Sunday, June 17, 2012

Interview about academic translating

The following interview with me was first published in Hebrew on translator Yael Cahane's blog. I am publishing this English version with her permission. Thank you, Yael!

* How did you become a translator?
I was born in England to an English mother and an Israeli father, and grew up bilingual from birth. When I immigrated to Israel at age 9, I continued speaking English with my mother and kept the language alive. Unlike most translators, I translate in both directions, Hebrew-English and English-Hebrew. I started translating for students while studying at university, and translation seemed to me a natural and suitable career choice. I eventually chose to specialize in academic translation in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

* What do you like about the profession?
Working with language and the translated contents, exposure to a variety of research subjects, and the constant personal development. As a translator I enjoy the three important components of any work (according to Daniel Pink): autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

* What would you do if you were not a translator?
In addition to translating I write fiction and non-fiction. In my blog, Reality and Fiction, I write about books I read and anything that interests me. If I had no need to make an income, I would prefer to write my own work rather than translate the work of others.

* What are the challenges in academic translating?
First of all, you have to understand the subject and the methodology, and therefore you have to specialize in specific areas. Academic translating requires academic writing skills in the target language, and adapting the book or article to the requirements (sometimes arbitrary!) of the journal or publisher in terms of style and bibliographical references.

* Academic translating, particularly in the Humanities and Social Sciences, can be politically loaded. How can one maintain neutrality? Should one be neutral all the time, or stick to the author's intentions?
The translation should reflect the author's intention and world view, but also suit the target audience. I don't believe it is possible to write neutrally. I collaborate with the author to reach agreed solutions.

* How do you market yourself, an area so many translators find difficult?
In recent years most of my work comes from referrals from customers or other translators. In the past I was a member of a BNI business networking group for four years.

* What qualities, knowledge, and tools are important for academic translators and translators in general?
First of all, a great love of languages, reading, and writing. Creativity alongside analytical thinking. Self-discipline in order to work as a freelancer. The wish to learn and develop constantly, and the ability to accept constructive criticism. And of course, good human relations in order to create a fruitful collaboration with the customers.

* Do you have advice for beginner translators, in the academic area and in general?
Decide in advance about the language pair and the specific area of specialization, and don't try to translate "everything". Have daily passive (reading and listening) and active (writing and speaking) exposure to your source language and target language and to the type of materials you translate. When I started out, I worked for translation agencies who sent me back my translations after editing, which helped me learn and improve. Say "no" to work offers in the following cases: the price is too low, the schedule is too tight, the material is not in your specialization area, and the customer is "problematic". It is worth joining the Israel Translators Association and translation discussion groups.

* What resources do you recommend? (Not necessarily online)
I check terminology in printed and online dictionaries, and in general Internet searches. You have to know to select the information sources and prefer relevant sources. When the customers know the target language, it is worth consulting them about accepted terminology.

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