Looking at the Translation Industry with Fresh Eyes

Today I had the opportunity to sit with my dear friend and fellow Brazilian translator Cris Silva and have an online conversation about the translation industry. Cris teaches at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and invited me to talk to her students―who are working towards their Master's Degree in Translation & Interpretation―about what it is like to be a professional translator. This informal interview was intended to give students some guidelines and ideas on how to interview a translator in their language combination in order to learn more about the reality in their market for that segment of the industry.

Among so many things, we talked about getting your foot in the door as a beginner translator, the main challenges translators have to face, how to seek continuing education opportunities and find a specialization, using social media to establish contacts in the industry, networking with clients and colleagues, building a sustainable translation business, and work-life balance (i.e. having kids and working from home.)

Even though the purpose of our conversation was to shed some light on the profession so that students could have a better idea of what's in store for them, I greatly benefited from our talk because it gave me an opportunity to look at the translation industry with fresh eyes.

Having worked as a translator for the past 18 years―first as a more sporadic activity to complement my income as a language instructor, then part time while in college, until the complete transition to full-time translator and business owner―I sometimes forget what it was like to learn the ropes and explore a new professional territory. The little things I take for granted nowadays, because I've been doing them for so long, are the same things that looked like insurmountable obstacles I was unsure whether I'd be able to overcome.

The learning curve is indeed steep, but when you're passionate about what you do, you are able to come out on the other side wiser and with a few scars you can be proud of.

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.*