Faces of Gengo: Dasa

An English to Slovak Language Specialist, Dasa has deep experience working in translation, book-editing and linguistic advisory. Read all about about her journey as a digital nomad, advice for new translators, and her top book recommendations in her interview below.


Nationality: Slovak
Location: Bonn, Germany
Occupation: Translator/Editor
Gengo LS since: 2014
Language pair: English – Slovak

What languages do you speak? How do you maintain language proficiency?

My native language is Slovak. I started with German very early at school and later graduated in German and Slovak Philology. English, of course, was a must. German and English are my working source languages. Beside this, I speak Czech quite well as I lived in the beautiful city of Prague for a long time. I could also survive with intermediate Polish and I have a rather passive knowledge of Brazilian Portuguese – in contact with my husband’s family in Brazil I still prefer English.

Dasa in Prague, where she spent 10 years of her life.


How did you become a translator?

Having studied Philology and Literary Studies, translation has always been a part of my professional life. Shortly after finishing my studies I started working as a coordinator of the Slovak Language Department in a big translation agency in Prague, specialised on translations for the bodies of the European Union. Compared to my previous experience with interpretation of artistic and philosophical texts, this was a “hard school” of translator’s work in practice, comprising strict deadlines, communication with the EU institutions, CAT tools, cooperation on tender preparation, and hundreds and hundreds pages of laws, judgements and various legislative documents. It was extremely demanding…

To avoid burn out, I decided to switch to freelance work combining translation, book-editing and linguistic advisory. There were personal reasons, too: my partner and I lived in different countries, but we wanted to bring our relationship to a “higher level”. As a freelancer, I could make use of my flexibility and move to Germany to be with him.

What have been your most enjoyable and challenging translation experiences?

For a while, I have been working on a project where the European Union member states notify their legislation on implementation of the European directive on technical standards. For example, calibration of x-ray devices or working methods of scuba divers helping with water constructions… I would never say how interesting it could be!
Recently, I had also an enjoyable book-editing experience: Last year, a good friend of mine wrote a book about neuro-linguistic programming in life coaching, and she asked me to edit it. Beside the fact that having a friend on client’s site was really pleasant, the book is a success and it looks like it could be translated in foreign languages soon.

What’s your favorite thing about being a translator? How about being a language specialist?

Independence and flexibility, for sure. Unfortunately, a big disadvantage of freelance jobs (at least in many European countries) is that there are some legislative loopholes concerning maternity leave, social insurance, etc. Often, you can’t rely on an adequate counter-value comparing to what you have invested in the system. In these terms, the price for independence is quite high. In spite of this, I wouldn’t return to a “classical” job. I like that I can organise my projects according to my interests and vary between translating, editing and expert language services like I provide for Gengo. Being language specialist enabled me to build a strong relationship with the majority of my clients, and its fostering is one of my favourite activities in my small business.

Based on your specific cultural expertise, what are the best books or movies you would recommend to others?

Excellent Czech and Slovak authors available in good English translation are, for example, Bohumil Hrabal and Pavel Vilikovský. From contemporary German authors, I can mention Herta Müller, who fascinates me again and again. If you are incidentally interested in Czech Avant-Garde literature and arts, I had the honour to be one of the authors of a reputable publication A Glossary of Catchwords of the Czech Avant-Garde: Conceptions of Aesthetics and the Changing Faces of Art 1908-1958. My favourite “catch” from a second-hand bookstore is a novel by Rebecca Goldstein, Mazel. As a present I would give you Maus (the complete edition), a graphic novel by Art Spiegelman. Now I am reading Tyll by Daniel Kehlmann. Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada is waiting in my bookcase.

Likewise, I love reading folk tales from any country. Among those I have at home, I would like to highlight the beautiful collection of African fairy-tales selected by Nelson Mandela.

What are your preferred translation tools?

As I often work on complex managed projects, I use Trados Studio.

What’s your favorite productivity tool or service?

My kids. 🙂 When you have children, you will never ever use your working time ineffectively.

What are your top tips for those translators who are just starting out?

Don’t close yourself in your room alone with the computer. Stay in touch with more experienced colleagues, ask them for feedback regularly and – first and foremost – don’t accept it passively, but discuss it. Read about linguistics – and not only in your native language. Be realistic about volumes and deadlines. Don’t ignore your backache and respect the work-life balance. In the point where we should keep our body-control, my Pilates instructor helps us with the following visualisation: Connect two thirds of yourself with Earth and one third with Heaven. This may sound very simple, but for me it’s a vivid metaphor of how to develop our skills productively without damaging our physical or mental health.

Dasa’s beautiful workspace in Bonn, Germany.


Do you have any specific translation advice to translators in your language pair?

When you have your translation finished, read it one more time. FORGET THE ORIGINAL at this stage. Check whether you understand the target text only. Do everything you can to support readability. Don’t be afraid of changing the sentence order or dividing long sentences. Would you like reading your text in a newspaper as it is? Would you know what to do if it appeared on the screen of your device? If so, send it to your client, and if possible, enjoy a break.


Want to become a Gengo translator?


Alex Nguyen

The author

Alex Nguyen

Alex crafts and coordinates content for Gengo’s marketing team. Based in San Francisco after a brief stint in Tokyo, she loves all things culture and design. When not at Gengo, she’s likely brushing up on her Japanese, letting loose at indie electronic shows or trying out new ice cream spots in the city.

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