Interview with GLS President Maia Costa

July 28, 2017

Although we’ve been around for almost four decades, we’d like to use this month’s blog post to (re)introduce ourselves and our president, Maia Costa.

History

German Language Services (GLS) was founded by Courtney Searls-Ridge, a passionate and dedicated translator and interpreter, in 1979. Her dedication to improving quality standards, ethics and professional development within the translation industry has been a fundamental element in the company’s success, and these values are still integral to GLS today.

When GLS President Maia Costa bought the company in 2005, her primary goal was to grow the company while maintaining a high focus on quality, accuracy and professionalism, and the values that made GLS what it is today.

We interviewed Maia to hear her story and gain an insight into what makes GLS special.

Why did you decide to become a translator? What makes you passionate about languages?

I’m from a really small town in Minnesota and I was always fascinated by everything foreign. My best friend was a foreign exchange student from Germany who came to our small town, we met when we were 17 and then I started learning German (even though I had been learning French) because I wanted to go over and visit her. We wanted to live in the same country and not just be long-distance friends, so I went over there after college. At the time, she was studying at the Fachhochschule in Cologne, and she suggested, “there’s this program I think you’d be really interested in.” It was Sprachen, and when I looked into it and realized that it was possible to get a degree in translation, I was thrilled. I had actually applied and been admitted to the PhD program for German at the University of Washington. But I decided to stay in Germany and do the translation diploma at the Fachhochschule instead.

How did you get started in the industry?

After signing up for the program in Cologne, I was in Seattle for a visit and I wanted to talk to someone to see if that degree would have any merit when I came back to the States. I called someone to ask if they could tell me if a degree in translation from a German university would be recognized in the US, and they said “Oh, you know who you should talk to? Courtney Searls-Ridge.” This was before I had even completed the program. So, I called her and she said, “Absolutely! That degree would be incredibly valuable! If you get it and return to Seattle, look me up.” And that’s what I did. After living, working and studying in Germany for 6 years, I returned to Seattle and started working at GLS right away. It was a perfect fit.

Do you remember your first translation job?

I did some freelancing and translated some book publications while I was studying in Germany. Actually, one of the very first longer translations I did was a part of this huge anthology about sex. It was called “Sexualia mundi” and the parts that I got to translate were about the Marquis de Sade and Sadomasochism. It’s a funny example of how you just have to be open to translating all kinds of subjects and becoming an expert in whatever subject comes your way!

What makes GLS unique?

We are a single language pair vendor, we’ve been around for so long, we have such a great network of people and we are able to maintain such high standards of quality. We’ve always insisted on that; we refuse to do low-quality work, so we don’t attract the type of client that doesn’t care about quality.

In the industry, there has been a downward push on quality and a downward push on prices, but because we are really good at the type of translation that machines can’t do, we partner really well with the kind of client that values quality in translation because it’s important for their audience, or it’s for publication, or they have a reputation that they want to maintain.

Do you have any advice for new translators?

Honestly, my advice would be to solicit and learn from feedback. Don’t work in a vacuum. If you’re a freelancer, find another freelancer to team with, and edit each other’s work. If you’re in-house, learn from your colleagues, and pay close attention to the edits that are made to your work. Developing a specialization is also important. If you decide to try to specialize in 30 subjects, you might attract a larger number of one-off jobs, but if you become an expert in one or two subjects, you will eventually attract repeat clients who need specialized translations over the long-term.

What are your main goals for the future of GLS?

I think there’s a big market out there for what GLS specializes in: the types of texts that can’t be spit out by a machine. So I think we will continue to do what we do best, and do more of what we do best.

Mandy Olson, winner of the 2017 Gutekunst Prize!

June 21, 2017

We are very pleased to announce that Mandy Olson, a senior translator here at GLS, has been awarded the annual Gutekunst Prize of the Friends of Goethe New York – well done, Mandy!

Originally from Wyoming, Mandy has been working for GLS in Seattle since 2010 and completed her American Translators Association (ATA) certification in 2014. She holds a BA in German, Anthropology and Publishing & Printing Arts from Pacific Lutheran Univerity (PLU) and a certificate in German to English translation from the Translation and Interpretation Institute at Bellevue College. She spent time in Freiburg, Germany during her studies and subsequently worked as an English teacher in Salzburg, Austria as part of the Fulbright program.

Mandy’s hard work and dedication to her profession certainly paid off when she was awarded the prize in New York on June 8th for her translation of an excerpt from Rasha Khayat’s novel Weil wir längst woanders sind (Because We’re Elsewhere Now). Rasha Khayat, born in Dortmund in 1978, is a German-Saudi author and translator. Khayat’s debut novel tells the story of a German-Saudi man who travels to Saudi Arabia for his estranged sister‘s wedding and explores such themes as identity, alienation, family and cultural disconnect. Weil wir längst woanders sind was nominated for the Klaus-Michael Kühne prize for the best literary debut of 2016.

Mandy at the award ceremony

For Mandy, taking part in the competition and attending the award ceremony was a positive and memorable experience:

“While I do enjoy my technical translation work, I have always hoped to one day translate literature as well. It isn’t so easy to get literary translation work, though, so when I found out about this prize, there was really no reason not to give it a go. I also entered the competition last year and, even though I didn’t win, I found the exercise of completing a sample translation worthwhile in itself.

“The ceremony was fun. It was a huge honor to receive such an award from a truly impressive jury and a rare opportunity to talk to many experienced literary translators as well as publishers and editors. They were all very kind and generous. I really enjoyed hearing Charlotte Collins speak about her experiences with translation and reading an excerpt from her brilliant translation of Robert Seethaler’s Ein ganzes Leben, for which she was awarded the Helen & Kurt Wolff Prize.”

About the Gutekunst Prize

The Gutekunst prize was created following a generous donation to the Goethe Institut New York in memory of Frederick and Grace Gutekunst. The competition, in its seventh year, allows young translators to demonstrate their talent in literary translation and helps them connect with the wider translation and publishing communities.

For more information and a link to Mandy’s prizewinning translation, please go to:

https://www.goethe.de/ins/us/en/kul/ser/uef/gut.html?wt_sc=us_gutekunstprize

–Rachel Robertson

ATA conference in San Francisco

November 15, 2016

For GLS, November has become synonymous with the annual ATA conference, where language professionals across the world come together to exchange ideas, make connections, and guide the industry forward. The conference provides an excellent forum for translators to step out from behind their desks and engage with their colleagues, formally and informally. In other words, the ATA conference gives us the opportunity to think about what our industry stands for and how we can all help it grow. This year’s conference took place in San Francisco (on the scenic Embarcadero—we hope that Seattle’s post-viaduct waterfront turns out so well), and everyone seemed to be buzzing from the excellent local pour-over coffee.

The conference also offers the rare chance to spend some time with colleagues far and wide, and to transform working relationships into social ones (and sometimes the other way around, too). We felt lucky to meet some people in person, after “knowing” them only via email and the telephone for months or even years.

We attended some fascinating sessions on translation (and not just the DE<>EN language pair!) and came away inspired by the good work that translators across the country are doing. I was also fortunate to present some thoughts and strategies on editing DE>EN texts, and I received some positive feedback across the boards. (Much more positive than the locals’ reaction when we jokingly called San Francisco “San Fran” or shudder to think “Frisco.” At least they still have a basketball team, unlike Seattle.)

The biggest event of the conference, for us at least, was giving Courtney Searls-Ridge a proper send off, as she’s retiring after years of great work and dedication. There’ll be a dedicated post shortly, but suffice it to say, the field of translation is much better thanks to Courtney’s hard work and vision. She’ll be missed!

–Geoffrey Cox

Ger<>Eng-specific Translation Challenges: Negation

September 22, 2016

“All of our blog posts have no in-depth discussions about grammar.” What is wrong with this sentence?   Read on to find out!

In my capacity as a grader for the German-to-English ATA certification exam, as an instructor of German translation at Bellevue College, and as an editor and proofreader of countless translations that go through our office, I see a wide variety of texts translated by a wide variety of translators. Over the years, I have worked on identifying and compiling a list of many of the common areas for error in German<>English translation that can trip up even the most well-trained and seasoned translators. As we all know, being a good translator requires more than just being fluent in both the source and the target languages. In particular, it requires good “transfer” skills. Awareness of these translation-specific, language-specific challenges and mastery of the relevant transfer strategies can turn a good translation into an excellent one. In this Translation Challenges Series, I hope (“hope” being the pivotal word here) to contribute a number of posts to this blog about some of the specific challenges we face as German<>English translators, and the solutions we have for dealing with them. This post will focus on some of the different forms of negation used in German and English, and some options we have for translating them properly and idiomatically.

Take, for example, this sentence from a technical text: “Alle nachfolgenden Stufen zeigten keine Auffälligkeiten.” When translating it into English, if we stick too closely to the German structures, we end up with “All of the subsequent steps showed no anomalies.” This, of course, makes sense in English, but it is somewhat confusing and unidiomatic. It would be more common in English to express this as “None of the subsequent steps showed any anomalies.” So while in German we have “All showed no,” in English we have “none showed any.”

Here are some more examples of the translation of German negation into English:

Die Abweichung hat keinen Einfluss auf das Prüfergebnis.
Instead of: The deviation has no impact on the test results.
Try: The deviation does not have any impact on the test results.

Dieser Schritt wird nur abgearbeitet, wenn keine weitere Equilibrierung durchgeführt wird.
Instead of: Perform this step only if no further equilibration will be conducted.
Or: Only perform this step if another equilibration will be conducted.
Try: Do not perform this step unless another equilibration will be conducted.

Weitere Auffälligkeiten konnten nicht festgestellt werden.
Instead of: Further anomalies could not be detected.
Try: No further anomalies could be detected.

Auch diese Probenahmestelle zeigte sich nicht als sehr geeignet für diese Überprüfung.
Instead of: This sampling site is also not particularly suitable for the test.
Try: This sampling site is not particularly suitable for the test either.

Alle anderen Chargen des Verpackungsauftrages sind nicht betroffen.
Instead of: All of the other batches of the packaging order are not affected.
Try: None of the other batches of the packaging order are affected.

Of course similar strategies for avoiding literal formulations and instead using the grammatical structures and syntax that are idiomatic in the target language also apply to translation from English into German. Whereas in English it is perfectly idiomatic to say “I don’t have time,” if we translate that literally into German we end up with: “Ich habe nicht Zeit” instead of “Ich habe keine Zeit.”

Often (but not always) we find that in English, it is more idiomatic to negate the verb and bring the negation (i.e., the important information) closer to the beginning of the sentence. However, in German it is often more idiomatic to negate the noun and allow the negation to happen towards the end of the sentence. This stands to reason, since in general, English tends to favor verbal constructions, whereas German tends to favor nominal ones, and English likes to put important information first, whereas German is comfortable (given its syntax) with having important information come at the very end of the sentence.

So just remember, if you always use the forms and structures that are idiomatic for your target language, all of your translations will never be bad!

–Maia Costa