The myth of the lonesome translator (Erika Cosenza)

“Translation is a lonely profession.”  You’ve heard this one before, right? Maybe you have even said it at some point.

Lonely? You think? Well, think again.

Thanks to translation, almost twenty years ago, I met two dear friends. Since then, we’ve shared way more than professional paths and gigs. One of them has recently turned me into the aunt of two beautiful and curious little twins. And I’ve shared so much with the other… We have even looked after each other during dreadful hospital nights.

Thanks to translation, a decade ago I became an iaptian, and I have been enjoying amazing training opportunities and enriching exchanges with wonderful colleagues. Moreover, during this seemingly endless pandemic, we’ve started our incredible Book Bar and held Zoom sessions just to blow some steam in good company.

Thanks to translation, three years ago I found new partners in the feminist multilingual fight against patriarchy, and we are still marching together towards a better world.

Thanks to translation, in 2019 I met a wonderful colleague, who started as a research partner in preparation for IAPTI 2020 Conference—Fingers crossed for 2022!—and ended up being a dear friend. We’ve already spoken together at another international conference, and we are preparing one for next month.

Thanks to translation, I’ve been able to connect at a personal level with many different people who have enriched my life.

Lonely? I sometimes think “lonely” is a code word for “mean and aggressively competitive.” And that’s even worse. It unfortunately holds some truth, though. Sadly, many examples come to mind.

Like the seasoned translator who once told me she didn’t like teaching because she didn’t want to nurture future generations that  would “steal” clients from her; or that occasional interpretation partner who shouted at me in front of conference attendees that speakers talked nice and slowly whenever it was my turn at the mic—yeah, right!—; or that college professor that would make students cry and hate translation by telling them once and again how mediocre they were; or those veteran translators who brainwash students and rookies into believing peanuts are fair because they have to pay their dues.

Feminism has taught me that, in a system that trains us for competition and individualism, sorority is a political decision. This can also be true for our profession. Betting on collaboration and not seeing our colleagues as enemies is also a political decision—one I gladly took a long time ago.

This September 30th, along with health, love, and prosperity, I wish you all lots of exciting and interesting projects. May you cross professional paths with caring, kind, and supportive colleagues!

Happy translators’ day! Happy birthday, IAPTI!

Erika Cosenza

Illustrated by Juan Manuel Tavella