December 17, 2021

MS in Translation & Interpreting Student Spotlight: Sophia Barry Gordon

What was your history with and journey to translation?

I fell in love with foreign languages the day I stepped foot in my very first French class in intermediate school. In high school and college, I took every opportunity to build up my collection, if you will, and try my hand at every foreign tongue I could, from Italian to Mandarin to Spanish and even Irish Gaelic. I always knew I loved language, but was unsure of exactly how to apply my linguistic skills. While in undergrad at NYU, I had a wonderful Italian professor who suggested I try translating a play, Medea by Franca Rame, into English. Right then and there, I knew that this was the route I wanted to pursue. Translation was the perfect intersection of linguistics, culture, and creative writing. I spent the rest of my undergraduate studies focusing on and honing my translation skills in French and Italian, going on to win the departmental award for Best Senior Honors Thesis for a translation of the French graphic novel Catharsis by Luz and graduating summa cum laude with a degree in Romance languages. I wasted no time after graduating to return back to NYU SPS to pursue my masters in Translation and Interpreting. 

How did you decide to attend NYU for the MS in Translation and Interpreting (MSTI)?

Given my exceptional experience at NYU during undergrad, I was eager to investigate further opportunities for growth in my newly chosen field of interest. NYU’s reputation for foreign languages and one of the few institutions in the country that had the capability to support my Italian studies in particular. Not only did I know I would have a litany of resources at my fingertips, but I would be working with professors that are bona fide experts in their fields and establish invaluable connections. NYU’s program appealed to both my creative, literary side but my practical side as well and helped me develop my skills into a viable career. 

Can you describe your new role as Translation and Localization Project Manager at RWS Life Sciences? How did you acquire that job?

My job as a Project Manager involves overseeing and facilitating the translation of documents from a company that produces medical tests, equipment, and devices. I am involved with every step of the translation and localization process from quoting to translation to quality assurance and final delivery to the client. I manage contact with every individual in the workflow, including linguists, external clients, and internal staff. My job is to ensure that things run smoothly, troubleshoot any hiccups along the way, and provide a translation product to the client that meets all specifications and expectations. PMs truly need to be a jack of all trades -- customer service representatives, technical support, general managers, liaisons between the various steps in the process, and all while serving as the primary point of contact and professional face of the company. An extensive and varied toolkit of skills is critical to be able to perform this job and I acquired so many of these skills from the MSTI program. My supervisors have consistently been impressed with my knowledge of CAT tools and other translation technologies. I even gave a seminar to my team on how to utilize MultiTerm on the job within my first few months, all thanks to lessons learned from my courses at NYU. 

What is localization?

Localization is the process of adapting a text from one language and its corresponding and suiting it to best fit the needs, expectations, and/or culture of another. Examples of localization could be details as simple as converting units from English to metric to more complicated aspects such as when Coca-Cola began offering Irish names such as Aoife and Oisín on their “Share a Coke” campaign in Ireland, as opposed to the Johns and Sarahs we would see here in the US. It’s essentially contextualizing a text in a new environment and rendering it in its most comprehensible and digestible form for its new readers. 

What’s your favorite thing about translating?

The world is an impossibly massive place with so many beautiful cultures, people, and art, but because we don’t all speak the same language, so much of that content lies just out of reach for most of us. I find it profoundly gratifying and humbling to have the linguistic skills to open up some of those doors and reveal those worlds to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access to them. When I read a book in French or Italian that I love, I want to share it with those around me. As a translator, I have the unique ability to be able to provide that experience for others, even if they don’t speak the language. 

Do you have any advice for other translators of people interested in attending the MSTI program?

I cannot recommend this program enough. I applied just before the pandemic and am eternally grateful to have had such a tremendous outlet during those early, difficult months. It gave me a safe and productive way to pass the time. The fact that everything is virtual is a huge bonus. All the while, I made connections with professors and likeminded students that I will carry with me long after I graduate. But greatest of all, the program helped me land my dream job. I apply the lessons that I learned in class on the job every single day and have even been able to educate my coworkers and share my knowledge. 

Anything else you want to share?

Translation is an excellent career path for those with nontraditional lifestyles, schedules, or needs. I struggle with chronic illness that makes a traditional 9 - 5 desk job with a commute to the office virtually impossible. This is an incredibly flexible and diverse field with many options, many of which allow you to make your own schedule and choose your hours. Especially in these COVID times, most translation work is done remotely. One of my favorite professors in the program, a well-known and respected master in the translation world, even said that nowadays he does a majority of his translating in bed surrounded by comfy pillows with a cup of tea! With my health concerns, I used to fear that I’d never find a job that would fit my needs. Translation is an accommodating industry and the perfect craft for someone like me.

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 MS in Translation & Interpreting, a fully online, 36-credit graduate program.

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