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Interview with Pablo Muñoz, the translator who does more than translate

Pilar del Rey // 03/05/2012 // The translation profession

The basic 4

How long have you been working in localisation?

In proper localisation, about 4 years. In 2007 I started working at a translation agency in Granada, where I translated all kinds of texts (mostly technical), but it wasn’t until I began working at Nintendo in 2008 that I became fully involved in the localisation industry, both of video games and software.

What advice would you give to a translator who is starting out?

Assuming they are doing a degree or master’s related to translation (because I think it is pretty difficult nowadays to start working as a translator without any training in translation, which is not to say at all that is impossible), don’t wait till you finish your course to get some more or less real experience. That is, as well as all the translations you do in class, take the initiative and look out for projects where you can help out as a translator, like open-source software programmes, fansubs, etc. The experience you will gain is invaluable, and on top of that it will set you apart from other beginner translators.

How did you get into this field?

I was lucky enough to know what I liked when I was very young, so I suppose I just followed my dreams even though I wasn’t sure where it was going to lead me. I think that’s what’s important, to always have a goal in your head, and take another step each day even though it’s into the unknown, because there will come a time when everything will start to feel more familiar. More familiar because it will be that goal that you set for yourself.

What would you like to achieve?

I like to be ambitious in the sense that I always have ideas in my head. I’ve always believed that is very important not to stagnate and I feel it is time to do new things. I’m very attracted to the idea of being an entrepreneur, but not necessarily translation-related, in order to diversify a little and not burn myself out with one single thing. I love the idea of co-ordinating projects, mentoring someone, trying to help others, encouraging people to fulfil their dreams, raising game developers’ awareness of everything they have to do to make localisation a success starting from the very moment the game is designed… Many, many things! :)

Do social networks help you in your work? How can they help translators as a group?

Of course. And in many ways! The visibility of my blog led to me getting two fantastic jobs that you can only dream of, one working as a translator at Nintendo and another as a proofreader and language tester in the leading Internet and technology company around today (although I work at the client’s premises, I am an external collaborator, so I can’t mention the name). Other than that, they help me to meet new people and keep in touch with others, which is very important to be happy: maybe this sounds a bit silly, but I think it important to feel good to work better. On the other hand, they allow you to learn a lot from other professionals and you can even pose questions and get answers in seconds. As to how they can help translators… by giving visibility to the profession! :)

Your blog Algo más que traducir has over 5,000 followers, how do you do it?

I wish I knew! I guess it’s all due to the blog now being over 5 years old, and of course, I am lucky enough to have been one of the first, in that, although I did not start out alone, I am one of the few who has continued to blog. Now the number of new followers has dropped significantly, I suppose for two reasons: a) there comes a time when people who are interested in you already follow you, and b) the number of posts published has dropped dramatically in the last year. When I post I always win new fans on Facebook and Twitter. However, something tells me that all the work I do on Twitter (such as live broadcasting of translation events) makes me gain a following on Facebook (and on the blog, of course). That’s another of the virtues of social networking (although often it doesn’t necessarily happen): what you do on one network at the end of the day has a knock-on effect on the others. Everything is exponential.

Tell us a challenge that you have encountered in your day-to-day work and how you solved it.

A challenge I often encounter in my day-to-day work is how to find time for everything I would like to do. In the end I have to prioritise, which is pretty hard and you never quite manage it. The first step is to reduce noise as much as possible: start to unsubscribe from newsletters and websites that you no longer read so you don´t even have to spend seconds in deleting the notifications, use labels (in Gmail) to filter emails, file emails that don´t need any action (I use my email inbox as a to-do list but a lot of people don’t recommend doing that), make use of idle moments to do semi-productive things (for example, if you have a smartphone, check out your social networks on the underground or even running in the gym, etc.). With this alone you’ll have saved a lot of time to spend on other tasks.

You choose to go to translation events, give talks, be very active in social networking, you socialise with other translators… the opposite of the paradigm of a translator who has difficulty interacting with colleagues. In general, do you think this trend is changing?

Perhaps what is happening now is that translators are more visible than before, although it is true that there are more translators than before due to the fact that many faculties are offering the Translation and Interpretation degree. It is also true that you often bump into a lot of people from one event to another, so I don’t know if there is an increasing number of “social translators.” At the end of the day, I actually think that the translators are very sociable people, because it would be impossible to relate well to clients (and find them) if we were quite shy. I don´t know, I find it hard to believe that someone can be very sociable online and then come across differently in person, although there are all sorts, of course. I think this has to do with social networks: they help us get to know people before a first face-to-face meeting, so it makes it less awkward. In this sense, if you see that your translator friends or colleagues who you speak to quite frequently on social networks are going to a translation event, it will probably encourage you to attend. Maybe that’s why we seem to socialise more now than before.

As a translator specializing in localisation, do you recommend translators to specialise? What benefits do you get from being a video games localiser?

Of course! Without a doubt that´s the secret, specialisation. And not only specialising in one field, but in several. I specialise in software and video games localisation, but I also specialise in some science subject areas and have translated things not related to localisation per se more than once.

As for being a video games localiser, the truth is that I think I am a lot more creative now. I had never considered myself particularly creative, but when you have to make the text fun or give a special quality to a character´s dialogue, in the end it brings out your creative streak, which we all have and many of us think we don´t. Of course, knowing that your text will be read by many people motivates you even more to do a good job, naturally. :)

You can find Pablo Muñoz in his blog Algo más que traducir and his professional website: http://pablomunoz.com/.

What would you ask him?
Translated by Catherine Stephenson

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