Dic 17

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Servicing out of your comfort zone

As I landed in Mississippi two years ago, I knew I was facing great challenges ahead of me: getting used to the culture from the south and an unknown new market in the translation industry. I felt confident that for over five years, I have done mainly translations and occasionally interpretations in the education field. However, as I dealt with all the things that involve moving to a new city and getting to know your surroundings in the small city of Columbus, I was not prepared for the fact that in my language combination (Eng-Spa) there is an inexistent demand for it and a dormant Hispanic community scattered all around. Despite the fact, I was surprised a few months ago to receive a request from a local steel company to provide interpretation services as they had bought a machine from Spain and the design engineer was coming to oversee the overall functioning of it as well as some mechanical problems on the line.

For what the client described over the phone sounded as an interpretation of common technical jargon, such as what knobs to turn on or off, what blades should be changed, how to uncoil or recoil the material, or at what speed each part of the line should be working. Although, I felt pleasantly surprised and capable of such simplistic opportunity, the truth was that I was out of my comfort zone by accepting this assignment. Thus, after satisfactory completion of it, I came up with a checklist that might help others when servicing out of your specialized areas:

1. Clarify before you start. In my initial conversations with the client, he kept talking about translation as actions for written material and conversations over the phone and in person. So, I put on my “teacher” hat and politely explained the differences between translation and interpretation and what each required.

2. Get to know the environment. In this case, getting acquaintance with the physical characteristics from the location as well as the people was essential for the success of the assignment. I was told from the beginning no formal dress or suit, instead casual clothes, no open toe-shoe or high heels as sharp material could be laying around. I always wore a hard hat while in the line, and most important dealing with loud noise which it hindered the interpretation process occasionally.

3. Study ahead of time. I had two weeks to prepare myself and got my hands on all sorts of material related to steel production, including the company’s pamphlets, drawings and videos.

4. Expect the unexpected. As the project progressed and we got familiar with each other’s way of conveying information and working schedules, I got myself interpreting from bad jokes, to slangs and rough language, and even interpreting over dinners with particular unusual topics like soccer, American football and philosophy.

5. Share your experience. If you got a positive or negative experience, or can provide an important link to a publication, or a glossary, or just as a reference, share your experience whether it is with another colleague, or in a blog, or as a comment deriving from an article you read and reminded you of something. Don’t let it go unpublished.

If you feel that you can add some more points to the checklist or would like to comment on any aspect of my story, I would like to invite to do so and leave your comment below.


Mariangela Schmidt

Traductora especializada en Estudios Clínicos y Energías Renovables.
Combinación EN>ES

Alumna del curso de AulaSIC Web 2.0 para traductores



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