Faces of Gengo: Mohamed
We asked Gengo translators to tell us a little about their lives. Over 80 people responded with stories about their home, translation method, and more. We’ve compiled these into a series of mini-interviews that will be appearing here every two weeks.
One thing is clear: Our translators are a global, well-read and diverse bunch. Nearly everyone extolled the virtues of good exercise, sound sleep, personal accountability… and coffee!
They work in cities, mountains, deserts and beachside. They are chemists, authors, engineers and scholars. Some meditate before translating. One works at a folding card table that he moves around the house. Greek translators were unanimous in their love of classical philosophy as a personal compass.
As Gengo grows, this rich tapestry is reaching all corners of the globe. Here are the stories behind it.
Mohamed is a chemist by day and translator by night. Although his first passion is science, he seems just as enthusiastic about making translation a career in its own right. On top of it all, he maintains an educational YouTube channel starring—you guessed it—himself! Mohamed, how do you find the time?
Do you translate full-time? What is your special area of expertise?
Actually, I’m a full-time chemist, but my passion for translation exceeds the energy of atomic fusion! I just love the idea of being a bridge between different cultures. English/Arabic is my current language pair. However, I’m working on my German to widen my potential as a translator.
Describe your office setup or workspace.
I work from home. Distraction is the last thing my mind needs during my quest for equivalent expressions. Sometimes I read my translation out loud to see how natural it would sound to a native speaker. That’s why I love to work in total silence with a big mug of coffee. Of course, comfortable clothes help get the creative juices flowing.
What is the view like out your window or office? What kind of scenery are you looking at every day?
A quiet side street where a car or two passes by every 15 minutes. There’s a green horizon over the main highway.
And your workflow? Are there translation to-dos you check off every day, or an order of operations?
I wake up just before dawn, have an 8 kilometer jog on the quiet, empty sidewalk along the highway. After having a cold, refreshing shower I log into Gengo and start working right away if there are available jobs. If there aren’t any I just have a hearty breakfast while answering my email and checking news online. Then I go to work and log into Gengo from my smartphone during my commute. If I’m not having a busy day at work, I log into Gengo from there and finish a couple of jobs. Then when I’m home again I check for jobs while having dinner and work till about 9 PM. I don’t use any CAT tools—just the “Al-Wafi” dictionary along with Google Translate and some glossaries. Sometimes I have to do further research, especially when it comes to abbreviations or locations.
Based on your linguistic and cultural expertise, what are the best books you would recommend to others?
Well, from my part of the world, I’d recommend The Quatrains of Salah Jahin. These short poems truly summarize Egyptian folklore and contain a huge amount of philosophical meditations. For novels, I’d recommend anything by Tawfiq Al Hakim, but namely Ashaab, The Wedding Night, The Devil’s Era, and The Diary of a Prosecutor Among The Peasant. And for those interested in figuring out why the political situation in Egypt is such a mess, Mawlana by Ibrahim Eissa is a must read.
What is your favorite “translator’s snack” for while you work?
Just a huge, warm mug of fine 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?
Maybe take a 10 minute break every couple of hours. Look out and meditate on the horizon, have a cold, refreshing shower, organize your desktop or even do the dishes.