ATISDA Blog (Association of Translators and Interpreters in the San Diego Area)

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On the Legacy of Translators and Interpreters

Back from the recent American Translators Association (ATA) conference in Palm Springs, fellow ATISDA member Rafa Lombardino shares with us the highlights from two memorable and meaningful conference presentations on the history of our profession.

She writes:

During this year’s American Translators Association conference, the Portuguese Language Division (PLD) invited experienced interpreter and speaker Ewandro Magalhães to present two sessions in Palm Springs. Ten years ago―when the conference was held in New York and the ATA celebrated its 50th anniversary―Ewandro was the PLD distinguished speaker as well, so this was the ideal time to bring him back ten years later and hear him give us a fresh perspective on the role of translators and interpreters in current times.

During his first session, aptly named “Transcending the Toxic Legacy of Jerome,” Ewandro went beyond the commonplace information all translators and interpreters know about our patron saint to discuss how the criticism that Jerome had to face back in his time carries on to today.

Ewandro highlighted a piece of correspondence that became known as the Magna Carta for translators, when Jerome felt compelled to write to Roman Senator Pammachius about “The Best Method of Translating” in order to defend himself from accusations made by fellow translator Tyrannius Rufinus, who criticized Jerome’s Latin translation of a letter written by Pope Epiphanius and addressed to Bishop John. This anecdote goes to show that the subjective nature of our profession was founded on criticism and negativity, and that it’s time we turned things around by being more positive and encouraging each other to end the toxic environment that sometimes surrounds our professional path.

In his second session, titled “Peace Brokers, Peace Breakers: The Role of Interpreters in War and Peace,” Ewandro went through a timeline of recent historical events when interpreters made history―from the Nuremberg Rally in 1934 to interactions between heads of state in current times. Ewandro even shared some of his own experiences, when he interpreted for political figures and celebrities alike and tried to make the best of the communication between two different languages and cultures.

For those who unfortunately were not there to witness Ewandro’s great storytelling abilities, you can learn more about Jerome’s troubles in this article or this video (in Portuguese with English subtitles) and watch a similar presentation on interpreters caught between times of war and peace.

RAFA LOMBARDINO is a translator and journalist from Brazil who lives in California. She is the author of “Tools and Technology in Translation ― The Profile of Beginning Language Professionals in the Digital Age,” which is based on her UC San Diego Extension class. Rafa has been working as a translator since 1997 and, in 2011, started to join forces with self-published authors to translate their work into Portuguese and English. She also runs Word Awareness, a small network of professional translators, and has acted as Division Administrator (2017-2019) and Blog Editor (2015-2017) at ATA’s Portuguese Language Division (PLD). She is one of the founding members of ATISDA.