Interview with Sharon, Translator and reviser from Italian and French to English:
First things first, we would love to learn more about you: why and when did you decide to become a translator/interpreter? Where did the idea come from, and have you ever considered doing anything else?
It first occurred to me that I could become a translator when I applied for – and won – my first “real” job as Translator, Editor and Speechwriter at the Italian Embassy in Ottawa. After working there 3 years, I took and passed the certification exam for Italian to English. From then on I have always worked in the field, at first part time and for the last 12 years, full time, from my home office. I have in fact, worked in other fields, notably as a high school teacher, but translation is what I love, together with being my own boss. I have discovered that the best translators not only have in-depth mastery of their source languages; they are well-read and excellent writers themselves. We are communicators on several planes. Translation combines my own strengths and at this point, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
How different is being a translator/interpreter from what you had expected?
I’m not sure that it is terribly different from what I had expected, except that it is amazing how at times so many translations of a phrase can all be correct.
What is, according to you, the best way to learn a foreign language? How did you learn your languages?
The BEST way is to arrange to have parents who speak a different native language and then each speaks only that language with you as you grow up. Unfortunately, I did not have this foresight when choosing my parents! However, I was born with a love of language, inherited from my father who speaks excellent Spanish he acquired from much time spent in Mexico and through study; then as a small child, I was part of a group of children taught French in a pilot program in the USA. I discovered that not only did I love it, but that I was good at it and then when I heard that learning a foreign language was a door to another culture, I was hooked. I studied French throughout elementary school (a lunch time program), junior high and intensively in high school in an advanced program, into university, at McGill’s École française d’été and beyond. In the meantime, I also studied Spanish (winning state-wide recognition as top Spanish student) and began to study Italian on my own. I then lived and studied in Italy for 4 years, acquiring the language, studying the cultures and dialects and then completed an Hons. BA in Italian Language and Literature at McGill University and an MA in Comparative Literature from Carleton University. My greatest purpose in studying other languages is to have insight into other cultures and this of course had led to a lifetime passion for travel and the exploration of other cultures, not to mention a truly mixed bag of friends in many parts of the world.
What are the challenges of being a translator/interpreter? What are the perks?
The challenges can be finding resources or contacts for translating arcane documents; meeting impossibly tight deadlines. In my own case, the perks are working from an office in my home – obviously, the internet has had a major impact on how we work compared to the days when documents were couriered and research was done on the phone and in libraries. Another perk is recognition. It gives me great pleasure and a feeling of pride when a client tells me how happy he or she is with the quality of my work and recommends me to others. Another perk is exposure to a limitless range of subject areas, providing a certain amount of opportunity for learning. I often say that an independent translator will know “almost nothing about almost everything.” (We are formidable Trivial Pursuit opponents!) Finally, I consider it a major perk to know that when I translate a family’s documents for immigration, for instance, or a young doctor’s credentials for certification in Canada that I am helping others achieve their life goals as well as helping to contribute to our country’s diverse composition.
Thank you very much!