Interview with a Chinese Translator: Beth Ruggiero

Name: Elizabeth Ruggiero

Location: Chatham, MA

What languages do you work with?  What are some of the intricacies or challenges of the particular language you work with?

Traditional and Simplified Chinese into English. There are many challenges: because there are so many Chinese characters (around 40,000), it is impossible to know them all, because the characters are for the most part non-phonetic. When you don’t recognize a character you have to look it up, which is a multi-stage process (because you don’t know how it is pronounced).

What are some of your most interesting projects? Why?

My most interesting projects are pharmaceutical in nature because I learn so much from them about the drugs that are available for different illnesses and diseases. Learning about the mechanisms of drugs and the effects that they have is particularly interesting.

What is the best part about being a translator? What do you love about it?

The best part is that I am an independent contractor, and I can work anywhere (as long as there is an Internet connection), anytime of the day, doing what I love —using language to convey meaning. I have always loved the Chinese language, but I never thought I could build a career out of it. Not only do I have a career, I have my own business.

How did you know you were “ready” to be a translator?

After I finished my master’s degree, my advisor at Harvard suggested that translation would be a good field for me to look into. First I did editing only, then went on to translation.

What is the most difficult part about your job?

The often tight deadlines are the most difficult part of the job. Most clients want translations very quickly, not realizing the time that has to go into a quality translation.

Can you translate a sentence for us? Your favorite quote? Your favorite word?

为人民服务  Serve the people. One of Mao Zedong’s most famous quotes.