This is the fifth 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 Brenda L. Galván.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself (your background, how long you’ve been translating, where you're from and where people can find you)?
I was born in Matamoros, Mexico (located on the border with Brownsville, TX, USA) and moved to the US at the age of 15. I have a Master's Degree in Spanish Translation & Interpreting, a Bachelor’s in Spanish [Philology] with a minor in French, and an Associate’s Degree in Spanish Translation, all of them from the University of Texas at Brownsville.
Additionally, I have experience studying abroad in Europe, both in status of exchange student and faculty-led student, including a great experience as an international student in the Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona. There I took courses in legal translation, multilingual terminology, literary translation, among others. My language combinations are: English into Spanish (and viceversa), French into Spanish, and French into English.
I have been working as a part-time freelancer for over three years, but two years in a full-time basis. These are my social media links and websites where I can be reached: Facebook, WordPress , About me.
How did you decide to be a translator? What makes you passionate about languages?
It was a whole bunch of things that influenced my ''self-discovery'' as a translator-to-be. When I was in high school in the US, I had in mind that I wanted to study something related to my mother tongue, culture, foreign languages, and promoting cultural and linguistic awareness. At first I was thinking in becoming a Foreign-language teacher, but something inside of me did not feel right with choosing that career.
Then I decided to study Spanish philology and continue with my foreign-language learning and acquisition, both by taking classes and as self-didactic. Time later, I decided to incorporate a minor in French, and acquire an Associate’s Degree in Spanish Translation...as well as take additional and elective translation studies courses. It was then that I learned that I wanted to become a translator.
What makes me passionate about languages is connecting with other cultures, people, acquiring general cultural knowledge, and helping others by means of multilingualism.
What have you done to improve your translation skills in the last year?
In November 2013, I attended the ATA 54th Annual Conference in San Antonio, TX. It was my first ATA: I took several courses/seminars, did some networking, learned from others. Something else that has really helped me improve my translation skills is learning from other translators/interpreters, freelancers, and marketing experts through their blogs.
How do you prepare for a translation project?
Well, I read it twice and highlight those terms or sentences that seem unclear to me (sometimes I google images). I make sure I have the necessary and relevant resources to make a deeper research in case of getting stuck in a term or context. Then I translate certain project/text, revise, correct, and finally polish the document by proofreading it and making any pertinent changes that would make the document flow smoother.
What aspects of your job are the most challenging?
Time-management. Maybe I'd say "marketing skills", but, being honest, time-management and organizational skills are definitely hard to keep. No matter how much you invest in marketing or how amazing your communication skills are, if you’re not organized with your time, you won’t accomplish your goals day to day.
## What excites you the most about the languages you work with?
Cultural differences that may sometimes interfere with the meaning of words. Another aspect is how certain languages link you to other cultures. For example, French, being my 3rd language, links me with Moroccan culture. Even though its official language is Arabic, French is widely spoken in that country, basically co-official. What else? Well, for me, knowing Spanish, English, and French is definitely an advantage, quite useful if you occasionally work with international organizations and NGOs.
What is the funniest translation experience you can remember?
A dating website with daring phrases, ‘erotic’ language, and strong content (if you know what I mean).
What are good or bad things about freelancing?
The good thing is being able to manage your own time and schedule. You are also able to decide your own rates, what projects to take, what projects aren’t worth it, and have time for your family.
However, the disadvantage of being a freelancer is time management (if you don’t administer your time adequately, you won’t make it), marketing your business (sometimes it attracts clients and sometimes it does not), and not being able to earn a stable income. While companies have assigned personnel per task and position, a freelancer is everything in one.
What are you wishes for 2014? What excites you, what are you sceptical about?
Besides keeping my blog with more updates and fresh ideas (yes, haven’t been able to post in a long time), one of my main goals is to be more aware of my time-management, quite necessary for my professional development as an independent contractor. Of course, having more customers is also part of my professional wishes.
What would you pass on as personal advice to new translators?
One of the things I highly recommend is to start networking and looking for internships in your field even before graduation. You will save up a lot of time and face palms. Be patient and perseverant. Your first baby steps are pretty hard for every single profession, especially ours.
Of course, it is hard for newbie translators to earn the trust and credibility of other agencies, companies, or particulars due to lack of experience, but be yourself and give the best of you. If you get an offer and someone is interested in knowing more about your services and background via CV/résumé, don’t provide it to any random agency. Be sure that agency is legit; otherwise, you may be in risk of being a scam/identity theft victim. Make sure your CV/résumé is polished; ZERO ERRORS or MISSPELLINGS.
Also, don’t just wait for customers or agencies to knock on your door, be a go getter and network, market your services, read relevant articles, keep and active blog, and go to workshops. Don’t remain stiff and keep your brain and interpersonal skills active by acquiring more linguistic knowledge or anything of general culture. It’s important to "self-update" constantly. Don’t forget that. It’s not enough with earning a degree, hanging it on the wall, and waiting for whatever may come: pursue it, have initiative, and keep learning.
Thanks to Brenda for the answers!