The year has started with a bang, and global events are sure to impact the volume of work for translators working from Portuguese to English and English to Portuguese. From a newly elected president in Brazil to the state of the economy, corruption investigations, climate change, and natural disasters, PLD members should see an increase in their language pair. Seize the moment and get to work.
As an American living in Brazil, I have witnessed various global events that have had an effect on the Portuguese Language Division (PLD) of the American Translators Association. International events, such as the pope’s visit to Brazil in 2013, the World Cup soccer championship in Brazil in 2014, and the Olympics hosted in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 all created a high volume of translation and interpreting work. Presentations, communications, information for visiting teams, and even restaurant menus were translated and interpreted into English and other languages. Another Brazilian event that has been less visible worldwide but has had global repercussions and has led to more volume in the financial and legal translations sector is Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash), the largest bribery case in Latin American history. This massive scheme to defraud Petrobras, Brazil’s largest corporation, involved sixteen companies, almost two hundred arrests, and even inspired a Netflix series. Since Petrobras shares are traded publicly in the United States on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), investigations opened by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the U.S. Department of Justice under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 have increased pressure for Brazil to improve its corporate governance, the rules and practices by which corporations are run. Translators, especially financial and legal translators, experienced an increased workload due to numerous plea bargains, corporate governance reports, financial reports, balance sheets, auditors opinions, bankruptcy information, and so on that needed to be translated.
What other events will likely affect PLD translators in the coming year? We are only a few months into 2019, yet we have already seen the inauguration of Brazil’s new far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has a business-friendly reform agenda. This agenda includes a plan to sell off assets of state-owned companies in order to reduce public debt and a plan to resume high-level talks with China. Recent tragedies such as the Venezuela crisis and the collapse of the Brumadinho tailings dam owned by Vale – another Brazilian multinational listed on the NYSE and thus required to file SEC reports – will also affect PLD work volume, including, I hope, pro bono work.
Business and financial translators are often contracted to translate legal documents in addition to financial documents, such as rental leases, employment contracts, collective bargaining agreements, and the like. In my case, I was fortunate that my past corporate experience was good preparation for this. After college, I moved to Europe, where I gained experience in banking at Citibank in Zurich and Paris, experience in financial control and human resources at DDB Needham’s European headquarters, and experience in budgeting at the asset management division of Goldman Sachs Paris. Little did I know that all of this experience was laying the foundation for me to become a financial translator later in life. So how did this financial translator make the transition? Our family moved to Brazil in 2000 on an expat assignment, and, as a trailing spouse, I enjoyed the rare privilege of being a stay-at-home mom for many years. Raising children full-time was much more physically demanding than a desk job, but the rewards were so great! Several years later, I returned to corporate life as a single parent, becoming the interim finance manager of a consulting firm in São Paulo. I loved working again with Excel documents, but, as any working parent knows, it isn’t easy to juggle work and children. I had four young children waiting for mom to get home, and too often I was stuck in São Paulo traffic or missed parent-teacher meetings and school sports. I had to find a solution. One day I got a call from my best friend, who worked at a hedge fund and who told me, “we just paid a lot of money to translate an institutional presentation – you could easily become a financial translator!” It was the perfect solution. So I talked to PLD’s own Melissa Harkin, whose translating posts I had seen on the Facebook page of the American Society of São Paulo, and she convinced me that, yes, I could make a living as a translator. She advised me to get a copy of Corinne McKay’s book How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, and the rest is history. One month later, as the kids were having an after-school snack in the kitchen, I called out from my home office in the living room, “Hey kids, I’m leaving the office now!” and then I walked into the kitchen thirty seconds later, announcing “I’m home!”
Ruth Hollard, founder of RH Trad and a member of the American Translators Association, has over 20 years of experience in financial control and business administration, having worked for multinational banks and corporations such as Citigroup, DDB Europe and Archon Group France (Goldman Sachs).
Holding a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a major in International Trade and Finance, she also has extensive international experience gleaned from over 20 years living abroad. Initially propelled by cultural exchanges through AFS and AIESEC, Ruth has lived and worked in Austria, Switzerland, France and Brazil.
In 2012, while serving as Vice President of the American Society of São Paulo, she began working full-time as a financial and business translator, aggregating her language skills and her professional experience from the banking, advertising and asset management sectors.
Ruth was born and raised in the U.S.A. but has triple nationality: American, French and Brazilian.