February 16, 2017

Podcasts for Language Lovers

Photo Credit: PicJumbo

Photo Credit: PicJumbo

Rafa Lombardino

As we’ve been doing every year, here’s an update to a list of podcasts translators and interpreters can listen to in order to learn more from peers and brainstorm good ideas on how to boost their own business. For previous posts on T&I podcasts, check our 2015 and 2016 updates. For a complete list separated by language, click here.

Our first new recommendation is Troublesome Terps ― a podcast about things that “keep interpreters up at night.” It is hosted by interpreters Alexander Drechsel, Alexander Gansmeier, and Jonathan Downie, and was created almost exactly one year ago. We would like to highlight episode 7, which was released in August 2016 and features Ewandro Magalhães, who is a regular ATA Chronicle contributor and the educator behind the TED-Ed video “How interpreters juggle two languages at once.”

Our second new recommendation is Translators on Air, which is actually a live video interview featuring T&I professionals. It is hosted by English-to-Russian translators Elena Tereshchenkova and Dmitry Kornyukhov ― the mind behind T&I community Open Mic. You can also go through their Season 1 archives to watch past interviews conducted last year.

Do you have a podcast about translators, interpreters, or languages that you’d like to recommend? Leave us a comment or connect with us through FacebookTwitter or LinkedIn.



Editor’s note: Stay tuned, because a brand new installment of our very own podcast, Shop Talk, will be released soon!

rafa orange

RAFA LOMBARDINO is a translator and journalist from Brazil who lives in California. She is the author of “Tools and Technology in Translation ― The Profile of Beginning Language Professionals in the Digital Age,” which is based on her UCSD Extension class. Rafa has been working as a translator since 1997 and, in 2011, started to join forces with self-published authors to translate their work into Portuguese and English. In addition to acting as content curator at eWordNews, a collective blog about translation and literature, she also runs Word Awareness, a small network of professional translators, and coordinates Contemporary Brazilian Short Stories (CBSS), a project to promote Brazilian literature worldwide.

February 8, 2017

We Are Neither This Nor That

Photo Credit: HubSpot

Photo Credit: HubSpot

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

“Are you comfortable translating a project about social media and millennials? Are you familiar with the latest idioms and language used?” I recently received this question from a client and I thought it would be a good subject for this blog.

Being familiar and being comfortable are two different things. We translators and interpreters have to be not simply familiar with a subject, but we also have to be knowledgeable about it as much as possible. We need to transform our knowledge and adapt to the times as well as to the place and environment where we are working. We act as ghosts behind booths, standing in a remote corner of a room or using the first person to interpret men, women, children or adults. By being the voice of both genders and of multiple generations, we become neither male nor female, neither old nor young.

We need to convey the foul language used verbally or in writing regardless of how we feel. We need to use the same register, intonation and tone to convey not just words, but also behaviors, regardless of the era or time frame in which they were generated.

By the same token, we need to reflect the old-fashioned writing of an author or the latest slang of a video gamer. Our age or gender is irrelevant. What really matters is how good we are at researching, keeping up with the new, or recalling the old. We resort to all sorts of media and absorb new expressions, new trends.

If we are newcomers, just starting as translators, the best practice (in addition to everything else) is to have good mentors, a network we can resort to. If we are “old timers,” we need to keep track, accept the new and stay ahead. If we do not go forward, we will fall behind.

Now a few words about the “being comfortable.” I had an interesting experience related to this part of my client’s question. A couple of years ago, an agency asked if I would be comfortable translating for their new client. They assured me I would only be involved with the software, the user interface (UI) part of the website, not the content itself.

Based on this assurance, I accepted the task. However, to become familiar with the client’s work, I had to visit their site and leave my footprint there, as well as visiting related sites. It did not take long before the client started to send me materials to translate that were not just software/UI, but pages of text extracted from the website. This made me feel uncomfortable; I was forced to research on a subject I was not familiar with for translations I would not want my name associated with. I was candid in explaining to the agency that I no longer “felt comfortable” translating that material. The agency did not argue and from then on assigned me projects from other clients.

Since then, I have often wondered if I did the right thing. Should I have permitted my aversion to the subject interfere with my neutrality as a translator? Should I have let my gender or my age weigh on my decision? Should I have allowed the fact that I did not feel “comfortable” with the material prevent me from being the messenger?

I would say these are traits that translators, interpreters, angels and even chameleons share. Angels are neither male nor female, and they don’t age. As the Merriam-Webster dictionary says,They are a messenger or a special guardian of an individual or nation.” We, too, as translators and interpreters, are a bridge between different cultures and languages. Like chameleons, we have to adapt and get immersed in the work, environment and uniqueness of our assignment at hand.

Our mission is clear: we must convey the message in verbal or written words, regardless of our gender, age or beliefs. We need to wear the hats of multiple generations: Traditionals, Baby Boomers, Generation X or Millennials. We must not judge or let our opinions interfere with our work. We must not forget that we are neither this nor that!

February 1, 2017

Place and Space in Translation (Part 1)

Photo Credit: Rafa Lombardino

Photo Credit: Rafa Lombardino

Elenice Barbosa de Araujo

Last November, the Portuguese Language Division opened its ATA57 conference sessions in great style. For our first session, our presenter Jayme Costa Pinto invited two prominent visiting colleagues, Karen Sotelino and Adam Morris, to a panel to talk about literary translation. The session title said it all: “Place and Space in Translation: Machado, Noll, and O. Henry Find Their Way in English and Portuguese.”

Costa Pinto, a Brazilian translator and interpreter, started the panel by introducing works by each of the three authors: Contos, a compilation of short stories written by O. Henry from 1906 to 1910; the novel Ressurreição, by Machado de Assis (1872); and the novel O quieto animal da esquina, by João Gilberto Noll (1991). Even though the three pieces belong to different eras, they all feature similar aspects of urban life: the city’s strong presence, diversity, and challenges. Such aspects served as a backdrop for the panelists to address specific translation issues and the challenges of dealing with spatial descriptions that rely on readers’ historical and geographical knowledge.

The panel theme traced the similarities among the urban settings described in the works by the three authors. Vivid, almost cinematographic descriptions of the city are an attribute shared by all three works. According to Costa Pinto, O. Henry and Machado were contemporaries during a time when cities began playing a larger role in the lives of people as they moved through surroundings that were modernizing at a frantic pace. The same sense of speed in the rate of new discoveries and developments is also recognizable in Noll’s rich descriptions. This is the link bridging all three authors, which inspired the speakers to explore the literary role of physical surroundings.

To better illustrate theses aspects, Costa Pinto showed us two literary excerpts. The first was a passage from Finnegans Wake, comprising a sequence of different letters, a resource used by James Joyce to describe claps of thunder. The book contains eleven or twelve descriptions of thunderstorms. They may seem unintelligible, but are not as random as they appear at first. Scholars have carefully studied and deciphered them, and to many they are associated with God’s voice, Adam, and humanity’s fall. Costa Pinto pointed out that translators have to find ways of rendering descriptions of a city’s cosmological features, such as the sounds of nature, the elements such as rain and air, floods and earthquakes, even in difficult portrayals like those of Joyce.

The second aspect relates to culture and the city, as well as the impact of nature on the characters’ lives, as shown in a brilliant trilingual poem by Augusto de Campos called ‘Cidade City Cité’:


To understand this, we have to split the radicals and add the word ‘cidade’ or its English or French equivalents ‘city’ and ‘cité’ to form perfect cognates:


Costa Pinto claimed that this poem conveys the fast pace of the city’s life. It reverberates with the themes of culture, human influences, and, a shift in the relationship between humans and cities. Like the previous example, this one reflects in a nutshell how he creates the best mood for working on a literary translation. He suggests finding exciting references, insights, and solutions that evoke our enthusiasm and make us feel pleased with our choices. As we all know, we never truly finish a piece of translation, but we do have to deliver it. However, as long as we have it in our hands, the process of refining the translation does not come to an end. We keep revisiting the text and, time after time, find certain aspects that inform us about new details.

Turning to his translation and compilation of a selection of O. Henry’s short stories, Costa Pinto admitted that, looking back on the project today, he would do a few excerpts differently, but he resisted the temptation and did not change a thing, letting all of them remain as they were when he delivered them for publication.

He then addressed some specific issues posed by O. Henry’s short stories. In the five or six pages of “Man About Town,” for instance, O. Henry created some new words and expressions to characterize typical urban characters, such as “the man about town.” This expression he coined was then used in a movie and a magazine, among other things. The author unveiled this man’s character as he walked around the city of New York, obstinately identifying and encapsulating his character, his gestures, and his gait throughout the entire story. People who live in large cities, even in Brazil, will recognize this character. In this case, the cultural background played a decisive role: the sagacity, the ferocity, the voracity, and the duplicity are easily identifiable, whether in New York or São Paulo.

Photo Credit: Rafa Lombardino

Photo Credit: Rafa Lombardino

To Costa Pinto, one particular difficulty was O. Henry’s emphasis on the use of varied verbs in English. For example, the inspiring sequence “skipped, strolled, sneaked, swaggered and scurried” is comprised of verbs that indicate a vector, as well as an action, direction, and mode. The problem is that there’s only one equivalent in Portuguese (“passar”) for all of them. And that’s not all: the references to Ancient Greece and Arcadia posed an extra challenge, yet they are not impossible to translate. Costa Pinto showed us a practical example of how he managed to translate such verbs, making sure to preserve their original semantic content:

People passed, but they held me not. Paphian eyes rayed upon me, and left me unscathed. Diners, heimgangers, shop-girls, confidence men, panhandlers, actors, highwaymen, millionaires and outlanders hurried, skipped, strolled, sneaked, swaggered and scurried by me; but I took no note of them. I knew them all; I had read their hearts; they had served.

And then, the Portuguese version:

Pessoas passavam por mim, mas não prendiam minha atenção. Olhares cortesãos me lançavam ofertas de amor pago e eu seguia incólume. Gente que gosta de jantar fora, gente que quase nunca sai de casa, moças fazendo compras, homens superconfiantes, pedintes, atores, assaltantes, milionários e estrangeiros passavam por mim. Alguns seguiam apressados, saltando obstáculos; outros passeavam, alguns ainda se esgueiravam e havia quem caminhasse com o queixo empinado. Mas eu não reparava em ninguém. Conhecia todos eles; havia lido o que guardavam no coração, já tinham servido a um propósito.

According to Costa Pinto, this passage features not only the city’s mood and vibrancy, which sparked his interest in translating this author to begin with, but also a couple of linguistic challenges embedded in the text, making it difficult to part from the original, which forced him to find his way creatively, giving him a sense of satisfaction. To him, we have two ways of looking at this particular translation challenge; one is through a macro approach, such as referring to Joyce, Augusto de Campos, and mythology; the other is to treat the solution he presented as a suggestion, a model to be adopted if we have to translate movement verbs such as these, which have few counterparts in Portuguese.

Costa Pinto talked about another short story in the book, “A Cosmopolitan in a Café,” which emphasizes O. Henry’s obsession with the hustle and bustle of the city. He always depicts modern city life in the first decades of the twentieth century.

At midnight the café was crowded. By some chance the little table at which I sat had escaped the eye of incomers, and two vacant chairs at it extended their arms with venal hospitality to the influx of patrons.
And then a cosmopolite sat in one of them, and I was glad, for I held a theory that since Adam no true citizen of the world has existed. We hear of them, and we see foreign labels on much luggage, but we find travellers instead of cosmopolites.

And then, the Portuguese version:

Meia-noite e o café estava lotado. Por acaso, a mesa em que me acomodei havia escapado ao olhar de quem entrava, e duas cadeiras vazias estendiam os braçøs em falsa hospitalidade aos fregueses que cruzavam a porta.
Então, um cosmopolita sentou-se em uma delas, e fiquei feliz porque sempre nutri uma teoria de que, depois de Adão, jamais existiria outro cidadão do mundo. Ouvimos falar do tipo, claro, e sempre nos deparamos com bagagens repletas de etiquetas de países estrangeiros, mas o que temos ali são viajantes, e não cosmopolitas.

Costa Pinto explained that the solutions shown here arose from the concerns just mentioned, and from the particular syntax structure and the specificity of the terms and letters. He suggested that, since the book is now in public domain, we could compare a few parts of it if we were interested in learning more. According to him, each short story is full of rich content and intricate semantic surprises that culminate in an unexpected finale, which is another pleasant quality of O. Henry’s work. In the end, the readers become aware that, had they paid attention to leads throughout the story, reading calmly, not fleetingly, they would have anticipated what surprises were in store. No doubt it is a riveting book.

Next in the session came the second and the third parts, delivered by Karen Sotelino and Adam Morris, respectively. Given the intensity and richness of the content they shared, I will review their presentations later in two independent blog posts.

In his conclusion, Jayme Costa pointed out how Machado and O. Henry stand apart from João Gilberto Noll. They have totally different standpoints, mainly historical. The former two express a dose of social concern, featuring few non-explicit critical social comments. Machado showed somewhat more consistency, as the historic moment allowed. Noll rarely offers optimistic points about the human nature. He talks about dysfunctional people such as a drug addict, or about nonconformists such as people who fall far from gender stereotypes. In fact, he entices his readers by addressing such points and exploring the same ‘speed’ and ‘urgency’ elucidated in the poem by Augusto de Campos. As I will discuss in my next posts, Morris also talked about Noll’s vivid, cinematographic depictions, as well as his descriptions of non-pragmatic, dysfunctional, self-reliant individuals who are characteristic of the modern world in a century marked by problems and catastrophes. Despite the different points of view among the three authors, we are still able to bring them together under the rubric of “place” and “space” and demonstrate that translating them is indeed fascinating.

To be continued…


eleniceElenice Barbosa de Araujo is an independent English<>Br-Portuguese translator based in São Paulo. She has a degree in translation and interpreting from the Associação Alumni and a bachelor’s degree in Education, from the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo. In her fifteen years as a professional translator and proofreader, she has worked for the main Brazilian publishing houses and has translated several fiction and nonfiction books, and magazine articles.