clear. If the answer to any of this is "no", I contact my client or Project Manager right away, especially if I’ll be working late at night or early in the morning. I usually get up at around 4 a.m., and at that time there may be no one available to answer my questions!

What aspects of your job are the most challenging?

Clinical research material can get very technical, esp. when targeted to physicians and researchers. Some projects require deep research, consultation with knowledgeable professionals in the field, and quite a bit of sound judgment.

What excites you the most about the languages you work with?

Searching for the “perfect” words is one of the most exciting things I can think of, professionally speaking. I once wrote a short essay titled “El pescador de palabras” (The Word Fisher) that told the story of a man who, in an allegorical reference to the translation task, used to set sail on the sea every morning in search for words he had been asked to find. He had developed a thorough, systematic “catching” technique he came to master artfully over time. Every evening, he came back to the shore and sorted his load out until everything was perfectly arranged. The word fisher delivered his work, went to bed, and happily started all over the next morning, day after day. Well, this is how I like to think of me and my work, setting sail each morning, with the wind at my back and the sun on my face, looking for the right words.

What is the funniest translation experience you can remember?

I am not that old (54 only!), but old enough to have started to work before computers came into the translation workplace, in the '80s. I was most (and I mean most) enthusiastic when I started using one, but I must confess I was all thumbs at the beginning. One morning, not long after I got my first PC, I hit my office very early, poured myself a cup of coffee, turned the computer on and opened the file I was working on. The deadline was only a couple of hours away, and I needed to work fast. A few minutes later, I inadvertently must have hit a combination of keys that turned my screen upside down. I went so wildly off the rails that I was completely unable to figure out how to turn it back to normal by myself. Until my husband came to my rescue (what seemed to take ages), I kept translating as fast as I could, with my neck all tilted to the right, trying to read my words the wrong way up as I frantically went on…

What are good or bad things about freelancing?

As with any other human activity, different people have different perceptions of the dark and bright sides to freelancing based on their own personalities and lifestyles. If you are the 9-5 job type, you wouldn’t even consider the idea of working nights and weekends, not being able to pop your head out of your home or office for days until you meet a deadline, or not having paid time off, sick days, and yearly vacations. On the other hand, if you are a born freelancer, the mere thought of not being able to determine the kind of work you are ready to do, the rates at which you are willing to take it on, or the hours you work, would be plainly unbearable. So it depends.

What are you wishes for 2014? What excites you, what are you sceptical about?

In addition to continuing to grow my business and engaging in further ongoing education, I’d very much like to focus on starting to teach medical English classes, as I’m most passionate about learning and sharing knowledge. I’m currently developing the curriculum and related material, so this project should be ready to take off in late 2014 or early 2015. Contrary to what many others think, I am convinced the future is bright for us, translators, as long as we are ready to adjust ourselves to the current, evolving scenario. In this respect, I strongly recommend reading the book “Diversification in the Language Industry” by Nicole Y. Adams.

What would you pass on as personal advice to new translators?

Translation is not just a profession, it’s a lifestyle you choose; embrace it with all your being and enjoy the ride!

Thanks to Nora for the answers!

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