Here at Rapport International we believe that our greatest assets, what makes us stand out from the rest, are our professional translators and interpreters. They are the best in the business, and we’d like to share their stories. This month we are spotlighting CM (name withheld for privacy), a translator, who has been with Rapport International for over 30 years. In CM’s own words:
Besides English, what languages do you speak and/or translate?
Spanish is my native language, so that is the language I translate into. I audited some Portuguese classes when I was in graduate school, enough to conduct business transactions with Brazilian clients. I can also read some Italian, and I am currently studying Latin.
What is your background and story (where are you from, if you were not born in the US when did you come to the US if you did; how did you come to speak more than one language, etc.)?
I grew up in Argentina and came to the US for the first time in 1971 at age 17 through an American Field Service scholarship. I spent an incredible year in Williamstown, Massachusetts living with a great American family. I knew little English when I arrived and, in spite of being the best student in my high school class in Argentina, I collected a good share of bad grades then. I had enjoyed a natural ability with English since elementary school, but my knowledge was limited to what I learned in school where English was taught as a foreign language. In 1981, I returned to the US to attend graduate school, where my limited English was again a challenge.
What country do you live in now?
I have lived in the United States, in the state of Connecticut since 1981, with a few brief interruptions, which included living in Kingston, Massachusetts, which is how I came into contact with Rapport International.
Why did you become a translator?
A mysterious medical problem that would go undiagnosed for many years forced me to resign an academic position at Texas Christian University. I had done some translations over the years but never professionally. Thinking my illness would resolve in a brief period of time, I started to do translations in order to pay my bills while my medical issue was sorted out. When the diagnosis and treatment eventually came, I found myself in a peculiar situation: I loved what I did for a living and could not think about doing anything else. This job has all the ingredients that make me thrive intellectually, personally and professionally, so in spite of my medical difficulties, this was a silver lining.
How did you become qualified as a translator (Training and experience)?
I am an avid reader, particularly academic works. I read about translations, both from a theoretical and a practical perspective. I am deeply curious about all things intellectual and want to know as much as I can about a number of subjects. I try to stay current on issues related to translation and technology and have completed a number of training courses online. I open up avenues of academic inquiry with an eye towards expanding my translation reach. The most significant decision in terms of my qualifications was to present my credentials to the Institute of Translation and Interpreting in London, where I was granted Qualified Status (Economics) in 2003 with the recent addition of ISO certification.
What joys do you get from your work?
The thing I enjoy the most is the changing nature of the content before me. I could be working on health reports, financial newsletters and legal documents all in the same day. That constant requirement to learn about new topics and issues related to their terminology keep my interest. Once a translation agency assigns me a particular project, I take ownership of the account and do everything necessary to become the best possible provider. I go looking for information everywhere, and present questions that would help me determine how to do the best possible job. I have been known to make phone calls around the world to speak with experts just to determine if one specific term I was considering was accepted by those who know more than I. Some time ago, I was involved with projects that actually required coming up with new terminology given new discoveries in the field. I thrive when I am presented with a challenge.
What advice would you give to a company looking to have their first translation done?
First, I would advise them to do their due diligence. Because I have dealt with probably more than a hundred translation companies during my career as a freelance translator, I can tell them apart in an instant. They are not all the same. While price considerations are paramount, there is no reason why quality has to take a second seat to price. Second, I would tell them to ask a lot of questions. The general public in the US is not as familiar with foreign languages as Europeans are. Therefore, many times, companies do not ask critical questions when considering a translation agency. And third, my suggestion would be to get at least three different quotes and ask detailed questions about how each quote was put together. As happens with everything else, most of the time you get what you pay for.
What do you do outside of work?
When I am not translating, I am usually reading or doing some light carpentry work. Manual work is a great way to rest my mind, so I am always working on something around the house. I also enjoy writing, both as an academic and as a journalist. Until a few years ago, I wrote a weekly column that evolved into a live segment on radio and TV in my Argentine hometown. I also devote a lot of my free time to my academic interests, and I am currently developing a number of online courses to be taught at some point in the future.
What other interesting things would you like to share about yourself personally?
I am an avid musician and songwriter. From a very early age, I fell in love with Argentine folk music, and that love has deepened and grown over the years. I started playing the classical guitar at age 7 and continue to play to this day. I have home-recorded two compact discs with my own songs, which I give away to friends and family. I have discovered that writing poetry and creating songs is an extension of my work as a translator. I am lucky that my wife lets me live in a house where music is a constant presence. I own a small guitar collection, and I am always doing something related to my music.
Do you have any favorite memories or things you want to share from your culture or history?
There is no doubt that the thing I miss the most is the music. At age 14, I was part of a youth folk group that performed professionally in different venues. I was the lead guitar and voice. It was a wonderful experience, and even later, I enjoyed the spontaneous gatherings with other musicians just to make music. I also miss the food, because Argentina is a country of immigrants where you can enjoy just about anything, including fine wines. I also lived there during painful historical periods of political unrest and egregious human rights problems. My love for the country and my concern for its institutional troubles prompted me to become academically involved with the social sciences and the humanities.
What other interesting things would you like to share about experience professionally (any fun or heartwarming stories our readers need to know)?
I have been perplexed by the number of requests I receive from people who come across my work as a translator, mainly, regarding very personal and private matters. In three separate instances, I was approached by individuals who were pursuing a relationship with someone in Latin America but could not speak the language. I was touched that they would trust me with their own personal love letters. Another person asked me to write up a toast because his sister was marrying a Spanish speaking individual, and he wanted to say something in Spanish in front of everyone. I receive requests from Spanish speaking individuals who are applying to the US Armed Forces and need documentation translated. Many families who are adopting Latin American children sometimes ask for my help. The most challenging assignment I ever worked on involved a negotiation between a U.S. company that was purchasing a subsidiary in Spain. I was instrumental in translating all the documentation involved and helped negotiate the final purchase agreement. Every day is a new challenge, and this is the reason I love my job.
What other positive thoughts do you have about yourself, other translators, your work, or Rapport International?
There is a misperception about the translation industry in general, which has recently become more acute due to the proliferation of translation software programs. A lot of people call me to ask how to become a translator. I usually advise them to sit down and attempt to write a short translation sample. They usually call back to tell me they did not know how difficult it was. Translation requires a lot more than people think. I have enjoyed working with excellent translators around the world, who have helped me to improve myself as a professional. Likewise, working for Rapport International has been one of the highlights of my career. I appreciate their commitment to excellence, their respect for translators as professionals, and the values that define their corporate culture. It is an honor to continue to help a company such as Rapport International grow and thrive in what is a very cluttered and challenging industry.
We hope you enjoyed reading CM’s story. Join us again to meet another one of our extraordinary professionals, the heart and soul of Rapport International.
Rapport International is a full-service interpreting and translation company. We provide high-quality, professional translation services to clients all over the world. Quality in-person interpreting services are available in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska and surrounding areas, as well as in Massachusetts, and through New England.
Please contact us for assistance and guidance with your interpreting and translation needs.