Faces of Gengo: Ivan
Ivan began learning English when he was nine years old after his mother took him to a private tutor in his native Russia. Since then, English grew to be a huge part of Ivan’s life, later becoming the cornerstone of his career. At present, his is a balancing act: with a young daughter and full-time job, he still makes time for freelancing. Why? Translating gives him the opportunity to explore and research every topic under the sun, which he loves.
Do you translate full-time? What is your special area of expertise?
I combine interpreting and translating and have a full-time job at the Interparliamentary Assembly of the CIS Member Nations (IPA CIS) in St. Petersburg, Russia. The IPA CIS is an international organization that deals with parliamentary issues, models lawmaking and hosts conferences together with the European bodies and UN entities. I joined the International Desk of the IPA CIS as administrative assistant a year ago after a temporary contract at the UN in New York. My job involves a big share of translation and consecutive interpretation.
Fortunately, my job lets me also stay a freelance interpreter and translator. I take jobs from Gengo at my office or contract with direct customers to do interpreting offsite. I do both consecutive and simultaneous interpreting, specializing in IT, law, journalism, political affairs and business. Today, I have many interesting assignments, always new and unexpected.
Describe your office setup or workspace. What do you have on hand?
I work both from home and the office. At home, it has become more complicated after the birth of my daughter— I have less time as I must devote myself to her. On the other hand, sometimes she is a living inspiration for me: seeing her grow makes me happy and I can concentrate on the job!
What is the view like out your window or office? What kind of scenery are you looking at every day?
Well, there is nothing much to say. I see a roof out of my office and a parking lot facing a road from my apartment. Not a spectacular view, indeed. Yet, it does not distract me from working; I can enjoy wonderful views some other time.
And your workflow? Are there translation to-dos you check off every day, or an order of operations?
Typically, I concentrate on the current assignment and deal with everything else in the evenings or during breaks. I also prefer silence when working— I get absorbed by the text and try to deliver-deliver-deliver. :)
Based on your linguistic and cultural expertise, what are the best books you would recommend to others?
Well, I am Russian and stay Russian. To me, the best writers are classics, like Tolstoy or Dostoevsky. Crime and Punishment and The Idiot by Dostoevsky and War and Peace by Tolstoy are my favorites. From these masterpieces, you can learn a lot about life and plunge yourself in the beautiful style of the language of the classics.
What is your favorite “translator’s snack” for while you work?
While working, I take some time to have a substantial meal and only have tea with cookies at my table, but to me there is nothing better than Russian pelmeni (dumplings, pierogi) or syrniki (baked cottage cakes). You can make syrniki easily: take 1.5 pounds of cottage cheese and mix it with two spoonfuls of flour, stir, add one egg, five teaspoonfuls of sugar and washed raisins. Put some flour on a plate and form small cakes (syrniki) of about 100 grams each, put them on an oiled and hot pan and fry from both sides. Voila! Bon appetit! Syrniki are good with jam or sour cream, and a cup of tea or coffee.
Finally, if you had to give advice to your fellow Gengo translators, what are the best ways to relax and stay sane as a translator?
Simple, physical exercise is the best way to relax. Personally, I exercise in the evenings (push-ups, pull-ups, stretching). It’s a small change of scene and you get the energy to carry on.