Thursday, May 30, 2013

Interview with Débora C. de D’Eramo, English-Spanish Translator

It seems that many scientific and technical translators take a roundabout path in their careers. Is that true for you? Tell us about how you became a translator with your specialization.

After graduating from college in 2000, I started teaching English as a foreign language. For personal reasons, in 2004 I decided to shift my career and I enrolled in a 3-year course in translation and interpretation through a college in my home town, Rosario. I enjoyed it very much and did really well in all subjects, particularly technical and scientific translations involving very specific texts. I developed my main specialization (life science) over years of working for major international clients in the pharmaceutical and health care fields. I also worked for 2 years as a project manager for a language service provider focused on life science translation, which gave me the chance to gain experience working with different document types.
Was it challenging for you to combine your scientific and linguistic interests? What advice would you give to translators or interpreters just starting their careers?
I’m sort of a research geek, meaning that I just love preparing for a translation, researching terminology and compiling glossaries. So, although scientific translation may at times seem daunting, I really enjoy the feeling that comes with producing a high-quality text. I’m also thankful that I’m able to learn a lot from the different texts I translate/edit.
I would strongly advise junior translators to develop a specialization, be it technical or not. Specialization is the key to income security and client retention, in the words of consultant Jessica Rathke. Specialization can help recent graduates improve their professional image so they can work with high-value agencies and clients. You could start translating material for an NGO as a way of gaining experience and having something to put in your resume. There are lot of reliable sources on the Internet (World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, etc.) from which you can download documents in your source and target languages. You could use these texts to practice your translation skills and then compare the results with the target, or even use the texts in parallel to extract terminology that will be useful for your work later. Developing a specialization, particularly in this field, is just a matter of time and hard work, so just don’t give up!
A last piece of advice would be to join a professional translation association like ATA or IAPTI (International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters) to network with colleagues, and perhaps join a mentoring program to learn from the pros and get advice on business practices.
What is unique about your skill set? What sets you apart?
Like I mentioned earlier, I’m very good at researching terminology, which is a main advantage when working in scientific/technical projects. Another skill I mention when pitching to potential clients is writing in the target language (Spanish in my case). It never ceases to amaze me when I see how often the target language is neglected in favor of the source. Sure, it’s great to have an excellent command of your source language but if you can’t write properly in your target language, then the whole intended message will simply not come across. So I’m really quite proud of being able to produce well-written, easy-to-follow texts in Spanish. Last but not least, in an effort to provide my clients with a full-range service, I’ve partnered with an editor and a DTP (desktop publishing) artist so that I can offer a product that’s ready to print.
What is your favorite type of text to translate or interpreting assignment? What makes it fun for you?
I would say that 80% of the work I do is related to the pharmaceutical and health care industries. Document types range from SmPCs (summaries of product characteristics), core data sheets, validation documentation, clinical trial reports, informed consent forms and the like. Over the years, I’ve learned to love my specialization so I truly enjoy working in these projects. It always make me smile when I go to the drugstore and see a medication for which I’ve recently translated material and it further strengthens my resolution to always produce high-quality work, as inaccuracy in my field can jeopardize health or life.
Are there any resources you use when translating that you’d like to share with readers?
There are indeed several resources I rely on, and I’ll be sharing them in a series of blog posts which my colleague Tess Whitty will be posting. I can mention some now, though:
RxList, a comprehensive drug indexer

MedlinePlus, bilingual (EN-ES) site sponsored by the US National Library of Medicine, offering updated information on drugs, diseases and conditions

ICD-10, the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems

How can readers learn more about you and connect with you?
My website:
My Twitter account, where I share links and resources for technical translators: @AccuWordsTrans
You can email me at: dc.deramo(at)

Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Resources for scientific and technical translators

Débora C. de D’Eramo, an English>Spanish translator, has kindly agreed to share her excellent resources for technical and scientific translations. These contain links to online terminology databases, glossaries, dictionaries and more and are listed below.

Terminology databases

AGROVOC – FAO multilingual terminology database (+30,000 terms in 22 languages)

The CIMAC Lexicon - Multilingual lexicon of technical terms used in the internal combustion engine and gas turbine industries

Electropedia - Multilingual electrical and electronical terminology database (+20,000 terms)


Glosario de términos estadísticos en inglés y español

Multilingual glossary on nanotechnologies – EU

ATSDR (bilingual EN-ES site) – Glossary of environmental health terms

Dictionaries & Thesaurus

Biology Online Dictionary (EN monolingual) – Editable dictionary with +60,000 entries

Glosario hablado de términos genéticos – NHGRI (Spanish)

Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body (English, with illustrations)


TinEye, reverse image search tool

Débora C. de D’Eramo is an English>Spanish translation specialist with a freelance practice focused on life science, technology and business. She has more than 10 years of experience in the field and has worked on pharmaceuticals, health care and scientific projects. You can find her at her website, or follow her on Twitter (@AccuWordsTrans). Contact: dc.deramo(at) 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Interview with Alicja Yarborough, PhD, English-Polish Scientific Translator

It seems that many scientific and technical translators take a roundabout path in their careers. Is that true for you? Tell us about how you became a translator with your specialization.
There was no defining moment. While studying chemistry in Poland, translating scientific articles from English to Polish was part of what I needed to do to complete my classwork. Due to this early exposure I became a scientific and technical translator without really realizing it. I learned to translate technical writing gradually, while working on research of scientific publications in both English and Polish.
While living in Princeton, NJ, I sent my resume to a local translation agency that assigned me to translate for a multi-national contract research organization. After moving 6 years ago to Washington, DC, requests from other clients followed. At some point I decided to change my career and focus on translation work. There were several reasons for that decision: flexibility; working from home; time to produce high-quality translations; interesting projects from several clients; etc.
Was it challenging for you to combine your scientific and linguistic interests? What advice would you give to translators or interpreters just starting their careers?
The technical part was not challenging at all. It just developed over many years. At school I was very interested in not only chemistry but also languages and writing. It was hard for me in high school to decide what to study. Eventually I decided on chemistry (to some extent due to my parents asking me, “So what will do with your language/writing degree?”).
Now the real challenge is keeping updated because the language is constantly changing. By reading a lot in both languages and accepting a variety of science and medical documents to translate, I find it easy to stay up to date. In addition, occasionally I undertake interpretation assignments to keep up with medical terminology and the language used by the court systems. Also I enjoy meeting people in these places with new stories to tell.
The most surprising and challenging part of the translation profession is the fact that we need to constantly market ourselves. As a scientist I was judged by the amount of papers which I published and the quality of the journal. As a translator, I needed to learn also how to run a business. I remember well one of the very helpful workshops on business led by Marian Greenfield. I use the tips that I learned there all of the time.
My advice is to take continuing education courses, have courses online, and read daily (out loud sometimes) in your languages. Learning from discussions with colleagues is invaluable.
What is unique about your skill set? What sets you apart?
My Master and PhD degrees in chemistry and biochemistry give me a better understanding of technical texts. Most importantly working as a scientist gave me the tools for conducting thorough research in any field and finding the correct terminology.
An in-depth knowledge of my fields in both languages has been tremendously helpful. While studying and working in academic research labs in Poland and at several medical scientific institutions in the US, including Columbia University, I learned how to reliably translate documents on a wide scope of technical subjects.
What is your favorite type of interpreting assignment or text to translate? What makes it fun for you?
I enjoy translating scientific papers and patents. I spend a lot of time on researching these texts in order to be scientifically correct. It is fun because I really enjoy the intellectual challenge of digging into the details of a field.
Can you describe a project that you’re most proud of, or one that was particularly memorable?
One of the more memorable projects was a patent that had detailed descriptions of chemical reactions. I knew that there was no room for even one error in the translation because the entire patent might be jeopardized, resulting in substantial setback in research and waste of development money.
Are there any resources you use when translating that you’d like to share with readers?
For medical texts, I refer to, a subscription information source primarily used by US physicians. When I have questions about the surgical technique or medical diagnosis terminology, this is a good source for producing better translations. More importantly, I feel comfortable that clinicians and medical researchers will more fully comprehend the text rendered as it was in the original document if you better understand their specialty. Additionally, this site has a large section on pharmaceutical agents, listed by generic and brand (retail) names. The various brand names for each medicine are listed for every country. Drugs typically have different names depending on where they are sold, so this is very important.
How can readers learn more about you and connect with you?
Contacts are most welcome. I am on LinkedIn. My email address is I am also working on a dedicated webpage.
The SciTech Division events at ATA's Annual Conferences have been a wonderful place to learn about others in the field. I’d also love to get involved with ATA’s mentoring program in the future.