Friday, 23 March 2012

Does translation run in the blood?

Yes, today I am returning to the age old question of ‘nature vs. nurture’. Do you learn translation or is it an inherent ability that you either have the talent for or not?
Two months ago I met an uncle who I had known nothing about. Yes, I know, it sounds like it’s been taken out of a corny movie script but it’s true.  And guess what? He was a translator. He was head of the foreign language service at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa. He used to translate German and Spanish texts before he took on a Project Manager role at the CSIR. He no longer does translations but this curious coincidence got me thinking.
Can certain professions run in the family and I don’t mean following in the footsteps of your father or mother. It would be fascinating to do a case study over many generations of family members to see if a pattern of professions run in the family. What I’m trying to say in my garbled manner is: is a certain talent for a profession inherited? They do say translation is the second oldest profession so it’s possible I may have had translation ancestors dating from 1100 AD.  
I know some people are more language oriented and was it just coincidence that I ended up doing the same as my uncle? Or does it really run in the family? Did the previous generations of my family have talent for languages or is “talent in languages” a myth?
I will always remember a quote from Fire Ant and Worker Bee in their  book The Prosperous Translator that “translation is an art and a craft – results count not how you acquired the skill. Verdi only started composing in his late twenties”.
So, what do you think?

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Good company URLs

Freelance translators and freelancers in general are always talking about having your own website and a creative, memorable and easy to spell URL. Unfortunately some companies haven't spent enough time considering how their online company name may appear.
So to give you some amusement towards the end of the week, here are some legitimate company URLs from an email I received. Enjoy!

1.   'Who Represents' is where you can find the name of the agent that represents any celebrity. Their Web site is:

2. 'Experts exchange' is a knowledge base where programmers can exchange advice and views at:

3. Need a therapist?  Try 'Therapist Finder' at:

4. Then there's the 'Italian Power Generator' company. Check it out at:

5. And the designers at 'Speed of Art' await you at their wacky Web site:

Friday, 2 March 2012

The lives of others

As Patent Translator recently blogged, “As far as I can tell, the more personal a blog gets, the more interesting it usually is. I don’t know about you, but I like to read on translators’ blogs about their dogs and cats, what their husband or wife said that morning during breakfast, how in the world they managed to get through the hell of puberty and high school and things like that (because as Emily Blunt put it in “Jane Austen Book Club”, “high school is never over!?!).”

So, this post isn’t about what I ate for breakfast this morning but rather about the extremely interesting lives of other translators. The other day I read an old article from El País which had me thinking about it for days. It’s entitled La vida de los otros (The lives of others) and you can read it here.
For those who don’t understand Spanish, the article recounts the story of translators working at Madrid’s police headquarters, translating and transcribing conversations from pimps and murderers to drug traffickers and counterfeiters. Day in and day out they listen to threats, fights and accusations. The article also recounts the personal histories of the translators working there. How the Romanian translator is Catholic and tries to avoid swear words and sexual slang and how the Hungarian translator was a trainer for the women’s national swimming team.

What struck me was that these translators live the lives of other people for 8 hours a day. That everything happening isn’t from a TV series like The Wire but to quote the article, Son gente que hace en la vida real aquello que tanto nos sorprende en la ficción. Con los cascos puestos y muy atentos, ellos viven la vida de otros sin dejar escapar ni una palabra.” (They are the people who do the things in real life that surprise us so much in fiction. With their headphones on and their attention focused, they live the lives of others without missing a word.)

So, my question for today is:
What’s your personal history and what exciting translation projects have you had. Would your history of translation read like a thriller or a drama? Please do share! I’m rather curious!!!