Thaïs Lipps Interviews Ivo Korytowski

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Thaïs Lipps (PLD Leadership Council member)

In my visit to Brazil last December, I interviewed Ivo Korytowski for the PLD blog. We use and love his glossary; it was time to learn a little more about the man behind it.

Because Ivo is well known, not only for his glossary, but also for his books about Rio and its history, I thought that the Confeitaria Colombo at Posto 6 would be the ideal place to meet: it is traditional and well-located for enjoying Copacabana beach views. We discovered that, unfortunately, it’s closed on Mondays, so we walked to Pigalle, a restaurant nearby, and talked for more than two hours over guaraná and pastéis.



T.L.: Ivo, what is your formal education?

I.K.: I have a degree in philosophy.

T.L.: How did you become a translator?

I.K.: I was working for a large company when I had an identity crisis. I knew I had to do something different. I decided to take a six-month sabbatical and enrolled in Daniel Brilhante de Brito’s translators and interpreters course. He was a genius! He spoke over twenty languages, including Sanskrit, Ancient Greek, Latin, Finnish…

T.L.: How many languages do you speak?

I.K.: Brazilian Portuguese is the only language that I speak perfectly. I also speak: English, German, because my parents were German Jews and my mother insisted that we speak German at home, and French. I attended school in the afternoons and hung around in the mornings, so my father sent me to study French, so that I would wake up early and do something useful. I am grateful to him for my having learned French; he enjoyed traveling and spoke French, Italian, and Portuguese without an accent. Like him, I have always had an affinity for languages.

T.L.: Do you also translate from French?

I.K.: A little. I have translated from German as well, but I specialize in English due to a predominantly English market.

T.L.: Do you also research in several languages?

I.K.: Sure, from Spanish for instance, it can be very useful. I also like to read in multiple languages and make connections. Prof. Daniel de Brito used to do that; he could be using a term in English, but knew the roots to make connections with German and other Indo-European languages. He was the expert, and I am only an amateur, but I love it!

I’m a frustrated writer because I never published my literary work. I am considering self-publishing now. I write books according to opportunities.

T.L.: But that is part of the path…

I.K.: That’s true; it’s part of the path.

T.L.: You have been successful with your linguistic books.

I.K.: My books Português Prático and Erros Nunca Mais were released six months prior to the spelling reform, and the publisher was a little upset, because they became outdated so quickly. I offered to do a revision, which they turned down, but then I released a new, updated edition with a different publisher.

From here, I will go to the Municipal for the release of Guia de Bens Tombados do Rio. It’s a book that always sells.

T.L.: How about the Acordo Ortográfico, did it sell?

I.K.: It sold well at the time. I also like my booklet on tips for improving style. It is a small and inexpensive book called A Arte da Escrita, and is based on my experience, as well as what I learned from my masters, like Prof. Ivan Proença, among others.

T.L.: Why don’t you also have an electronic version of the Acordo Ortográfico?

I.K.: Because copyrights are transferred to the publisher for six or seven years, and they have the electronic version, as well as A Arte da Escrita and Sopa no Mel, which are books of curiosities.

I also published O Manual do Poeta, a book about poetry: rules, poetic resources and techniques. It was released some time ago and always sells, but not enough for me to become famous. [LOL] I had the opportunity to study poetry for many years at Prof. Ivan Proença’s Oficina Literária. I can tell from the number of invitations for new releases of poetry books that there are plenty of poets these days.

T.L.: What is your creative process like? How do you choose and decide what to add to the glossary?

I.K.: The creative process is a consequence of my translations. Everything new is a new entry in the glossary, either a new meaning of a word already documented in the glossary or a brand new word; it all depends on my translation work. My notes from Daniel’s course were the triggering agent; they were the foundation of the glossary. I started writing by hand when there were no computers.

T.L.: You must be very disciplined!

I.K.: Well, I had all these notes, and one day I thought I should gather them all in a Word file for my own reference. Then, when Babylon started, I just couldn’t stop using it! And I wanted to figure out a way to insert my glossary into Babylon. That was when I found out about the Babylon Builder! Do you know it?

T.L.: Yes, I do, but I haven’t been able to use it.

I.K.: It opens a little window where you can insert a new word whenever you want. I use the older version. I think that the newer versions are not so good.

T.L.: I thought that Babylon 6 was better than the current one.

I.K.: I am still on Babylon 5 on my two computers, and I am going to use it until a new Windows system will not take it anymore. I’m also behind on my operating systems because I think they used to be simpler.

T.L.: What CAT tools do you use?

I.K.: I translate directly on Word.

T.L.: So you don’t use Trados, Wordfast…?

I.K.: No, I work straight on Word and with my own proprietary tools, because only I have the memory; it’s all in my mind.

T.L.: Don’t you worry about consistency?

I.K.: This is not an issue in literary translation; the level of repetition is very low. But I have a shorthand method that I developed over two and a half decades, where I only type 30%. I go on “short-handing”, and Word automatically turns it into text.

T.L.: How did you come up with the idea of publishing this glossary, and why the partnership with Babylon?

I.K.: It started when I decided to transfer my personal Word glossary to Babylon Builder. One day, I decided to upload it on Babylon to share with other translators, as well as, in some ways, to be known and to sell my other books.

T.L.: Do you plan to release a hard copy of your glossary?

I.K.: No, I don’t think it makes sense for the translator to consult a printed dictionary; it takes too much time!

T.L.: It looks like other glossary writers do not want an electronic version of their glossaries, maybe for fear of illegal copies.

I.K.: With Amazon, there can be no illegal copies. You cannot pass it on to third parties as a *.doc file, for example. Amazon authorizes the download, on the desktop, on kindle, tablet, etc. The advantage is to be able to consult wherever you are.

T.L.: How often do you update your glossary?

I.K.: Every day from Monday to Friday.

T.L.: So what you have just launched is already obsolete?

I.K.: It has new things already because I translate every day. And sometimes, over the weekend, if I’m watching a movie, listening in English and reading the subtitles in Portuguese, or reading a book, if I get an idea, I stop everything, go to the computer and make a new entry in the glossary.

T.L.: Your dictionary is for translators. What is the difference between yours and the others?

I.K.: I don’t know if it is useful for the non-translator. Perhaps in this case the Michaelis dictionary is more useful, more organized in terms of classification: adjective, noun, verb and so on. My dictionary is chaotic. It’s like jazz, something that emerges in an impromptu fashion and has solutions for translators. But, for the layperson who is reading a book in English and wants to consult a word, perhaps Michaelis would be more organized and comprehensive.

T.L.: How do you validate terms, especially questionable and problematic cases?

I.K.: I focus on the point of view of the translator, who is more concerned with the abstract connotation of the words, rather than on the lexicographer’s point of view. My glossary has solutions that are a result of 25 years of translation.

T.L.: Your new dictionary at Amazon, can I download it to Babylon?

I.K.: Yes, you can, all you have to do is to send me a copy of payment to Amazon, and I will send the file for Babylon. My glossary is EN > PT, but on kindle you can search PT > EN. The glossary on the Babylon server will no longer be updated; you need to buy the eBook to receive free updates for a low price. It is only US$10.00.

T.L.: Where does the right side of your brain meet the left side? When do they get together?

I.K.: Thaïs, like you said, for example, when you are translating a contract, there is a moment when you get stuck figuring out what the equivalent is in another language. So the creative process is this quest of corresponding between languages, and that’s what makes both sides communicate.

T.L.: What do you think of the translation market in Brazil?

I.K.: The market is much bigger than when I began. To start with, there are all these cable TV channels and the software industry, for example. I felt it clearly when I facilitated the ProZ Conference. I saw a whole new generation of young translators and was happy, because in the past, translators were a minority; it was almost like being a monk, something kind of crazy. Being a monk is a very lonely profession, as that of a translator used to be. But nowadays, we interact over the Internet, Facebook… We all work in a virtual room. And to see all these young people using my glossary makes me very happy!


Thaïs Lips, PLD Leadership Council member, translates mainly with the language pairs English < > Portuguese, specializing in legal, finances, social sciences and pharmaceuticals. She is a contracted court interpreter with the State of Colorado Judicial Branch and also a conference interpreter. Thaïs is president of the CTA, Colorado Translators Association (ATA Chapter), where she is dedicated to organizing year-around professional development workshops, and their annual conference. Find more information on her website.

One Comment

  1. Parabéns Thais. Ótima entrevista.

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