The Drops Blog

An Interview with a Translator: How Spanish Translator Anna Suades Vall Works

Shannon Kennedy

This article is a part of a series where we interview the team behind Drops, sharing a bit about what they do, how they started working in the language field, and why they enjoy being involved in the world of languages.

Name: Anna Suades Vall

Location: Barcelona, Spain

Languages: Spanish, Catalan, English and French

One word that best describes how you work: Thoroughly

Drops' Spanish Translator Anna Suades Vall and how she works


Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are today.

Interestingly enough, I have always been a science girl. That was my track in high school and I actually started studying in an undergraduate program in chemistry. However, languages had always been a constant in my life and something I really enjoyed since I was little. And with a little nudge and a lot of support from my family, I decided to switch degrees and found my calling in translation and interpretation.

After I finished my BA in Translation and Interpretation in Barcelona, at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, I decided I wanted to become a professional conference interpreter and I enrolled in a Master’s degree at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey)in the United States, where I lived for three years.

Currently, I am back in Spain and I combine my work in conference interpretation and translation with teaching interpretation at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

What made you first interested in translating?

My love for languages and other cultures.

Take us through a standard workday for you--what are some of the things you do as a translator?

If I have time, I like having breakfast while catching up on the news (I watch the news in English and read them in Spanish, no reason in particular). Then I usually start my working day by checking my emails. If necessary, I send quotes, invoices or follow up on any pending issue.

I spend the rest of my day working on the project I am currently working on, whether it be a translation, a revision or an upcoming interpretation assignment. Nevertheless, no two days are the same.

Despite this being a rather solitary profession, because of my work as an interpreter and as a professor, I am lucky enough to also spend time with colleagues.

What apps, tools, or resources could you not live without in your work?

I could definitely not live without the Internet. I use it on a daily basis to contact current and new clients, and to do research to translate.

In terms of apps, I would say Calendar, Email and a cloud service of your choice. Being able to have my emails and files wherever I go has proven to be extremely convenient to carry on with my business.

And, of course, a powerful computer.

What’s a “hack” or learning technique that you use to figure things out in a new language?

This is probably not considered a hack, but I would say I try to expose myself to the language in question as much as possible (reading the news, reading books, watching TV, maybe try to have a conversation with someone who is a native of that language, etc.). I think that in order to learn a language it is not enough to go through a bunch of grammar books, and we need to observe and absorb a lot of other things (pronunciation, collocations, common usage, etc.).

How do you keep track of what you have to do?

Old style: I have a planner on my desk where I write down everything I have to do and I check things off my to-do list. However, I do add meetings, interpreting assignments, classes, conferences, etc. to my calendar app.

What’s your least favorite thing to do and how do you tackle it?

Probably having to deal with late payments. Thankfully it is not something that happens often, but it does happen. I just try to be nice but get to the point via email and so far it has worked. I have heard from colleagues who have had very bad experiences though.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Working on so many different topics because I feel I am constantly learning. And also the freedom being a freelancer gives me.

What would you say makes learning languages for translation different from learning languages for other reasons?

When learning languages, we usually focus on everyday conversations (going grocery shopping, getting directions, etc.) and with time we learn grammar and vocabulary to navigate other contexts. But there is always a focus on common topics and sometimes with the goal of passing official certificates to proove you have a certain level of the language.

In my opinion, a translator needs to go beyond that. Understanding the culture is very important, and so is paying attention to nuances and being able to understand the language used in both formal and informal contexts.

In addition to learning a language, translators also need to know what resources to use well beyond the typical bilingual dictionary.

What are you currently reading or what would you recommend?

I am currently reading Becoming by Michelle Obama. I would certainly recommend it as it is beautifully written.

What’s the best advice related to languages that you’ve ever received?

To be honest, I don’t remember any specific advice at the moment. But based on my experience, I would recommend asking a native speaker to correct you (grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary, etc.), even when having a regular conversation over coffee. This helped me a lot with my English.

What is your favorite "un-translate-able" word or phrase?

I think that all (or most) words can be translatable although I admit sometimes they lose their magic with the explanation. There is one I have always liked, and it may be one of the most well known: wanderlust.

Most recently I discovered a new word that is not yet included in the Spanish dictionary: petrichor (petricor in Spanish). Petrichor is the pleasant smell produced when rain falls on dry ground.

How has knowing multiple languages impacted your life?

Knowing multiple languages has been very positive. For one, I make a living out of it. But almost as important is the fact that languages have allowed me to learn first hand about different cultures and make wonderful and life-long friends that I would otherwise have never met.

And they do come in very handy when traveling!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Learning a language is not always easy, and it requires perseverance. Find a method, a resource, an app or a class that motivates you and that you really like. Otherwise chances are you may drop it, and it would be a shame. In an increasingly globalized world, languages are increasingly important and open doors.

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