Welcome to our Translator Spotlight series! We look forward to sharing with you the real people behind the computer screen, the translators who put in knowledge, expertise and care into making every translation spot on. Each month we will feature a Q & A with one translator who has stood out for going above and beyond.
This month we are happy to present one of our Ukrainian translators, Danylo Kravchuk!
Photo by Andrii Podilnyk
Please describe your cultural background (languages spoken, ethnicity etc.)
I grew up in the city of Lviv in Western Ukraine, where the Ukrainian language is most commonly used in everyday life. Therefore, this part of Ukraine is known as “the most Ukrainian” part of the country. Lviv city is considered the cultural capital of Ukraine integrating Austrian architecture, Polish Renaissance and, unique for Ukraine, Gothic style. In spite of this, the Russian language is widely spoken here, just like throughout the entire territory of Ukraine. This is related to the impact of the Soviet Union. Until 1990, all the domestic schools had classes of the Russian language mandatory for every student. That’s why the local population over 30 years old has gotten a very good grasp of it.
After graduating from school, I was lucky to be able to go study at a college in the USA, specifically, in Stamford, CT. It was a vibrant four-year teenage period of my life, on the verge of the Millennium. This is where I learned English and got acquainted with the American culture.
What is something you have translated that you are proud of?
The first thing that comes to my mind is a huge project for the reconstruction of local roads funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. I had to work through all those drawings of driveways, sidewalks, street railways, electric lines, and communications, including getting into the road construction details. It was a very painstaking job requiring a huge effort, but I felt proud of the contribution I made to the development of the local infrastructure. Plus, I acquired a profound knowledge in the field of civil engineering.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a Ukrainian translator?
The biggest challenge was to set up collaboration with translation agencies all over the world.
I sought to get into linguist databases in as many different countries as possible. Challenging was the fact that my primary working language was not as in demand as other popular languages. Soon, I found that healthcare is the field where my language pair is the most needed. So, I focused on this area.
Today, it is difficult to count all the translation agencies I work with, but the number is over 20 in more than 10 countries around the globe. Sometimes I’m nicely surprised by service requests from agencies I forgot about a long time ago. I still remember the agency from Canada, which I signed my first International Vendor Agreement with back in 2009. Our cooperation continues to go on to this day.
What is a typical day in the life of a translator look like?
I’m not sure about other translators, but I’m a late riser. Usually, I start working at 11.00 AM and finish around 8.00 PM. Throughout the day I have two or three breaks, which besides coffee and lunch I try to use to get outside, take my mind off work and get fresh air. At the end of the day, I run to the swimming pool several days a week to keep myself in shape. I don’t work on weekends — that is my personal rule, which I must admit is broken sometimes.
Lviv Opera Theater. Photo Credit: Danylo Kravchuk
Describe your workflow as you translate documents.
First, I try to get into the subject as deep as possible. If it is, for example, a healthcare project, I visit the provider’s web site, glance over the company’s history, products, services, etc. If it is some product, I google it, look for its pictures and videos to understand what it is intended for and what it actually looks like. Then I look for terminology in the target language, which is most commonly used in the particular field. As a rule of thumb, I always check for official translations of the names of government bodies, institutions, organizations, and companies, because very often you can find that they are translated differently than you think they should be.
In my normal translation process without a rush I translate up to 2500 words, depending on the subject. This is the word count I use to plan my work and decide whether to take another upcoming project or not. Usually I leave at least half a day before a scheduled deadline for review as well as unexpected issues such as a disruption in computer operation or emergencies. I had a situation once, when my translated file just mysteriously disappeared from my computer. I was shocked. I still don’t know how it happened. Luckily, the document was small, and thanks to this reserved time I was able to translate it again and deliver on time.
Do you have any stories of things lost in translation?
Yes. Once, I had a text of a religious nature, where I had to translate Russian “воскресенье” (ENG. Sunday) to English while getting into the essence of this word. In Russian, this day of the weekend verbally implies the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the source context was targeted at people who do not believe in Christ, but still celebrate Sunday by not working that day for example. However, Sunday in English has nothing to do with Christ. It’s just “a sunny day”. After long thinking, all I could come up with was Christmas, which did not fit the context very well.
Monument of King Danylo Halytsky – Founder of Lviv City, 1256
Photo Credit: Danylo Kravchuk
If you could change one thing about the way Ukrainian translators are perceived today, what would that be?
Very often Ukrainian translators are mixed with Russian translators. I can’t tell how many times I received service requests indicating Ukrainian as a source language with the document actually in Russian. It is a common thing when Ukrainian is actually not a native language for a translator from Ukraine but Russian, and vice versa – Russian is not a native language for a translator from Ukraine. Use of Russian terms and wordings in Ukrainian translations is a very common mistake for Ukrainian translators, and it indicates poor knowledge of Ukrainian. Even Ukrainian grammatical rules do not always match Russian. So, Ukrainian and Russian translators should be differentiated.
What advice would you give for people who are considering the career of a professional Ukrainian translator?
I would suggest to be versatile. Get into as many areas as possible, especially those that look attractive and interesting to you. Don’t limit yourself by one or two specializations. If you ride bikes, for example, study the field of motorcycles. Read articles about bikes, get into the commonly used terminology by visiting biker forums in a language you translate to, search for spare parts for bikes in this language. Make yourself unique. If you know that beauty products are something that you are curious about, why don’t you learn more about them and start translating in this area? Thus, the translation process will not be that boring for you, because you will enjoy learning new things about subjects you like.
What’s your favorite cultural dish?
I like Hungarian bogracs (means “kettle for cooking outside” from Hungarian). This dish is adopted in the Ukraine from our Hungarian cousin and commonly cooked in the mountain region of the country. It is a stew from many different types of meat and vegetables, flavored with paprika, which is known to be a national spice of Hungary. This combination makes the meat incredibly tender, melting in the mouth. Very often it is cooked in a pot over open fire, which adds a unique taste.
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