A Confessed Saudosista*


Photo Credit: HubSpot

This & That ― Vignettes of a Professional Journey
a column by Ines Bojlesen


At the beginning of my career in São Paulo, translating for direct clients was my reality. Whether clients were law offices, insurance companies or manufacturers, telephone calls and personal visits to their sites were our means of communication.

For a couple years, I translated for a large engineering company that dealt with paint and final assembly systems. They needed their highly sophisticated e-coating manuals translated. They knew the terminology was complex and did not expect me to be knowledgeable about their product. They asked that I worked with them in coining new terms in Portuguese and making sure the text was grammatically correct. I was invited to tour their plant to understand their painting process. Two engineers met with me a couple of times, and together we created the glossary for their system.

A similar experience occurred with an insurance company. One of its agents worked with me to be sure that I understood the terms and that the translations would correspond to the Brazilian insurance market. I still use the notebook I created as we developed the glossary.

Both jobs were a win-win experience for both clients and myself. They knew their products and needed my linguistic skills. Terminology was important and therefore it was developed as a team effort, combining our expertise. I remember many other instances when I called my client and asked for explanations, for more reference materials, resources or for the best wording options. What I remember―and I now long for―is the human touch, the face-to-face communication I enjoyed in those cases!

Years went by and the computer replaced the typewriter. Transmittal of files via the phone was a novelty until the Internet took over. Telephone calls were replaced by email or by brief Skype communications. Even emails issued by a person are now often replaced by systems that generate messages forwarding prospective jobs. I need a username and a password to log in to accept or decline the job. No “good morning,” no personal touch carried in the message.

I miss being a person, talking, writing, and communicating with another person. Business is business, I know. But it can be conducted in a more productive and rewarding manner when we interact with people.

I sense that people are afraid to be “personal” in their messages. Calling someone now is considered a disruption, an imposition, while written or recorded messages can be accessed at the convenience of the receiving party. However, sometimes a brief call can clarify something that would need a carefully crafted message.

In my decades of work as a translator, I have never regretted caring enough to get to know the people I work with. I respect their distance if they so prefer, while I enjoy an exchange of words that shows we belong to human “kind”. The quality of my work or their management has never been compromised by our interacting.

Do not get me wrong: the fact that I long for less automated communications does not mean I dislike the new tools. They help me be competitive and cater to the immediacy of our translation world.

You can call me old-fashioned, a saudosista, if you will. Or better still, call me or write a response to my blog! I would love to hear or read what you have to say!


Saudosista:  eulogizer of the past



  1. I think there are other old-fashioned saudosistas around! :-)
    My best clients are still the ones I met face to face when I was using a paper resume.

  2. I really related to this post. One of my favorite assignments was an overnight “mutirão” at the Mayor’s Office in downtown Rio, working on the Rio Reconstruction Project if I remember correctly. Some of the engineering terms were so arcane that only one member of the team understood them in PT. It was all hands on board. Since relocating back to the US in 1999, my work has become so isolated: me, myself, and my computer. Few if any chatty phone calls with clients, no trips to their work sites, no feeling a real part of the team. Yes, we do need to evolve with the times, and the technology, but no texts lives as fully as it does inside the environment where it was hatched. Thank you for yet another thought-provoking post, Ines.

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