Faces of Gengo: Erika

Erika lives in her hometown of São Paulo, Brazil, but dreams of one day living in Japan. She counts her main interests as languages, Harry Potter, and sci-fi movies (possibly not in that order). This English to Portuguese-Brazilian translator loves being able to work from almost anywhere in the world, especially her own home.

What languages do you speak? Why did you learn them, and how do you maintain your proficiency?

I speak Portuguese, English, a little bit of Spanish and am currently studying Japanese. I started learning English when I was eight years old, and fell in love with language learning and continued studying on my own.

I maintain my proficiency by specializing my studies in technical language learning. I also love spending time learning more about languages through watching movies, reading and trying to maintain a glossary.

Keeping in touch with foreign friends, traveling to new places and using my English knowledge to guide me is another way to maintain my expertise, and a very enjoyable one, too.

How did you become a translator? Do you translate full-time?

For many years, I worked around the translation industry without really realizing it. I started out as an English teacher, and later became a bilingual secretary for the president of a healthcare management company. In this role, I started translating through working on a healthcare magazine, and realized I actually enjoyed this part of my job.

I decided to dedicate myself completely to this role and quit my job to become a full-time translator. I hope to continue to be one for a very, very long time.

What have been your most enjoyable and challenging translation experiences?

My most enjoyable translation experience happened at Gengo. I was having a really lousy day when I got my first translation job for a quiz. It was a huge job about Harry Potter, which I completely adore.

I have a huge geeky side of me, and it was fun to remember everything I’ve read about the series by translating the questions and answers. Since then, every quiz I translate through Gengo makes my day.

My most challenging experience was when I translated a very long article about a railway museum located in Japan. I am knowledgeable on the subject in my native language because my father-in-law is a train conductor, but I’ve never translated an article on the topic before. As it was full of new terms and information, it took me quite some time to translate. However, it was well worth it because I received a great review from the client. The topic caught my attention so much that the place was added to my list of places to visit before I die.

What’s your favorite thing about being a translator?

Being able to communicate with the world in a very expansive way. Not only can I transmit my own thoughts to a larger group of people, I can also translate someone else’s thoughts. It warms my heart to know that I can use my words to make a connection across boundaries that have been formed because of languages barriers.

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Describe your office setup or workspace.

I mainly work from my home, although I sometimes go to Starbucks. I don’t like working from the same place so I rearrange my office around me in many different places in my home. I’ve also been building a studio where I can work on my translations and my vlogging life, but that’s not finished yet.

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

The Japanese movie/manga called Battle Royale is mostly the original concept for Hunger Games and is an amazing work of art. For Japanese movies, I recommend Last Quarter (also based on a manga, a little dark, but beautiful and intriguing) and Moon Child. They both star Hyde, a Japanese singer and actor who is very talented and whom I admire very much.

What is your favorite snack for while you work?

I always have a cereal bar beside me and some milk or juice to drink.

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What are your preferred translation tools?

I don’t like translation tools very much as they make me feel limited. I like to work on my own and rely on Microsoft Word to correct minor grammatical mistakes. I generally only use translation tools when the client specifically requires them.

What’s your favorite productivity tool or service?

I mostly rely on my email inbox and send messages to myself to keep things on track. I also use a productivity tool called Remember the Milk.

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

It’s important to focus on your work, but it’s just as important to stop for a while every day and do something else you enjoy. For example, play your favorite music and sing or dance for a few minutes, or cook a great meal. Even just taking a short break to look outside your window and breathe some fresh air counts. Enjoy it, and remember that these are the moments that make life worth living.

Follow your own motivations and study your main areas of interest. Specialize in what you feel comfortable translating. The internet is an amazing place to learn. Here you can expand your knowledge by doing hours and hours of research—you won’t regret it.

Read translations from experienced translators, if possible. It’s important to understand that translation is more than just giving meaning from one language to your native language; it’s also about expressing a thought in the most natural way for a native speaker to comprehend.

Want to become a Gengo translator?

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Megan Waters

The author

Megan Waters

Megan manages all things translator-related as Gengo’s Community and Digital Content Manager. Born in South Africa but now based in Tokyo, she’s passionate about languages and people. Megan spends her free time exploring secondhand shops, camping in the mountains and hosting the occasional dinner party.


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