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ITI Profile: Monica Machado

In our latest Profile interview, we talk to English into Portuguese translator Monica Machado who will be joining the ITI Board in May.

How did you get into translation?

A translator or an interpreter is a go-between, conveying a message that otherwise would not get through. This is a thrilling challenge in itself which I realised many years ago, growing among many different cultures and languages. I understood back then that without this essential link many people in the world are not able to communicate.

After having completed a translation university degree, in 1998 I successfully applied for a position with Xerox Language Services in the UK, and at 27 years old left my home and took my first aeroplane flight to work in London. On leaving Xerox in 2000 I started freelancing and have been working to try to be the best possible link in this communication process.


What type of translation work do you specialise in?

I specialise in what I think is an unusual and highly interesting combination of specialist technical fields: oil and gas, mining, shipping, environment, HSE (Health, Safety and Environment), hydropower and automotive areas. I also translate company documentation and legal contracts in these subjects.


What particular challenges and rewards do you experience from working with a number of engineering sectors?

The biggest challenge is that in these very specific fields, technology evolves continuously and I need to be constantly updating my knowledge to keep abreast of the latest developments. The biggest reward is that because my clients are mostly end-clients they understand the difficulties of the job and provide support all the way. They know how many words I can translate a day, that translation queries are part of the job and that my translation will be the image of their business. They know that no matter how good their product is and how well-written their English document is, at the end of the day my Portuguese translation will be the face of their business, which in many of my current clients’ cases includes Government/State bodies. Having my translation regarded as an essential part of the final jigsaw and not just as a legal requirement is the ultimate reward.


What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out as a translator?

Translation is personally and professionally a very interesting and rewarding profession. However, do not expect it to be easy, as no profession is. Be humble; be prepared to recognise experts and learn from them; be prepared to work over weekends and out of normal office hours; use CPD to learn about subjects out of your sphere of knowledge; be professional and good at what you do and stand your ground; don’t isolate yourself, instead join a professional organisation whose requirements are as stringent as possible.

Ultimately, be prepared to work as hard as you can, grasp all of the opportunities as they arise and along the way keep asking yourself if you, as a client, would employ someone just like you, and why.


You recently visited a prison. Why?

As mentioned above, using CPD to learn about subjects out of your sphere of knowledge is a way to be prepared – because you never know what the subject of your next job might be. HM Prison at Blundeston in Suffolk opened in 1963 and was in service for 50 years. Notable former inmates included John Stonehouse, a former Post Master General, Member of Parliament and Czech spy; Richard Reid, known as the Shoe Bomber; and Reggie Kray an infamous London gangland boss. Although this may appear to be a strange voluntary CPD experience, entering the prison gates, wandering the corridors, and experiencing the claustrophobic impersonal austerity of prison cells generated a raft of emotional and empathetic feelings which may help me with future translation works in social fields of this nature, as most of the times we translate better if we can actually understand the context surrounding the documents that we have to translate.


Why do you do pro-bono work?

To me the pro-bono work I do is a way of giving back to society and clients. Therefore, I believe my pro-bono work is part of my company social responsibility, where every year causes are selected from a range of translation projects in which I have participated. As pro bono, I have translated documents for the United Nations Volunteers Scheme to be used in Guinea-Bissau, and children’s story books for Angola, for example. These books are now published and can be bought online – this is extremely rewarding.


Tell us a little about your pro-bono work for endangered wildlife in Angola.

This work is part of my company social responsibility and involves translating mainly children's stories about endangered wildlife species in Angola. I have translated stories about the sea turtles and the giant sable antelope, for example, both species being highly endangered in the world but still seen in Angola. More recently, I have also proofread a sequence of children’s poems about other species observed in Angola. All these projects are part of a larger project aimed at teaching Angolan children how important their local biodiversity is and how rare some of these species are worldwide. I am particularly proud that a humble shepherd, Manuel Sacaia, who has helped protect this same Angolan sable antelope for almost half a century, was presented with the Wildlife Ranger award by Sir David Attenborough at the recent Tusk Conservation Awards held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on 30th November 2016, which was also attended by Prince William. To be part of something of this magnitude as a translator is very gratifying.

Sadly, due to a cancelled flight out of South Africa, I was unable to meet with Manuel Sacaia in person when I met with the other members of the Project when they came to London.


What do you value about being an ITI member?

ITI is one of the most prominent organisations in the UK dedicated to promoting the translation and interpreting profession; it is highly regarded by translators, agencies and clients, and it is seen as a sign of quality and reliability. It is also highly regarded worldwide, being actively involved in raising the standards amongst translators and interpreters. Therefore, to be part of such a professional institution is a privilege. Above all, I value the reputation of ITI and its members and the work that it is put into it for the good of the profession.


What are you looking forward to when you take on your ITI Board role in May?

I feel very honoured to be chosen by ITI members to represent them at this very high level in the Institute, and I look forward to the opportunity of sharing my translation expertise and experience with the Board for the promotion and further development of the profession.


Who is your favourite Portuguese author?

There are two, actually: Eça de Queirós (1845-1900), generally considered to be the greatest Portuguese writer in the realist style, and Miguel Sousa Tavares (1950 - ), a more current author. I think they both have a very descriptive narrative that makes their novels very real. I just love the style that makes me travel to distant places and different eras because I find it very relaxing.

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