Before letting you all know how and why I became a translator, I would like to say thank you to Nova Marketing for giving us the resources to start this translation blog, to El Jefe for giving us so many ideas and direction in taking the first steps to write a blog and to El Profe, whom we admire and respect, for his encouragement to write about our passion. This would not be possible without your ideas and determination to create a space where we can be ourselves and where we can express, inform, educate, and serve those who appreciate our profession, whether translators and interpreters or not.
My journey as a translator began with my other passion —being a geek! From Sci-Fi movies and TV series to comic books and manga, from cartoons and anime to fantasy literature and video games, I have always had a passion for everything that can transport me into another realm. I guess most children are born being geeks and some leave that fantastic world at some point in their lives, except the Force was strong in me.
In my beautiful, native Costa Rica, I used to love (and I still do to this day) playing video games. Nevertheless, there was a problem —the video games we had access to in Costa Rica were not translated into Spanish, only into English. Sure, localization and translation in video games existed but only, and mainly, from Japanese into English and a few other languages including Spanish but the latter could only be found in video games in Spain.
Growing up, I always had a skill for languages and by the age of 5, I already had a very good understanding of English; however, my vocabulary was limited. Since it was in my nature to geek out playing video games, I was never satisfied with just playing the games. I wanted to understand them, know the story, and immerse myself into that fantasy that you were in control of. Therefore, I had to find ways to accomplish that while playing video games. That’s when The Legend of Zelda (Zeruda no Densetsu, for those who love Japanese), a video game created in 1986 by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka of Nintendo, changed the course of a child without him even knowing. I loved playing that game and when a third sequel, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, was released I became desperate for knowledge because the video game industry had evolved into one where the storyline was extremely important for gamers. I can still remember my father walking into our living room and finding his 6-year-old Hobbit son in front of the TV playing Zelda with an English to Spanish dictionary on his lap. He asked me: “Where did you get that book from?”, to which I replied: “It’s a dictionary I found on the bookshelf. I am using it because I cannot understand some words in the game and the storyline is incredible.” I can proudly say that at that moment, I became a translator. Using a dictionary while playing video games became a normal practice for me for the next several years until I expanded my vocabulary enough not to use the dictionary anymore, whether because I knew the word or I understood it because of the context.
I can still remember my father walking into our living room and finding his 6-year-old Hobbit son in front of the TV playing Zelda with an English to Spanish dictionary on his lap.
Ironically, an important part of the game required to translate the ancient Hylian language into English by the means of the Book of Mudora. Therefore, not only did the game forced me to translate in real life but also required in-game translation to be able to continue playing it. Should I say more?! Translation was already part of my destiny and I didn’t even know it yet.
As time passed by and my family and friends in elementary school and high school knew that I had an advanced level of English, they would bring me lyrics from their favorite bands for me to translate. Many times, I would take the lyrics home and translate them in a Word document and bring them back the next day. Some friends would even invite me over their house so that we could play video games together while at the same time I could translate the text for them. I was on the right path to becoming a professional translator.
Then, when the time came for me to choose a professional path, I had another problem —I had been accepted to the two most prestigious schools in the country but I had to choose between English and Forest Engineering. Being a Costa Rican, you are always taught that nature is the most important gift we have and that a sustainable, ecological approach in life can really make a difference in the world. Therefore, I had this conundrum I needed to solve. Whether to follow a passion I knew I had a skill for or become a forest engineer and try to make a difference in the way we perceive nature. It was not easy, but a week before I had to send in my paperwork to formally accept one of the two schools, I was reminded by the geek in me of the endless hours I spent translating for my own pleasure and I thought to myself, “If I could be so happy translating for myself, I am sure I can make other people happy with translations.” Then, it was clear to me that translation was the best option for me.
I decided to go to the University of Costa Rica where I majored in English Language and Literature with a specialization in Translation and Interpretation. I am happy to say that I do not regret my decision and that being able to work in the field with the great coworkers I have is the best professional accomplishment I have ever had.
Every person is different —our cultures, life experiences and decisions shape our future so I would love to hear from you. Let us know what you think and if you don’t mind sharing your own story about how you became a translator, we are all elven ears!
May the way of the Hero lead to the Triforce!