Russian Interpretation: Interview with Tatiana Hay
Name: Tatiana Hay
Location: Cherry Hill, NJ
What languages do you work with? What are some of the intricacies or challenges of the particular language you work with?
I work with Russian and English. There exist numerous differences between these two languages and each one presents a challenge during interpreting, I’ll name a few: the Russian language does not have a fixed word order, the words are positioned in a sentence according to their semantic role, and it’s up to the interpreter to preserve the meaning assigned to a particular word by the original word order while transferring it into a fixed-order English sentence. Russian abounds with impersonal, indefinite and passive verbs and forms that could be tricky to interpret as English favors a strict subject - predicate – object structure. Another notorious distinction of the Russian language is that it allows double negation. The interpreter must quickly determine whether it’s done to intensify the negation or to actually create a positive. However the biggest challenge I personally face during interpreting is to reconcile the difference in language styles: spoken English is a lot less formal than Russian, which tends to be full of fancy expressions and bureaucratic jargon.
What are some of your most interesting projects? Why?
The harder the project the more fun I have doing it. I thrive on challenges as they provide the best opportunities to grow. I can think of a few difficult federal trials, one involving human trafficking charges, another one that required me to travel to Moscow during the discovery process. Simultaneous projects are by far the most challenging – last year I had to absorb a very extensive glossary on engine oils in a matter of 2 days in order to interpret at a lubricants research facility for a group of Russian journalists. I was thrilled to be able to use these highly technical terms after a fairly short time of preparation.
What is the best part about being an interpreter? What do you love about it?
I love interpreting for its unpredictability factor – you never know what you’ll be doing tomorrow: a personal injury case, medical malpractice or interpreting for a guy who’s facing a life sentence. I don’t know if I could ever do a regular 9-5 job after so many years of free-lancing. I think I’d miss the thrill.
How did you know you were “ready” to be an interpreter?
I came home after my very first English class in 4th grade and told my parents I was going to grow up and be an interpreter. I never planned and wanted to do anything else. Just one of those life dreams that actually came true.
What is the most difficult part about your job?
Having to constantly grow professionally. You can never sit back and think you’ve learned enough. It’s not just knowing the language, it’s being aware of what’s happening in the world, staying on top of the latest events, learning new words every day. It’s the only way to stay sharp and competent.
Can you translate a sentence for us? Your favorite quote? Your favorite word?
I find it interesting that different cultures have their own forms of famous expressions. Below is a Russian proverb that we use as an equivalent to “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. It literally translates “Moscow wasn’t built at once.” Next time you’re speaking with a Russian friend or colleague, remember to use the right city name :)
Москва́ не сра́зу стро́илась – Rome wasn’t built in a day.