Monday, August 24, 2015

Introducing New Assistant Administrator for the Science and Technology Division

Interview with Carola F. Berger, PhD, English into German Translator 

Can you tell the readers a bit about yourself?
Some colleagues in the Science and Technology Division will know me as the bicycling physicist with the funny Austrian accent from my presentations at previous ATA conferences. This obviously warrants an explanation: I was born and raised in Austria, where I also obtained a Master’s degree in engineering physics, which explains the accent. I then moved to the US as a Fulbright scholar to study theoretical physics. After obtaining my PhD and a brief one-year interlude in Italy, I moved back to the US and stayed, at first pursuing a research career in particle physics, which explains the physicist. And to compensate for all those hours sitting in front of the computer and to recharge my neuronal batteries with fresh air and nature, I ride my bicycle (nearly) every day, which explains the cycling.
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.
Indeed, I switched careers in 2010 and am now an ATA-certified English into German translator specializing in the translation of technical and scientific texts, such as patents, user manuals, whitepapers, and the like. However, I don’t view my career path as roundabout as it might seem. Particle physics is essentially a somewhat peculiar combination of engineering, applied mathematics and (a lot of) computer programming, so that is how I obtained my scientific and technical expertise. And although most of my physics publications were written with co-authors, I was always heavily involved in the actual writing process, simply because I really like to write. I also love to read and I seem to have languages in my genes, since both my parents were language teachers before they retired, and my sister is a language teacher as well. After the fact, it almost seems inevitable that I ended up as a translator, because it combines the mysteries of researching a new—to me or, in the case of patents, to everybody—device or method with the joy of writing.
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?
As I mentioned above, it seems almost inevitable that I am combining my scientific and linguistic interests as a scientific and technical translator, and in fact, my first few projects appeared almost accidentally out of thin air. Nevertheless, the first year was tough, but it helped to join ATA and peruse all the great resources, like the ATA Business Practices mailing list, the various online resources on the ATA website, and of course the ATA Divisions and Chapters, in my case the Science and Technology Division and the German Language Division, as well as the Northern California Translators Association, my local ATA chapter. That’s also the reason I am involved in the S&TD leadership council, as a way to show my appreciation for all the help I have received and continue receiving.
So one piece of advice I would give new translators and interpreters is to use these resources—there is no need to reinvent the wheel all by yourself.
Can you describe a project that you’re most proud of, or one that was particularly memorable?
My absolute favorite project to date was a patent for a novel bicycle component, because it combines not just two, but three of my passions: science, language, and bicycling. Thus, translating this particular patent was pure joy.
How can readers learn more about you and connect with you?

I have a website at with a blog section, where I occasionally write blog posts about all sorts of scientific, technical, and translation-related topics. Aside from Facebook, where I am currently co-moderating the S&TD Facebook group, I am also on LinkedIn  and Xing. And of course I will be at the upcoming ATA Annual Conference in Miami. I hope to see you there!

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