Monday, September 3, 2018

Found in Translation

I focus somewhat on creative writing on this blog, but let's not forget about our scientific writers and editors. I recall when chatting with Dr. Laurie Anne Walden last year, she mentioned editing scientific articles written by authors whose native language was not English. Today we get to see another variation of working with linguistic challenges from a scientific perspective as we chat with Dr. Nathalie Fernandez Cubas: veterinarian, writer, translator, and founder of NFC Linguistic Services which she says is, "one of the best decisions I've ever made in my career."

Nathalie received her veterinary degree in Spain in 2007 and after graduation, moved to France where she focused on equine medicine and became fluent in French. After a year, she returned to Spain and, she says, struggled to find professional and personal stability.

"I did not know it yet, but I was about to discover a new passion."

"I gave myself some months to think about my future," she says. "During that period, I met a professional translator by coincidence who told me how difficult it was sometimes to find translators for highly specialized, scientific texts." It was then that something clicked. Given Nathalie's love of English and her bilingual skills in Spanish and French, she developed a plan. "I would study translation and interpreting at university and try to make a living from veterinary editing and translation. I did not know it yet, but I was about to discover a new passion."

On a typical workday, Nathalie spends a majority of her time translating veterinary texts from English and French into Spanish. She covers a wide range of subjects, including texts ranging from ophthalmology and parasitology to swine and poultry production, with occasional translations on topics like tourism or cosmetics. "It pushes me a little beyond my comfort zone," she says of these non-veterinary topics.

Given that veterinary medicine is highly specialized with its own terminology, it might not come as a surprise that the most common issues Nathalie encounters in her translating involve vocabulary due to the author either having scant scientific background or a human medical background, which does not necessarily cross over to the veterinary world. "As we usually say in the veterinary community, 'a cat is not a small dog' and a dog or any animal is not a human on all fours!"

It's hard to deny Nathalie's enthusiasm for her work. "Translators are not merely readers," she says "They are the best readers. They need to read between the lines, they break the texts down in pieces, they strive to understand every word, every nuance, every concept and then transfer the overall meaning to another language. Isn't that magic?"

"Translators are not merely readers. They are the best readers."

Being a linguist, Nathalie has a unique perspective on the differences in veterinary medicine, animal health, and animal welfare across many different cultures. Before she began freelance work, Nathalie was an editor in a veterinary publishing house which allowed her to work with veterinary authors across the world. "This allowed me to learn a lot about the reality of the veterinary profession in other countries," she says. "In Latin America, for example, they are now more concerned about animal welfare in production animals." This has resulted in an increase in the number of publications on that topic from those countries. "In Turkey and India, the poultry sector is a leading edge industry," she continues. "In Europe, the pet sector is very dynamic, particularly in the fields of prevention, feline medicine, nutrition, and senior medicine."

Being fluent in a language other than your mother tongue is a skill that is typically lauded by those who have it
and with today's growing global network in terms of everything from tourism to IT to yep, vet med, learning a new language in some ways can seem essential. "Languages give you an incredible opportunity of discovering other cultures and other ways of thinking," says Nathalie. "I believe it is essential to transmit to the youngsters the important of learning languages." Apart from Spanish, French, and English, Nathalie speaks a little Portuguese and says she would love to learn a Nordic language, too.

"What I like most about my job is that I learn new things every day," she says. "I am always studying, deepening, and perfecting myself on the most varied subjects. Every day is a new adventure!"

You can't argue that level of enthusiasm. Until next time, happy reading, happy writing, happy vetting.

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