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ITI Profile: Pilar Ganez

We talk to Pilar Ganez, who helps run the ITI Spanish Network's Mentoring Scheme, in the latest in our ITI Profile series of interviews.

Pilar GanezWhen and why did you decide you wanted to be a translator?

I started learning English at a very early age in my native Argentina and always enjoyed it. When the time came to decide what to study at University, I knew I wanted it to involve languages. I then became a sworn translator and still find translation fascinating.

What was the most important thing you learned from you first job?

I was a newly qualified sworn translator, when I got my first freelance assignment in what was to me a completely new area of specialisation. I could not let the opportunity pass. I learnt not to be afraid and face up to the challenge. I learnt that at University you get the basic training and principles to do your job, but that you actually learn by doing, on the job.

 You worked for a while in-house – has this experience been valuable to you in your freelance role?

I launched my career as a freelancer, so my freelancing was invaluable to get an in-house job. The translation and transcreation project manager and Spanish quality controller jobs allowed me to gain a different perspective of the translation business, from the client and agency side, and understand the complexities of a project, the importance of establishing good relationships with all parties involved and what it takes to manage successful projects and deliver quality translations. I am now back freelancing and still draw from this experience in my daily work.

Do you have any specialisms?

My areas of specialisation have evolved over time. I started with legal and audiovisual translations. In recent years, I have focused mainly on the International Development sector. I work for a number of non-governmental organisations as a freelance translator, project manager, quality controller and reviser on a wide spectrum of challenging projects and materials.

What do you value about being a member of the ITI Spanish Network?

Everything. The Spanish Network has always been a very active and well organised network. I am truly grateful for it. As a new entrant to the profession, the network was a fantastic resource. I took part in the then Guardian Angel Scheme, met great colleagues, attended events organised by the Committee and it was through the network that I secured my first jobs. To this date, I still collaborate with one of its longstanding members in a biannual translation conference.

A few years into translating, I then joined the ITI Spanish Network Committee as treasurer and events organiser to give back some of what I got through it. I then had to leave for personal reasons, but about two years ago, I rejoined the current Committee to help run the Mentoring Scheme. Committee members volunteer their time and work very hard behind the scenes to run a successful network. I have the upmost respect for my Committee colleagues that do so much for the network. I can’t recommend highly enough the value of participating in your language network, whether you are a new or experienced professional.

How did you get involved with the Spanish Network mentoring programme and what does this involve?

A couple of years ago, I attended a network event and the Committee members were looking for new members to help with different tasks, one of them being the Mentoring Scheme. The Mentoring Scheme had been established a couple of years back by Sarah Bawa Mason and has been very popular from the start. We run it once or twice a year, depending on demand, pairing mentors and mentees who have similar backgrounds, areas of specialisation and interests. We have some guidelines stating the requirements for both mentors and mentees, and once these are satisfied we encourage potential pairs to have an initial conversation to decide if they find themselves to be a good fit to work together. If they are happy to work together, we pair them. Mentors provide mentees with six different translation tasks (texts of about 500 words each) in the agreed areas of work. The mentee works on the translation which is then assessed by the mentor who then provides detailed feedback on specific issues. The feedback can be in writing or via Skype conversations or any other means which is convenient to both parties. We ask them to work towards completing the six tasks in six months (ideally one per month, but we are flexible on this). Total funding set aside for the scheme is dependent on the amount of funds available from one financial year to the next and the number of confirmed mentees/mentors each year. The network subsidises the mentee's fee which is charged to cover the mentor’s cost - the mentee pays 50% of the fee and the other 50% comes from the Network’s funds. 

Is there a recent project you are particularly proud of?

I recently project-managed, and reviewed in my language, a large and complex translation project in four languages of internal manuals and policies for an organisation. Timelines were tight and source files were written by a number of non-native speakers using very technical language and “development speak”. On the one hand, the requestor of the translation did not understand the translation process, and when we had questions, the answer was “You just have to translate what is there”. I had to explain why we needed answers from them and why we as translators did not “just translate”. On the other hand, translators were frustrated with the quality of the source text. As a project manager, I needed to take control of the process, I had to provide answers and support translators so that we could achieve a good uniform quality and fit for purpose end product. This entailed engaging the requestor, explaining what the translation process involved, why questions were important, what was the drawback of having no answers, etc. Fortunately, the requestor could see how beneficial a dialogue would be and ended up being impressed by the questions and observations. This opened the door for me to organise a Q&A Skype session with the requestor and all translators and revisers working on the job. The session proved very useful, as it helped us clarify obscure passages, terminology, etc. The client was also able to revisit the source and make improvements for the sake of clarity. The process has helped the organisation understand the benefits of involving the translation team at a much earlier stage, which makes our task easier.

What do you think are the most challenging aspects of learning the English language?

For a student learning English in Latin America (as opposed to for example Europe where there is a closer contact with the language) I would say it is pronunciation. The lack of contact and exposure to the language makes this task harder, as you only rely on your tutor, who is usually not a native speaker.

Is there a Latin-American Spanish author you would recommend?

I love Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), author of poems, novels and best known for his short stories. I love the way he plays with words, particularly in his poems.

Who has inspired you?

At a very personal level, my local private after-school English tutor back in Argentina. Through her I learned the language and came in contact with the English culture, she planted the seed that would later allow me to work as a translator. She inspired me with her generosity and kept me going through difficult times.

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