Professional German Translation: Interview with Eva Stabenow

Name: Eva Stabenow

Location: Nashville, Tennessee, USA (aka “Music City”)

Eva Stabenow 2010


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

Although my degree is in German, English and French, I work almost exclusively with German and English these days.

German sentences and words tend to be much longer than their English counterparts. This can be a challenge when you need to make the target text fit the layout (think brochures, subtitles, and of course on-screen text in software localization).

In simultaneous interpreting, when working from German into English, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that the German verb often comes at the end of the sentence, which can leave you in verbal limbo for a while!

What are some of your most interesting projects? Why?

To be honest, my favorite project is always one where I learn something new and can be a little creative with the target text. That is one of the reasons I love working in marketing. My current favorite topics are probably health, fitness and medicine. Translating text for voiceover recordings and subtitles is always a favorite with me. Since I work mostly in translation but trained as a conference interpreter, translating spoken language is a natural fit and always makes me happy!

One of my earliest favorite projects was localizing a game – I don’t even remember the name any more – that revolved around Anasazi culture and really got down to the historic details. Fascinating!

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

I am a deeply curious person by nature, so I love being able to learn new things and delve into new subject matters. What better way to spend your working life than being allowed to explore an endless array of subjects? Working on my own schedule is a close second, though!

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

Does anyone ever really know? In my case, I completed my M.A. in Conference Interpreting in 1995, i.e. in the middle of the software localization boom. I immediately started doing localization work for IBM – getting my first taste of then-novel CAT tools with IBM TM/2 – and then in games localization. There was so much work I didn’t have time to think about whether I was ready. After a while, I didn’t have to any more!

What is the most difficult part about your job?

It took me a long time to learn how to take time off and relax. Having to do everything yourself can also be a challenge. Sometimes, I wish I had an IT department and a bookkeeper!

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

That’s a tough one. There are so many! But since I’m a translator being asked about translation, I’ll have to go with the classic German phrase: “Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof”, which has nothing to do with a train station (Bahnhof), but instead means “It’s all Greek to me”.