Faces of Gengo: Lara
Originally from Galicia, Spain, Lara is a globetrotting yogini with deep roots in Japan. She went on an exchange program there at 19 and stayed—for seven years! After studying literature in the US and Japan, Lara joined Tokyo’s fast-paced fashion industry. She then discovered yoga while holidaying in London and went on to become an India-trained yoga instructor. Today, this polyglot lives in Morocco with her husband and daughter, juggling responsibilities as a translator, yoga teacher, and mom. To unplug, she turns off her computer and does a yoga headstand. Don’t try this at home.
Do you translate full-time? What is your special area of expertise?
I translate part-time. I am a stay at home mom, so I translate when my baby daughter (1 year old) is napping, playing by herself or with my husband after he is back from work, or after she goes to sleep at night.
My area of expertise, or rather the texts that I prefer working with, are letters or emails (both business and personal) because their translations come more naturally to me, and also texts related to the fashion industry (I have previous experience working in that field.)
Describe your office setup or workspace. What do you have on hand?
I work on my laptop, on a low table in a corner of the living room at home, sitting on the floor. Next to me there is a blanket where my daughter spreads all her toys. If she is awake, sometimes we listen to music. If she is sleeping I work in silence. I have always been able to focus on whatever I do better with music.
What is the view like out your window or office? What kind of scenery are you looking at every day?
I mostly look at my daughter and her toys. Since the table where I work is low, I can’t look out of the window. Anyhow, the living room is a much better view than the outside world though—which is just a boring alley in a residential area in the Moroccan desert.
And your workflow? Are there translation to-dos you check off every day, or an order of operations?
I am not really a schedule person. I turn my computer on and open, in a random order, my email, my Facebook, my Ameba page (Japanese blog platform) and Gengo. As a stay-at-home-mom, I multi-task all day. Once I open Gengo, I check for any new jobs and if there are different options and my daughter is awake but entertained by herself, I work on the shorter ones that do not need my attention focused for a long time (one-line texts, short paragraphs, etc). I take bigger jobs after she goes to sleep.
Based on your linguistic and cultural expertise, what are the best books you would recommend to others?
There are so many books I love, I can’t even come up with a list. But for a good Spanish read I highly recommend El amor en los tiempos del cólera by Gabriel García Márquez (I believe Cien años de soledad is highly overrated and prefer this one…)
I just read Woman at point zero by Nawal El Saadawi (Egyptian) and, based on a true story, it was a deeply touching novel about the position of women in some countries of the Islamic world. (I currently live in Morocco)
One of my all-times favorites is Never Let Me Go by the Japanese/British writer Kazuo Ishiguro.
And a classic must read for any Japanese-English (or vice versa) translator is 「私小説 from left to right」 (shishousetsu from left to right) which is written both in English and Japanese, making it untranslatable (because at the very moment it is unified in one single language it loses all its essence.)
What is your favorite “translator’s snack” for while you work?
Masala chai. This traditional Indian tea is rare to find in Morocco, but I recently found a good attempt at recreating it in the local supermarket… and then one of my yoga students gave me some real masala chai loose leaf tea that she brought from Canada, which I am forever grateful for. I miss India so much!
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?
Recognize when you need a break, and go ahead and take it! Disconnect! I find this is very important—sometimes you are just overwhelmed from all the translating and need to reset away from it to stay focused and sane.
When you feel translating is becoming a routine, and can’t truly enjoy the art of giving words shape in another language to build a bridge for other people, then you need to chill out.
If I find I can’t stay focused and all I see is letters jumping at me from the screen, I turn it off… hang out on Facebook, watch YouTube music videos on TV and dance and play with my daughter. Do a yoga headstand. Cook. Sleep. Step back from digital life altogether!