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Talking Translation with Marygrove Professor, Dr. Lourdes Torres


Lourdes_TorresIf you are an aspiring translator or interpreter and you’re thinking about plunging head first into the field, we thought you might first be interested in hearing a few helpful words of advice from a seasoned expert: Dr. Lourdes M. Torres, Assistant Professor of Modern Languages (Spanish & French) at Marygrove College.

Q: How were you introduced to translation?

Lourdes Torres: My father took me to an Engineering conference when I was sixteen; I saw the interpreters working in booths, going back and forth in 5 different languages. I was impressed with their abilities. Since then, I knew that I wanted to work in translation.  

Q: Could you talk a bit about your experience as a translator/interpreter? What kind of work have you done?

Lourdes Torres: As most translators from my generation, I found work in translation because I had an academic foreign language background. Even though I had taken a translation class in college, I learned translation through practice, trial and error. While in graduate school, during the summer, I would do temporary work. I started in a hospital, translating correspondence for patients who did not speak English. I also worked in an engineering department, translating construction procedures. This experience led me to working in a translation company, translating ISO manuals for the automotive industry.  

Q: How likely do you think it is for translators/interpreters make a sustainable living in this line of work? Do they need to supplement the profession with another source of income?

Lourdes Torres: Most beginning translators will find temporary work right away, but they must continue to work with two or three translation agencies before finding full-time, permanent work. A new translator must build a relation with clients—and that takes time. I know language teachers who work part time as translators to supplement their income; I also know translators who work as language instructors while building their translation career.  

Q: Is it necessary to pursue a degree or certificate in translation studies? In other words, can translators still be translators without a degree?

Lourdes Torres: There are still many companies and organizations that are not familiar with the translation profession and will hire a bilingual person to translate. But knowledge of another language does not imply proficiency in translation.  

The companies and agencies that pay well require a translation degree or passing the ATA certificate exam. In order to be able to take the exam, the student must have taken courses in an ATA accredited program.  

Q:  Why is translation important to you? How does this line of work impact the world?

Lourdes Torres: With businesses and organizations expanding to other countries and continents, communication is key to success. To be able to transfer knowledge from one language to another is the most important aspect of translation. It impacts individuals as well as communities. 

Q:  Do you have any advice for aspiring translators?

Lourdes Torres: To master a craft such as translation, it requires constant work. It is important to read a variety of texts to augment vocabulary in both languages. Languages are constantly changing and one must keep abreast of these changes. Being a new translator sometimes means working unpaid internships in order to gain more experience and build a professional network.
Q: Is there any information or advice you think a prospective student should be armed with before jumping into the field?

Lourdes Torres: Knowing the linguistic differences between languages is vital and so is being able to convey meaning. To become a recognized member of a profession one must belong to a professional network, such as attending translation conferences or being a member of a professional association.