ATA Science & Technology Division is for translators of texts relating to science and technology. This blog is for specialized technical translators who can benefit from the networking, terminology research, and professional development opportunities offered by other translators specializing in technical or scientific fields.
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.
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.
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?
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
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
Are there any resources you use when
translating that you’d like to share with readers?
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