We at Qordoba are lucky to be working with some of the world’s best writers and translators. Our creatives live all around the world and have diverse cultures and backgrounds. Without them, we would be lost for words – literally. Our new blog series – “Qordoba Creatives” – will highlight our linguists and their talents. To kick-start the series, meet Tyler!
Tell us about yourself, your background, and how you got into translation? Do you translate full time?
I completed my undergraduate degree in the United States, double majoring in mathematics and Middle Eastern studies. I began my university studies as a mathematics major, and took Arabic as an elective my sophomore year. The summer following my sophomore year I spent two months in Sanaa, Yemen, studying Arabic, and decided to continue studying Arabic when I returned to the US. I then spent a semester abroad in Damascus, Syria, and after graduating moved to Lebanon for graduate studies. I first began translation work in 2010, translating press releases for an Iraqi-American NGO that organizes programs for orphans and single mothers. I currently translate part time, in addition to working as a subeditor for a news website.
Where have you lived?
The United States, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Yemen.
What languages do you speak? How did you learn them?
English and Arabic. English is my mother tongue and I began learning Arabic at university in the US. I then continued my studies in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt.
What do you do as a translator at Qordoba? How did you first hear of Qordoba? When did you join our team?
I work as an editor and translator at Qordoba. I translate and edit a variety of texts, including news, literature and legal documents. I first heard about Qordoba through a friend in Egypt, and I joined the Qordoba team in September 2012.
What has been your most challenging project?
My most enjoyable experience involved translating a series of Arabic short stories; however, this was also my most challenging project. The text was very literary and included many colloquial phrases that were difficult to capture in English. Although it took a considerable amount of time to complete, it was rewarding to see the final product. I generally enjoy projects related to literature or news.
Some of my most interesting projects have involved directly working with the original author. There is no single “correct” translation of a text, but rather a variety of ways to convey the meaning in a new language. Last year I worked with a Lebanese poet to translate a series of poems from Arabic into English. As I worked directly with the author, I was able to thoroughly discuss the texts with her and get direct feedback on the translation. This process showed me the importance of gaining a thorough understanding of the writer’s background and the intended message before translating a literary work.
What’s your favorite thing about languages? What about it appeals to you?
My favorite thing about working with languages is the rich background behind the words. The Arabic language includes many phrases and words that carry complex and varied meanings, and cannot be translated word-for-word into English. I enjoy the process of searching for the right words that not only convey the literal meaning of the text, but also give the reader a sense of the emotion and spirit present in the original document.
Describe your office setup or workspace. What is the view like? What kind of scenery do you look at every day?
I usually translate from my desk at home, and have a view of an old neighborhood in east Beirut.
What is your favorite snack to eat while you translate?
Coffee or tea.
What advice do you have for other freelance linguists?
To read a wide variety of texts from the countries where your source language is spoken. Each country has a unique culture and heritage that is very present in the language used. Even though most Arabic texts are written in formal Arabic, the word choices vary from one country to another. The more a translator knows about a certain country, the more he or she is capable of thoroughly understanding the source text and producing an accurate translation. It is also very important to read and understand the entire text before beginning the translation, to get a sense of what the author is trying to convey and make sure this is carried through to the translation.