What is your history with and journey to translation?
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t find languages fascinating. I’ve always loved learning the ways that other languages expressed concepts and how they differed from what I thought was normal. I studied Latin in high school and that was a big help when I learned Spanish to help bridge the gap between management and staff at a catering company I worked for. I saw early on that translation and interpretation were important, however, it was pure chance that I even became a translator. It wasn’t something I would have considered a possibility coming from my working class background.
The day I went to the recruiting office I had it in mind that I would be enlisting to be a Machinist Mate, but when I tested higher than that position required and they asked me what I would want to do with my career choices I simply said, “What do you have that has to do with languages?”
That began a 15 year career which sent me around the world and the country. It was a wild ride and I translated many different types of materials in support of our country’s various operations around the globe. Some things were harder than others to translate, and not simply because of the level of the language. There were times when I read and heard things that I would rather forget.
When I left the Navy I went on to work at the International Rescue Committee in Baltimore as a case management intern. Most of our clients were from Afghanistan and so I translated and interpreted for them as needed. It was such a joy to have such a direct impact on the lives of people who had been through so much pain and hardship. I think the totality of these experiences has solidified my belief in the importance of translation and that is what keeps me going.
How did you choose NYU’s MS in Translation and Interpreting (MSTI) program?
I had retired from the Navy in February of 2020 and, as a result of the pandemic, had lost my internship at IRC. I knew I needed to get back to school. I knew that I would need something to replace the rigid schedule I had back in the service, but I also knew that my skills wouldn’t be as applicable in the real world, i.e. the world of Farsi translation outside the DOD. So, when I got a message from Annelise Finegan, PhD, Academic Director of the MS in Translation and Interpreting, advertising the program, I thought it was worth looking into. I’m the first in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree, so I had no clue what I was signing up for, but I’m beyond glad I got that message.
Right now, you have a translation Internship with Farsi Translation Center. What was the application and selection process?
In a somewhat funny anecdote, I remember seeing that there were opportunities for internships as early as June of 2020 when I first started looking at the MSTI program here. I was actually looking for them from probably the second conversation that I had with Annelise sometime in late August. Yes, I wasn’t even through the first week of my classes and I was already looking for an internship for next semester. I tend to get enthusiastic. In another happy accident similar to my Navy experience, I found the advertisement for the Farsi Translation internship by Googling “farsi internship”. I applied to three and FTC was the only place that responded. Since I was the only applicant I was selected. What luck!
What are you working on as an intern at Farsi Translation Center? Any major takeaways?
I’ve worked on so many different things but most of them have been documents that are central to a person’s life. Birth certificates, death certificates, deeds and wills, all sorts. Though we did review some documents for legal use as well. It was all great since, due to the regular format of these documents I could make templates for when I started my own translation business down the line.
The biggest take away was the importance of being connected to the community. The FTC gets much of its business through word of mouth. Most of our customers were referred by friends and family and that was the main driver. It showed me a side of things that I hadn’t seen in the Navy.
Back then our customers were pretty consistent and they came to us, the FTC relied on word of mouth far more for business. This was something that I just wasn’t used to.
So, the biggest take-aways would probably be that you don’t need much to do this job, but you do need a large customer base. Most of the customers at Farsi Translation Center were in the community and that’s where our business came from. It showed me the power of word-of-mouth advertising.
What is your favorite thing about translating or interpreting?
I think it’s that surprise in people’s eyes when I start speaking Farsi. It’s always funny how strangers react. Some are excited, some confused, others ask if my Dad is Iranian. It’s funny to see which I get. Really though I think it’s the personal connection I build with the work. I meet so many people, hear so many stories, and I think it’s made me a better person than I otherwise would be. I get to hear and see things from completely different perspectives and I can’t ever shake that feeling of wonder when I read certain poems, or when I hear a joke for the first time and get it right away. All of that is just a side benefit of the actual translation when I can help people, or open doors for people to go to the world of another person through their eyes
I love helping others and through translating and interpreting I’ve had opportunities to use my skills to help people across the world. I would like to think that’s something to be proud of.
Do you have advice for other translators or people interested in the MSTI program?
Dive in head first and don’t let anything distract you. This course will teach you so much and you will have a great time while learning. It’s cliche by now to say this, but the faculty are truly wonderful. Each of them have an interest in making you the best translator possible. I feel like each one understands they are there to mentor and guide as much as they are there to teach and it shows.
Anything else you’d like to share!
The last semester has shown me that the perfect time to do something is never going to come. Life is never going to just press pause on challenges. If someone were considering taking that next step and waiting for the right time, they might as well wait for the world to spin backwards. Seize the day, take a chance, and for goodness sake don’t ever stop moving forward towards your goals and bettering yourself.