Middlebury College Questions: Answered

One of our colleagues, Prof. Karin Hanta, recently contacted us to see if we would be willing to participate in an interview project in her translation studies class at prestigious liberal arts school Middlebury College in Vermont. Of course, we were happy to do so, and decided to post our answers here for the benefit of other students who might have similar questions. Here's our Q&A with Middlebury freshman Greta Olivares, who grew up bilingually -- just like we did.

Question: How did you get into translation?
Growing up bilingually, we always thought we would work with languages. When we were 12, we decided, while riding the school bus in Mexico City, that we would once own a company called "Jenner+Jenner Cross-Cultural Consulting." Turns out we own a company very similar to that now. We started translating in college.  Judy was the editor of a bilingual newspaper for high school students with a circulation of 30,000, where she translated extensively. Dagy started our European company in 2002. At the same time, Judy received an offer to run the Spanish translation department at a large travel website, and took the job to get through the first year of entrepreneurship. The job was so great that she ended up staying much longer than we both wanted, but we've finally been able to run our business full-time together since 2008. From 2002 until 2008, Dagy worked  full-time, while Judy worked on our business part-time.

Question: How did you chose your other languages (English and French)? How are you able to maintain an equal mastery over all of them?

The languages chose us. English was the third language that was being taught in our school, the German School Alexander von Humboldt in Mexico City, and we were lucky enough to spend many summers in the US when we were teenagers. In additon, our mom has a graduate degree in English literature, and our dad did a lot of business in the US, so English was a natural fit. As for French, when Dagy decided to pursue a degree in languages, she wanted to challenge herself and chose to add a fourth language. She spent a semester in Tours, France, and makes frequent trips to France to keep her language skills current. Judy does not speak a word of French (well, maybe two or three). We keep our language skill fresh by traveling and reading extensively. Travel is probably our main business expense, and we immersed ourselves in the Spanish language again last year by working from South America (Chile and Argentina) for more than a month. Dagy spends at least a month in the US every  year working on her American idioms, and Judy speaks German during her annual trips to Austria. When we speak to each other, we mainly speak Spanish, but mix in some German and English -- sometimes in the same sentence. It's our twin language! We read at least 50 books a year in our three (or four) languages, listen to satellite radio in all our languages and speak our languages as much as we can. Judy lives in the American Southwest, so she speaks a lot of Spanish during the normal course of her day. And for the record: while Dagy's French is very good, it's not at the same level as her other three languages. 

Question: What is a normal translation process for you?
We both acquire clients at roughly the same rate and tackle every translation project as a team. We have a pretty well-developed five-step quality assurance process, and we don't deliver any project, even if it's just a paragraph, without having put it through the QA process. We communicate well throughout the translation process and have many lively discussions about tricky linguistic issues. 

Question: Do you find that one is better for one part of the translation process it and the other is better for another part?
While we are identical twins, there are a few differences. Dagy is the better researcher and has more patience with terminology lists. Judy is better at client acquisition, since she's more outgoing and truly enjoys meeting with people. Dagy is better at writing short e-mails to clients and is a master at managing our client relationships. Dagy is also better at looking out for our business interests, while Judy has a tendency to say "yes" to more things. Dagy is the faster translator, and Judy has a bit more patience when it comes to dealing with challenging customers, which are few and far in between.

Question: Which of the services that you offer do you enjoy the most?
Whew, you had to ask a difficult question. We are translators at heart, but we are really enjoying interpreting -- conference interpreting for Dagy and court and escort interpreting for Judy. We also have a lot of fun with our copywriting projects, and we really love the fact that no day is ever the same.


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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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