Training for the craft

Asked what training aspiring translators need, Tzimas and Kontaxaki have practical suggestions. He recommends «a sound knowledge of the foreign language – although you don’t really have to be bilingual – a general education and a certain amount of talent.» She recommends «a lot of reading, a lot of traveling, a lot of practice.» As for getting established, Tzimas warns that the competition is intense: «It can take you some time before you start getting off the ground. There aren’t any specific recipes other than perseverance, respect for what you are doing and a touch of luck (or maybe more than a touch).» Kontaxaki believes hard work and consistency are the keys to getting established. The lot of the professional translator is not always an easy one. The legal framework isn’t clear and there is no professional body to represent all practitioners. Tzimas comments: «Translation isn’t a profession that can keep the pot boiling, at least not for the first few years. Earnings can be truly disappointing and it is only too often that you find people who consider translation merely as an extra occupation – although a time-consuming one. There isn’t a state policy of a minimum pay per page and that is quite discouraging. There has been a lot of discussion about the organization of a translators’ union but most of the efforts so far have met with little success. I hope the union case will fare better in the future and I would really like to call upon translators for cooperation.» Most translators are freelancers, Kontaxaki points out, adding: «It would be nice to have some laws protecting us, instead of confusing us as well as the publishers. For example, right now we are often obliged to pay twice for our social security (IKA and TEBE) because the State cannot decide what to do with us. A lot of translators have protested, but nothing has been done about it.» Tzimas has just finished translating a literary guide to Florence by David Leavit for Metaichmio and hopes to get more translating connected with art history and archaeology. Kontaxaki is working on some Ian Rankin short stories, and will soon be working on Edna O’Brien’s «In The Forest,» also for Metaichmio. Her ambition is to get better at what she does: «but I wouldn’t mind being able to choose the novels (and the pay) I like.»

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