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How One Translator is Using This Time to Get Closer to Literature

Gabriela has found herself looking for normalcy in her favorite works.

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Matt Grech

Matt Grech

Content Marketing Manager at Smartling

When we sent out on the mission to create our book, Move the World with Words, we wanted to capture the stories and of individual translators.

Sitting at the intersection between languages and cultures, these translators live such unique and passion-filled lives. They've dedicated their work to moving the world with words, and connecting communities across languages.

Of course, we all know that the impacts of COVID are being felt around the entire world. Everyone has been touched by this pandemic in some way. When we reached out to learn about how Smartling translators were adapting, they shared some amazing stories.

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I had the chance to touch-base with Gabriela, who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and learn a bit more about how her daily life has been impacted with COVID-19.

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Matt: How has your daily life changed? Are children and family members home? Has your routine changed?

Gabriela: What has really changed is the freedom to go out and meet with people. I live with my husband, and he is also working from home, but mostly in calls so I guess I miss the silence!

In any case, our apartment is large enough to keep us apart when he needs to work and I need the silence.

Of course now we need to plan our meals and shopping more carefully, take the time to sanitize everything we get delivered (that’s how we are managing shopping here) and clean the house by ourselves (we usually have help once a week), but we are doing fine.

I have heard that families who have children being home schooled need to work remotely are having a harder time.

Matt: Yeah I think that's been a huge adjustment for a lot of the world, losing the office! How have you been handling the shift, has it been a big change on your end also?

Gabriela: That part of my life has not changed a lot since this crisis started. It was very hard to concentrate in the first days because of the constant communication with friends and family, but now I have recovered my working routines.

Matt: Is there anything special you're doing to stay positive, calm and focused during this time?

Gabriela: The first days were really hard emotionally. We have a small family but many of our friends and extended family members were either abroad or belong to high risk groups, and you really didn’t know how they would manage in this situation.

Now we have more or less found a way. I have a very close network of friends and we are helping each other out. Also, my ballet, jazz and yoga teachers are teaching through Zoom. I hated the first class in my living room, I hated it A LOT. It reminded me of how much I miss my freedom.

Then I decided to focus on what I have and not on what I don’t. Of course this has disrupted my whole life and travel plans (I was planning to stay in Berlin for two months and then go to London; I had bought A LOT of tickets already) but I guess the priority now is staying safe and healthy. We’ll see after this is over how we can go on.

I try not to think much in advance and keep it day by day. The first days, as I said, were the hardest. Now I kind of got used to the situation. Also, although I am not particularly a “zen” person, I try to help others who are alone or who are not working at all. This is far tougher on them.

Matt: I'm curious, since we've been seeing so many brands get creative an innovative right now. What kind of content do you have lined up for March?

Gabriela: Most of the content I have for April now are either daily updates to existing websites or new content on COVID-19 or updates relating to the pandemic. In March, however, I translated a travelers’ website for New Orleans and it was such a pleasure!

Matt: Would you say most of your recent work has been around COVID-19?

Gabriela: Yup, a lot. Early on, when this was just beginning, I did an English into Spanish medical translation webinar on coronavirus and COVID-19. That really helps now.

Matt: I know you've been translating for 25 years, that’s a lot of experience! Has there ever been an experience that has impacted your work in translation like this at all? What's new about this situation?

Gabriela: I think this is somewhat comparable to what happened after the financial crisis in 2008. At that time, the problem was that the crisis was affecting both the US and Latin American countries, and the economic downturn was general.

What is unique to this situation is that it is worldwide. I think we might be facing a change of era.

Matt: Are you noticing any changes in the demand for translation? Are some brands or industries requesting less, and others requesting more?

Gabriela: I usually have a mix between local direct clients (in Argentina, there are fewer translation companies than elsewhere) and translation companies abroad.

The work for local clients is completely halted. I think I only did one or two jobs since this started. On the contrary, my international clients have kept me super busy (Thank God!).

Healthcare and medical translations are booming, but also those related to customer service and online solutions.

Matt: With so much experience, you've certainly come seen so many different translations, so many different forms of content, and even different world events kind of like this one! And clearly things are going to change, so how do you think brands should react and adjust to this situation?

Gabriela: We are seeing in these days that there has been an abrupt shift to mail delivery services (they are far less usual here than in the US), e-commerce and online payment methods. Another thing many brands are implementing are gift certificates or pre-paid vouchers.

I guess this is the only way in which they may cover their monthly costs while they are kept out of the market.

Matt: But looking beyond your work, now is such a great time to learn! Are there hobbies or skills are you picking up to stay busy?

Gabriela: I haven’t had much free time these days. I sleep a little later and then I have been working as usual, plus these Zoom classes and housekeeping. I am a bookworm, so I always have far more books to read than time to read them. I’m catching up.

The only free cultural activities that I have been able to enjoy have been some streaming from the Royal Opera House and a course on the English of Shakespeare by the British Council that starts tomorrow.

Also, the only craft that I like is book binding, basically to make my own notebooks. I have everything at home and learned how to do it some time ago, but I haven’t had the time.

Matt: Have you had the chance to head outside at all? New York has been really quiet! How has the area around you been impacted by the sudden change?

Gabriela: I got out once since March 20, when the social distancing order was placed in Argentina. I went to my mother-in-law’s to help her with her shopping. She lives 5 blocks from home on one of the main avenues in Buenos Aires, and its just amazing how quiet everything is now.

Also, we live close to the city airport, so we usually hear the planes arriving and departing. They are part of our sound landscape. The silence is very noticeable these days. Unlike other days, when we notice when there are no planes, we now notice the choppers (from government officials) and the one or two flights there are per day (usually repatriation flights).

The first days, police cars would go around my neighborhood announcing the official bans and restrictions through their loudspeakers. It was an awful post-war feeling.

Matt: Any personal stories you would like to share, about yourself, your family, or your community?

Gabriela: As soon as this started, we created a Whatsapp group with our closest friends. Although there are a lot of memes and jokes sent every day, we have been supporting each other with our needs and fears, and that is really great. I guess we will soon be able to hug each other. In the meantime, we are trying to keep our moral high and help each other. It’s the only way to go.

THIS TOO SHALL PASS.

Some will need our support and help, and we must be there for them.

Thanks Gabriela!

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