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Ledeur Kraus speaks to certificate students about translation in government service

On Wednesday, Nov. 3, interpreter and translator Pascale Ledeur Kraus spoke to students enrolled in “Thinking Translation: Language Transfer and Cultural Communication,” which considers translation as it constructs everyday life in the contemporary world.
Monday, January 3, 2022

On Wednesday, Nov. 3, interpreter and translator Pascale Ledeur Kraus spoke to students enrolled in “Thinking Translation: Language Transfer and Cultural Communication,” which considers translation as it constructs everyday life in the contemporary world. The course is a core requirement for the certificate in translation and intercultural communication.

Ledeur Kraus speaks French, English, Spanish and some Portuguese. She is senior diplomatic French translator at the U.S. Department of State and has served as an interpreter/translator for the Organization of American States, the International Olympic Committee, the World Bank, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and the Pan-American Health Organization, as well as Sprint, AOL, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, the World Food Program and the World Health Organization among others. She holds an MBA from George Washington University, a degree in conference interpretation and translation from ISIT in Paris, and a M.A. in conference interpretation from the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

After her lecture, she spoke to PIIRS about interlingual and intercultural communications and the practices of translation in government services.

On her work day: 

There is no typical workday; the work at the State Department is varied. In the morning, I can be working on the specs for a satellite; in the afternoon, I can be working on the resume and candidacy of the U.S. candidate to the U.N.; and then, the specs for the building of the new U.S. embassy in Manaus. I can be called in the morning to translate a last-minute speech for the president or do a treaty comparison. Or some training or terminology work, where we prepare specialized glossaries and databases. 

On developing a specialized vocabulary:

It's the most gratifying and also the most challenging part of our work. I constantly have to learn anew. In order to communicate, we are dealing with two specialists in a particular topic and we are generalists. We need to prepare and acquire their specialized language in order to make sure that what party A is saying is conveyed to party B with the same context that party A intended. 

On being diplomatic and the high-stakes nature of her job:

Cultural context is something you have to understand. You have to be very sensitive. We try to explain that saying things directly, the way they're expressed in English for instance, may be perceived as offensive if you don't wrap it around a little bit with flowers and bows and ribbons in Spanish or in French. And vice versa. As a translator, you need to be not only aware of the language and the words you need to be aware of the styles, you need to be aware of the cultural context and you need to be a good researcher because you need to be able to find out how things have been handled in the past on the particular topic. It will tell you a lot about what you can and cannot say. In drafting committees, you often end up with something that it's rather neutral and yet its render it in such a way that the intent is there. 

On the collaborative process of translation: 

There is this misconception about the translator as the bear who doesn't like to come out of his or her den. But it’s extremely collaborative. Any translation, no matter how good a translator is, should be reviewed. A second opinion is always important. There is also this misconception about that reviewer as the judge; the reviewer is the one who helps you draft an even better text. We don't want the document to “smell like a translation,” as we say. It has to be as good as if it were written in the target language. In terms of terminology research, in terms of helping each other, in terms of communication, it's a team effort.