BITS and Pieces

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Shalini Puthiyedam

Translator and Former BITS Aspiring Translator award winner

The Annual Translation Industry Awards organized by BITS Private Limited for the past five years have given the much needed recognition to the best translators in country. Though the sixth edition of the Translation Industry Awards has been slightly revamped with the introduction of the fellowship in place of the translation contest, they are as exciting as ever and just round the corner!

So what better time than now to talk to one of our past winners, Shalini Puthiyedam, and find out about her experience?

We would like to know your story. Tell us what the process was like and how you got to know about the contest.

BITS had posted about the contest on Proz and I applied for the contest with very little expectations, to be honest. I received a paragraph in French that I was supposed to translate into English. I think it was almost a month after sending my entry that I got an email saying I was shortlisted. I then had a Skype interview and was declared the winner after a few days. It was a very pleasant surprise!

How was the experience of travelling to Pune to receive the award?

Oh it was excellent. Like I said, the whole thing was accidental for me, you know? And I was very pleased to know that I had won and that a contest like this actually happened in the first place. My stay in Pune couldn’t have been better either. I was there during the Ganapati festival and was showed around the city the night before the function. And the whole experience of receiving the award was amazing because I got to interact with a lot of translators. I had the time of my life!

Do you believe translators lack the kind of recognition they deserve and that such an initiative is called for?

Definitely! Very few people understand the complexity of being a translator. I remember having said this in my acceptance speech as well. Translation is actually about stepping into the shoes of the author and being true to the original. Most people think it’s only about stringing a few words in another language. It is quite a difficult task and it isn’t valued enough in the scheme of things. But it’s heartening to see this change a little over the past few years.

So did you already translate before the contest?

A little, yes. It was something that I had just taken up and I used to freelance. I was just competing in the open market and took things if they came my way. I don’t think I tried very hard to promote and market myself. But I think once this award was on my CV, I started getting a lot more work. Some of it was also literary. I translated a few books.

I’m sure the experience and the process of translating literary work is very different from translating technical texts. Would you agree?

Oh yes! It is greater challenge, I think. One of the books was based on philosophy and was particularly tough. I really felt out of my depth. And that is when I realised the importance of domain knowledge.

How did your language journey begin?

Well, I studied engineering which gave me the analytical skills but I wasn’t really interested in it. And then I translated a document for a friend from Telugu to Kannada without much prior knowledge. It was my friend who suggested that I pursue languages because she thought I had flair. That took me to the Alliance and I studied French.

So you learnt all your French as an adult. Do you think it would have been easier had you started earlier?

Yes definitely. I think it’s much easier to learn new languages as kids when we are much more open and impressionable. But having said that, I don’t think it’s too hard to pick up a new language as long as you are willing and open.

Does that mean you have more languages on your bucket list?

Yes I would definitely like to learn Sanskrit some day.

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Sonali Kulkarni - Editor-in-Chief, French-English Translator A novice at adulthood and an ardent disciple of Dan Brown and Ayn Rand, Sonali is a pathological bookworm, a borderline nerdy introvert and a hardcore adventure junkie who cannot live without chocolate. She is currently studying French and manages to speak some Spanish too. Having represented her state in national level Athletics for the better part of a decade, the nomad in her has now given it up to venture into the exciting world of languages, writing and travel.