Q: Please describe your cultural background (languages spoken, ethnicity etc.)
A: I was born and raised in Bountiful City, a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah. Both my parents were descendants of English stock who emigrated to the United States, crossed the plains as pioneers in the 1800’s and settled in the Salt Lake Valley.
I started studying Spanish in Middle School and continued with it into High School. When I was 19 years old I left to serve a 2-year mission for my church in Argentina and labored in the cities of Mendoza, Cordoba, San Luis, Villa Mercedes and Santiago del Estero.
After returning from my mission I studied at the University of Utah and graduated with B.A. degrees in Spanish and English. Afterwards, I received a law degree from the University of Utah and spent most of my legal career in private practice where I used my Spanish language as much as possible and became involved with immigration law.
In 1990 I started studying Portuguese and have continued to work on improving my language skills in Spanish and Portuguese on a daily basis.
When practicing immigration law, I mainly worked with Spanish-speaking clients. All documents needed to be translated into English and I enjoyed doing the translation work so when I retired from the practice of law I continued to do translation work. Many of my clients are immigration attorneys.
I have always enjoyed all things Hispanic and continue to work daily with the Hispanic community here in Utah. I am on the board of directors of LULAC Utah which is part of LULAC National, the oldest and largest Hispanic organization in the country. I am the president of a LULAC Council in the State of Utah. I am also a co-founder and director of “Conexion Comunidad Hispana” a non-profit corporation. The co-founders of “Conexion Comunidad Hispana and members of my LULAC Council are Pablo Quintana, from Chile and Carlos Arteaga, from Venezuela.
Q: What is a typical day in the life of a legal translator look like?
A: Now that I am retired from the practice of law I work from home. My typical day begins about 6:00 a.m. and I work all day long, sometimes putting in 10 and 12 work days, so I guess I am not really retired. I like what I do and the new challenges that come every day as I seek to perfect my language skills and work with people from all walks of life.
What I like about doing translation work is that I can do it no matter where I am located. I have 10 children and 23 grandchildren. Three of those children and 14 of the grandchildren now live on the East coast. I love the flexibility being a translator gives me so that I can spend as much time visiting my family as possible. Most of my children have learned a foreign language. Two of them speak Portuguese which has inspired me to learn that language as well. One of my daughters served a mission for our church in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul where she learned to speak Portuguese. She also speaks some Mandarin Chinese having taught English in China for a time when she was single. My oldest son served a mission for our church in Malaga, Spain. He is an attorney in the USAF and was stationed in Italy for four years where he learned Italian to go with his Spanish. I have another son, who is also an attorney, and served a mission for our church in Sao Paulo, Brazil where he learned Portuguese. He also earned an advanced university degree in Portuguese at the same time he was going to law school.
Q: What advice would you give to clients looking for quality legal translations?
A: Just like in any profession, there are specialties, and legal translations is an area that I find to be growing in demand. As business transactions cross national boundaries, the need to be able to translate contracts and legal documents is increasing.
Q: What advice would you give for people who are considering the career of a professional translator?
A: If you have a passion for languages and are willing to put in the work, then go for it. I wish I had become more involved in translating sooner than I did but it has still been a very satisfying and rewarding career. Look for every opportunity to do translation work and promote yourself. The possibilities are endless and the innovations in translation software make it even more exciting. Machines will never replace human translator’s. Technology only expands the abilities of translators, it does not replace them.
Q: Do you have any stories of things lost in translation?
A: The best story I can think of is not something that happened to me, but it was a big error that GMC made when it introduced the NOVA model automobile into Latin America. They didn’t change the name of the model. If you break NOVA down into two words you get “No va”, which in Spanish means “It doesn’t go.” Who is going to buy a car that doesn’t go? The NOVA was a big failure in Latin America and I think it cost someone their job.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a translator?
A: I find every translation job a challenge. I try to perfect my skills and learn from everything I do. I look at challenges as opportunities to learn, stepping stones not road blocks. Every profession has its challenges, what we do with those challenges is what is important.
Q: Can you share something you find special about your culture?
A: My culture is white Anglo-Saxon male which makes me just about as ordinary as can be. The one thing that I have tried to do is get to know as much as I can about other cultures and languages. My church is known for the young missionaries that it sends throughout the world, so I have always encouraged my children to learn about and experience other cultures. I have encouraged all my children to study Spanish in school. Some have done that better than others but they all know at least “survival” Spanish.
Q: What’s your favorite cultural dish?
A: My favorite dish has to be Argentine empanadas. I have a friend from Argentina that used to own a restaurant, which is where I took my wife on our first date. He published an Argentine recipe book for the dishes that he served in his restaurant and I continue to use that book to this day.
Photo Credit: Bryan Robinson, Unsplash
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