For this second and last interview of March 2013, I interviewed Ildikó Santana, highly dedicated Hungarian/English translator who puts her translation and language skills to the service of worthy causes such as the GoodPlanet project or the FAIRstart program, via Translators without Borders. She’s the winner of Translators without Borders’ Right to Knowledge Award, but also Language lead for Hungarian and global coordinator of the Wikipedia – WikiProject Medicine Translation Task Force. In this interview we discussed her background, her humanitarian projects and many other things…
Related interview: Simon Andriesen in December 2012 about the translator training center in Kenya. Read the interview here.
Hi Ildikó! Tell us a bit about yourself, your background – what got you where you are now?
I am an English<>Hungarian freelance translator and editor and have lived in California for the past 14 years. The majority of my work comes from agencies, and I have a few long-term corporate clients. I specialize in law (legislation and contracts primarily), business and finance. I am a native of Budapest, Hungary, where I had lived for 35 years. After quickly rejecting to follow either of my parents career path (a mechanical engineer and a radiologist) I decided to pursue a career in arts. My two passions have always been languages and creative arts. I majored in English and graphic arts, I studied Russian and English as diligently as I did watercolor and woodworking. After passing my state language exam in English, I went to art school and did my internship as a store-front window designer. Soon, a unique opportunity of on-the-job training in animation came along.
You started your career as a graphic designer and an Animation Artist for the Hungarian TV. How did you come to the translation profession?
Although animation was great fun, after a few years I realized I needed a “real” job that paid the bills (I was a single mom at the time). I’ve always had an inherent curiosity and insatiable appetite for puzzles and the written word. While working as an office manager for a London-based financial advisory firm, a few great opportunities and amazing professionals helped me to re-train as a translator and to gain hands-on experience in legal and financial translation and interpretation. I also spent 2 years as managing editor for an online magazine. I really enjoy working with people of various nationalities and backgrounds from all over the world, and the Internet has made this possible. Over the past 20 years, translation has become far more than just a job, it is my passion and daily source of satisfaction. Each text, each segment is a challenging puzzle, waiting to be solved. Just like arts, this work also offers plenty of opportunities to be creative and satisfies my appetite for constant learning.
What made you join Translators without Borders (TWB)?
When in 2010 I first read the organization’s core concept, “working to build a world where knowledge doesn’t have borders,” it immediately resonated with me and I volunteered. There was another motivation; I have many others in our profession to thank for everything I know today about translation as an art form and as a business, all the wonderful people who have freely shared their knowledge and experience. I had no way of paying back, but I knew it was time for me to pay forward.
You’re the global Translation Coordinator for the WikiProject Medicine – what is this project exactly?
The Translation Task Force is a collaborative effort that began in 2011, to first improve health care’s most important topics in English, followed by translation into as many other languages as possible. It is an undertaking initiated by WikiProject Medicine, Wikimedia Canada and Translators without Borders, and is expected to carry on for a number of years. Translation of the English source articles is processed by TWB through a platform powered by ProZ.com.
What is your role there as a language lead?
As the Language Lead for Hungarian my role is to reassemble translated parts where the source file was split up for team translation, check for consistency and accuracy, and deliver the final target file. Time permitting, I also participate in the editing of source articles and in their translation into Hungarian. Language Leads also coordinate the overall workflow amongst several translators in each language team and, ideally, we facilitate the creation and maintenance of glossaries.
And as the Translation Task Force Coordinator?
As the Translation Coordinator, I oversee the translation of English Wikipedia articles into the 19 mainstream target languages. This involves maintaining a repository of the source files, posting them for translation to the TWB translation center, overseeing and managing the assignments of the individual tasks, monitoring progress, scheduling deadlines, keeping in touch with the translator teams and, at the end of each job, delivering the translation to the client. I also maintain the table detailing our progress at the Translation Task Force project page on Wikipedia.
What made you join in this project and take over these roles?
Participating in the Translation Task Force, being part of a team of enthusiastic, like-minded colleagues, working toward our common goal is a tremendously rewarding experience. Luckily, whenever I feel I could do more for the project, the opportunities always present themselves. :)
Who are the members of the Wikipedia Project Medicine Translation Task Force? Who can join?
All members of the WikiProject Medicine Translation Task Force are Translators without Borders volunteers with experience in the health care or medical field. TWB translators must have at least 4 years of professional translation experience or 2 years of professional translation experience and a university degree in translation or related subject, pass the translation test or be ATA certified, ProZ.com Certified PROs or Lionbridge translators.
Tell us about the FAIRstart project, which you are also involved in.
The FAIRstart project aims at contributing to the development of stable and care-giving environments for children who were placed outside their natural family because they have lost their parents. FAIRstartGlobal is a non-profit education curriculum online, covering all aspects of quality child care illustrated by texts and videos. Based on the combined knowledge of a global network of researchers and designed by psychologist Niels Rygaard, the program has been tested in a 2-year European Union project in 5 countries by orphanages and foster family organizations. The FAIRstart program has been translated into 5 languages so far and, similarly to the WikiProject Medicine, we are in the process of having it translated into many more languages through the TWB translation center. As a volunteer Project Manager for Translators without Borders, I am currently coordinating the translation of the FAIRstart program into 10 more languages.
You also contributed to the GoodPlanet Project. Can you tell us about it?
The GoodPlanet foundation is working to raise awareness and propose concrete solutions in favor of our planet and its inhabitants. The project involved translating web content and it was my very first opportunity to contribute as a TWB volunteer translator and to work with a team of dedicated colleagues. I haven’t been able to stop ever since. :)
You’re the proof that human translators are necessary and will remain so for a long time, right? What is your take on machine translation – foe or friend?
I would say it is both. Machines replacing human workers is the next logical step in most occupations, why would our industry be different? I personally would never use it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not here, and if my trade slowly degenerates then I might as well take part in the MT development process. Since I am not enough to fight this trend, I have considered joining the ‘other’ side instead, those who work on perfecting MT. There is still a lot to do.
What do you think the future of our profession looks like?
I wish I had the answer! My favorite Joseph Campbell quote comes to mind, “Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.” I think I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on and, sadly, I won’t be around to see where we are headed. This is true for our profession as well. I can’t predict the future, but what I’m seeing is that we are very eager to replace ourselves by machines. We must be the only species who spare no effort and work so diligently on rendering ourselves useless. Until then, I’ll be happy to be a human translator. :)
In your spare time (if you have any ;)), what do you enjoy doing?
Well, I’ve been trying to figure out for the longest time how to stretch the 24 hours so that I can have at least 34 a day to do everything I want! :) Since I work out of my home office, I am very fortunate to be able to do what I really enjoy doing practically all day (and night), 7 days a week. When I don’t translate OR work for TWB, I help with booking and promoting my blues musician husband’s shows; I love live music, dancing, having a great time with friends. I don’t have a TV but I watch about 5 movies a week on DVD. There’s a lot more to keep me busy: 3 cats, the household, the garden; games like Backgammon, checker variations, Scrabble, jigsaw puzzles; hiking, taking photos, hanging out at antique shops and used bookstores… I’m usually reading 2 or 3 books at a time; mostly science fiction, crime mysteries, linguistics, philosophy, and metaphysics. My secret desire is to write and illustrate a book on sacred geometry.
Ildikó, thank you very much for your time!
TWB – Translators without Borders
Translators without Borders Honors Volunteers, Donors and Non-profit Partners with First Access to Knowledge Awards
Wikipedia – WikiProject Medicine
WikiProject Medicine – Task Force
The FAIRstart Project