Maysaa Abed, a Non-Stop Learner!

Maysaa Abed is one of the active Saudi translators who maintain excellent presence online. I was happy to interview her to learn more about her career and how she is interacting with her audience. As you read the interview, you will immediately realize how her determination and enthusiasm has played a huge role in shaping her current profession and how she can set a great model for non-stop learning!

Happy reading 😊

Tell us more about you and how you became interested in translation?

My name is Maysaa Abed. I studied English Language and Literature at the Arab Open University in Saudi Arabia, and I work as a freelance translator. I originally became interested in the English Language the moment I saw my father’s work. I always wondered what this work was about. I remember trying to read his papers and discover his bilingual dictionaries. My father studied English Language at university and translation was part of his work. So, you can say he was my first role model. When I started learning the English Language in grade 7, I fell in love with it, and I knew where my path will be. When I began my higher education after pausing for about ten years, I chose English Language and literature because there was no translation major in my university. However, I still wanted to be a translator. At that time, my father and husband suggested business administration for me, but I told them I want to study English; this was my long-waited dream, and I was ready for it. My first step and practice experience in translation was when I found “Translation as Problems and Solutions,” a book by Dr. Hassan Ghazala that I came across In Jarir Bookstore. And it all started from there! After one or two years of creating my Twitter account, I found a great translation community and started to engage with professionals and exchange views about translation work.  So, you can say the English Language and translation are the heart and mind I live with right now.

What are the specializations you work with? Is there a favorite one among them? And why?

I translate general texts, media, management, business, and medical texts.  I have a literary translation experiment, but I haven’t published it yet.  My favorite field is media, given my interest in politics and knowing what’s happening around the world. I enjoyed every moment every time I looked up a word to search for its meaning. I enjoyed every moment I learned something new during the translation process. Not only that, subtitling is also one of my favorite fields. I feel so proud when I translate videos because I learned this field through self-study. I’m interested in literary translation as well, and I’m still a beginner in this field.

Can you tell us more about shaghaf  (passion) initiative? How did it start, and what benefits does it bring to junior translators?

When the founder of Shaghaf, Mrs. Rahaf Al-Harbi, realized the need for to handle many projects for clients who are usually tied with really short deadlines, she came up with an idea to offer help and also maintain the work flow. She created a translation team to provide fast translation services by dividing the work between all team members and finish translation requests quickly. This has helped beginner and professional translators in many ways.  For beginner translators, we provide different services:

  1. Proofreading their translation and offering feedback. This includes suggesting ways to enhance their strengths and address their weaknesses.
  2. Providing training programs and courses in translation fields.
  3. Publishing useful content in our social media accounts with translation lessons and advice that benefit translators in many ways.

You have excellent presence on social media. Do you think social media is a must for translators?

Of course! I’m sure we are lucky because we have social media platforms. We can communicate with and contact translation communities and clients all over the world. We can learn and participate in events. Most importantly, we can market our services globally.

I have noticed that you partner with academic institutions to provide translation training to students. How can you describe this training experience? And do you think students have the right resources that help them in the future to consider translation as a career?

Well, it is a new experience. I don’t imagine that I will be a teacher one day, but my passion drives me to this area. Maybe because it is something related to translation which I would do anything for. It was a pleasure to meet these students that have courage and passion for their major. They were extremely interested in learning more about their future career and work experience, whether they will be employed or work as freelancers. I heard and received many questions about how and when I can start, where, how can I gain experience, how can I contact the clients, and how much do I charge for my work. So, I think we should focus on teaching them their job skills like how to start, when, how can they gain experience, where they can volunteer to gain experience if they don’t have a job as well as translation skills.

Many people argue that translation is a tough career with no promising financial future. What do you think about this statement, and what advice can you give to translation students who would like to consider a professional career in translation?

“The grass is greener where you water it.” There is no comfortable career. We must keep fighting to develop our skills, improve, and gain financial stability by offering top-notch services. If they have a translation job, they can also work as freelancers to make more money. They can start to think about making their own translation business, which is something easier now because everything goes virtual. They should also learn about machine translation to gain more experience in their work as it is something essential for a translator, and many translation agencies require it. They can also increase their translation skills by learning new skills such as proofreading, subtitling, content creation, and copywriting, and so on.

How do you maintain your cultural understanding of the foreign Language you deal with? And how do you sharpen your skills in translation?

I’ll share a secret here! When I decided to create a Twitter account, I was mainly interested in sharpening my English language skill, especially my conversational skills through contacting and engaging with English Language accounts. At that time, I was fascinated by my first interaction with these translation accounts and the amount of knowledge they shared. I didn’t know these accounts and communities existed in the digital world! Now, I read quite a lot in different fields, but I focus on my work specializations. I read a lot about the writing craft in English and Arabic. I follow many media and news accounts to keep an eye on the news and be familiar with the jargon. I developed my listening skills by listening to many podcasts in various areas, and the platform I prefer the most is TEDx. For my translation skills, I think we are lucky because these social and digital media platforms are now somehow interrelated with translation knowledge. As a freelancer, I have to be more dedicated to self-study. In addition to attending webinars, lectures, events, and courses in translation, whether they are free or paid, I also make sure to communicate with colleagues to help me in developing my skills, learn new terminology, and explore what is new in our industry. For example, last May, I participated in “Getting Started as a Freelance Translator,” a course by Corrine Mickey, in addition to other courses offered by other mentors during the pandemic. It was terrific, and we learnt different things in marketing, subtitling, and audio-visual translation.

COVID-19 continues to dominate the economic scene, and many have seriously started coping with the disease to think of creative ways to land translation jobs. What advice can you give to junior translators who have just started this journey in this critical time?

COVID-19 led to a new revolution in our industry and market. We will not wait until we can be able to find a solution for this crisis.  I believe in strategic planning.  You have to keep going and invest in yourself by learning more and improve your professional capabilities to reach milestones. You must be aware of market competitiveness. There are still new opportunities that came to surface with the pandemic as everything turned to virtual. Time to benefit from this opportunity! Attend different events and conferences, and continue to join courses to learn and develop your skills. After I finished my online course last week, I asked my trainees a question: When do you think you should start? I got different answers, but my answer was: you have to start now! Don’t wait until you graduate! Don’t wait until the Coronavirus is over! Do it now, because we don’t know what the future holds for us.