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Interviewing Karol Tapia de Moya

This post is the second of a new series of interviews:

Please meet Karol Tapia de Moya!

Karol is a professional linguist and neuropsychologist who translates from English into Spanish (Colombian, European, Latin American, and US varieties) and also edits, proofreads, adapts, and verifies medical and psychology texts.

In 2021, Karol and I met through LinkedIn as we both were studying for a master’s in Medical Translation at AulaSIC, which we have since completed.

What pain do you solve?

I help my clients ensure their translated content conveys the same meaning as their English texts. That is, I have to make sure the materials are fit for purpose and compliant with industry standards, avoiding potentially costly mistakes and errors.

Aside from my specializations, I offer services like website or app localization, which sometimes allows me to work on more general topics (e.g., technology-related content).

I also share information on my blog about psychology as a translation specialization — highlighting why it is vital to find translators specializing in this field for psychology texts.

What are your credentials?

I am a licensed psychologist, both in Colombia (my country of origin) and Spain (my country of residence). I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology and three master’s degrees in different psychology specializations that mix health and social/educational disciplines.

Also, I hold a diploma in professional translation and a specialization program in medical translation. And I am a member of the International Association of Medical Translators and Writers and Related Sciences (TREMÉDICA) and the Colombian Association of Translators, Terminologists, and Interpreters (ACTTI).

What kind of training(s) do you take to continue to improve your skills?

The way I approach this is through cycling three types of continuing professional development (CPD):

  • Specialization-language focused — Courses and resources related to honing my translation and language skills specifically for my specialization. For example, I finished a master’s in medical translation earlier this year.

  • Specialization-focused — CPD in my specialization fields, not related to language. For example, I read psychology and medical books or attend conferences aimed at practitioners.

  • Spanish-focused — Spanish is not easy to work with professionally, even if it is my native language. I look to diversify and stay up to speed with the Spanish varieties I translate into. That is why I read books or attend specific courses to keep my Spanish in perfect shape (e.g., I have just finished a Spanish phraseology course).

What type of clients do you generally work with?

I collaborate with agencies specializing in life sciences, healthcare, and assessments. Some are very specialized boutique agencies, and some are big agencies with specialized departments.

I also have direct clients who offer me the most varied work, which I enjoy. For example, I may find myself not only translating a healthcare website but also writing scripts for recordings for Spanish-speaking patients.

And do you have any preference?

Working with both direct clients and agencies has pros and cons.

Direct clients (especially those that do not have a language department) often need me to explain some of the processes involved in translation, and they do not generally offer a constant workflow. Agencies, however, tend to provide more work and typically lower rates, but if they give you good feedback, you can learn a lot from them and be part of a team.

For me, the ideal position is working with a mix of both types of clients. I care more about how they rate overall in collaboration, communication, payment, and other variables rather than focusing on the kind of client they are.

Do you see yourself managing translators in the future (i.e., having your own agency)?

Never say never, but I can say it is not in my plans right now. I can see myself collaborating with other linguists.

Still, I would prefer not to lose touch with hands-on translation, which inevitably happens once you start devoting more time to managerial tasks.

I agree 100% with what you just said. Do you do interpreting work or provide any other services related to translation?

I do not do interpreting because that requires a different set of skills, but I do offer other services, such as:

  • Localization (translation in the field of website and software content)

  • Linguistic validation (refers to linguistic services in the area of assessments)

  • Bilingual and monolingual reviews of translated texts

  • Adaptations from and to different Spanish varieties

I also have some experience writing medical communications. Yet, I would not say it is one of my specialties, as there are other professionals who are fully specialized in it — like you, Antoni!

Thank you for mentioning that, Karol. What kind of projects or areas would you say you have the most difficulty with?

My biggest problems come with colloquial texts. I feel more comfortable with formal and academic language. That is one of the reasons why I have chosen to translate technical and scientific documents.

Although I like to be creative sometimes, I could not do it regularly like my colleagues who specialize in marketing or audiovisual translation. I aim to excel at making complex texts as straightforward and accessible as possible.

You are right, and I identify very much with what you just said. What kind of dilemmas have you encountered as a translator, and how have you dealt with those?

I think being aware of the limits of our current capabilities. Whenever I am offered a task that I feel is outside my comfort zone, I find myself in a dilemma.

Since I am always learning new things, I feel the need to venture out of my comfort zone and, at the same time, be objective about my actual skills. It is essential to find a balance.

Do you try to translate every single word or idea expressed verbatim? Or do you try to make it sound as natural as possible?

One of the most challenging things for translators is conveying the same meaning as the original but in a different language/context. Even with scientific and technical translations, I have no reason to copy the source.

We can use other techniques to make sure the text reads more natural. Examples of these practices are using synonyms, changing the order of the sentence, or using different punctuation.

If we do not make this effort, then there will be no difference between our work and what a machine would produce, and translation is much more than that.

That is a great tip! Do you have any other pieces of advice that you would like to share?

One of the most important things I would like to share is to avoid getting stuck. If you do not feel appreciated, do not give up. Do not stop trying to find new clients and better conditions.

Sometimes I see a lot of pessimism among my colleagues, which is understandable because things are not easy. But when we stop believing there is something better out there and, therefore, stop trying, that is when we can be 100% certain that nothing is going to change for us.

And finally, do you have any short- or long-term goals you would like to share?

For the short term:

  • Enrolling in a Spanish editing course

  • Obtaining my ATA certification

  • Continuing to tell the world about psychology translation as a specialization

  • Learning how to sew

For the long term:

  • Getting more of the type of clients I have been successful with

  • Diversifying and offering new services

Thank you very much for participating in this interview, Karol. Best of luck with your goals!

I hope you have enjoyed this interview. If you would like to participate in this series, feel free to contact me.


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