In this issue, Mónica Machado is interviewed about her experience in translating documentation on social sciences and international humanitarian aid for African Portuguese countries and Angola in particular
Interviewer – In what way are subjects on social sciences and international humanitarian aid different from your other areas of expertise?
MM – The main difference is that social sciences and international humanitarian aid are subjects that relate directly to people’s welfare. When translating about hunger, food scarcity and lack of housing, water or sanitation, we need to be sensitive towards the people affected by these daily problems which are often hard to imagine while standing from our own European comfortable perspectives.
Interviewer – Apart the human nature of these subjects, is translation research any different for these subject areas?
MM – No, not really. We need to determine which research facilities are more reliable both in terms of subject matters and terminology. As in other technical areas, it is essential to select well-informed sources, such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) or the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and reputable national organisations such as Government bodies in the countries for which the documents to be translated are intended.
Interviewer – Is there much cooperation between translators and authors in these fields?
MM – Certainly. No matter how well we have researched the theme and the corresponding terminology in our target language, authors often have terminology or style preferences we need to be aware of. In my areas of work, I often translate texts which are then proofread by the text authors themselves, as they are simultaneously the authors of the material to be translated and the in-country reviewers of the translation itself. In these cases, it is normal to receive feedback once the translation is delivered, or even be asked to go back to the reviewed translation to make sure the reviewers have been consistent during the translation reviewing process.
Interviewer – So, in those cases, are you, the translator, allowed to change the reviewer’s work?
MM – In those cases, we work as a team and the translator is the language expert allowed to make sure the reviewer has been consistent with his/her changes and has not input any grammar, syntax or spelling mistakes. Remember that, often, authors are subject experts rather than language experts and for a translation to be perfect we need a good symbiosis between these two areas.
Interviewer – Any advice for younger translators trying to get into this exciting new area?
MM – My advice would be to read a lot of technical documentation in this area and to put themselves in the shoes of those young children that have no regular food, no clean water, no sanitation and no schools. This exercise will stimulate empathy and then translators will be a bit more ready to start providing good translations in the areas of social sciences and international humanitarian aid.
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