February 12, 2021

MS in Translation & Interpreting Student Spotlight: Mariam Moustafa

Q: Can you share a little about your background and how you got into translation?

A: I grew up trilingual. My native language is Arabic, and my mom speaks French, and my father speaks English. So, I used to listen to all three languages before I attended school. My parents then enrolled me in a French school where subjects were taught in French, others in Arabic, and English was offered as a second language. By middle school, Arabic, French, and English became my best friends who opened the door to various cultures and helped me communicate with people from different backgrounds. I was always translating in one way or another, but I never thought I would pursue a translation career. Fast forward to my senior year of college when I had the chance to translate a book by Fabrice Jaumont, the Education Attache at the French Embassy, titled The Bilingual Revolution: The Future of Education is in Two Languages into Arabic. At that moment, I decided to become a translator.  

Q: What is your favorite thing about translating?

A: I perceive translation as an act of kindness to humanity. The language barrier is a serious problem that prevents people from communicating properly with others and deprives them of being open to the world. Translation helps us to be connected and demolish the language barrier.  

Q: What kind of work were you doing before enrolling in the MSTI program? And how did you make the choice to attend NYU?

A: After graduating from Fordham University with a double major in Communication and French Studies, I wasn’t sure how to enter the translation industry. In the meantime, I didn’t want to stay unemployed, so I worked as an administrative assistant at Fordham Law School.  

Then, I heard about the MSTI program, and I applied immediately. I was looking for a program in NYC or NY that gives students flexible schedules, guides them to understand the translation industry, and prepares them to build a strong career to compete in the market. MSTI program has everything I was looking for and even more. The asynchronous courses give me the flexibility needed in my schedule and the courses offered prepare the student to hit the ground running once they graduate.   

Q: You’re currently working on translating The Letters of Hiragy al-Qot. How did you choose this piece to work on? What has made you continue your work on it?

A: As a child, I used to listen to the poet, AbdelRahman El Abnudi, reciting his collection, The Letters of Hiragy al-Qot, with my parents. It always had a special place in my heart. During my first semester in the program, I enrolled in the literary translation course with Professor Jenny McPhee. We had to choose a literary work that has never been translated and translate it for the final project. I didn’t know what to pick until one day, I was listening to The Letters of Hiragy al-Qot during my commute, and it was a light-bulb moment. I spoke to Prof. McPhee, and she approved the choice.  

I translated the first four letters of the collection for the final project. I received great feedback from Prof. Jenny McPhee and Prof. Annelise Finegan Wasmoen as well as my colleagues. Their feedback and support encouraged me to continue working on the project and to reach out to the poet’s family to secure their permission. In August 2020, the poet’s wife permitted me to translate the full collection. Thanks to the program and my professors and mentor’s support, I can introduce my friend, Hiragy, to my English reader friends.  

Q: What is your biggest takeaway since beginning in the MSTI program?

A: My main takeaway since beginning in the MSTI program is the importance of community. Even though it is an online program and classes don’t meet in person, the support we receive from our professors and from each other guides us to build a strong career and find our own path in a highly competitive industry.  

Q: Do you have advice to other translators or people interested in the MSTI program?

A: The translation industry is similar to a large ocean full of different specialities and skills; don’t be overwhelmed by the variety of options or by what other translators are doing. Focus on your path, learn from others, and manage your time wisely. (I keep reminding myself of this advice every day!)

A translation and interpreting degree can help you to take charge of your career, whether you are new to the field or already working in the language professions. Apply for CALA’s newly renamed MS in Translation & Interpreting, a fully online, 36-credit graduate program.

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