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!

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