Interview: Translators Facing a New Era

Gloria Cabrejos has been running GCK Traducciones SAC for 23 years.

The current situation in the publishing industry arising from the prevailing health crisis affects each of the players in the industry in different ways. Translators are essential in the editing and publishing process, as they are entrusted with bringing publishing catalogs to life in different languages.  Apart from that, they often take part in teams working on specific projects.

Gloria Cabrejos, CEO of GCK Traducciones, has answered a few questions to help us grasp and glimpse of the new era and the adjustment and reinvention process that we can expect to take place in the future.

When the state of emergency was declared, which were the lines of translation work that were most affected?

In Peru, three main types of translations are provided: the so-called ordinary translations -which, while not necessarily simple, are named that way as they do not need to be signed by the translator and do not need to include their details; certified translations, which bear the signature of the translator; and official translations, which are carried out by an official translator appointed by the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Official translations are the category that has been impacted the most. Official translations are used to carry out formalities with Peruvian or foreign authorities requiring the original documents to be duly apostilled. Due to the temporary shutdown of government institutions both nationally and internationally, these translations cannot be carried out at the moment, as they must be submitted physically rather than electronically, given their legal effects. On the other hand, they are not deemed an essential service at this time.

We should definitely also include the services provided by interpreters, who are the ones that make oral communication possible between people who speak different languages, as the translation industry is comprised of both translators and interpreters. Interpreting services provided in our country include simultaneous or conference, consecutive, liaison, escort, whisper and telephone interpreting, all of which are carried out in person except for the last type.

Telephone interpreting services in Peru are hired by companies established in the United States, and they are rendered locally, covering topics related to public services, insurance, immigration and even criminal law. Although the volume of calls initially dropped by 50%, it has now been increasing, mainly from hospitals—patients wanting to get tested for coronavirus or requesting admission to a hospital after coming out of quarantine.

In an industry in which most people work as freelancers, what do you perceive to be the biggest uncertainty among your colleagues?

The biggest uncertainty right now is not knowing when the economy will pick up again in both Peru and the rest of the world, and therefore, when exactly translation and interpretation services will be hired again to the extent they used to be.

In fact, translation is a world apart. When talking to several colleagues, both in Peru and in the United States, some say that their income has decreased by over 50%, others say that it has remained the same, and still others say that it has increased by about 30%.

As for the latter, they are the colleagues who, since the outbreak of the pandemic, have engaged in translating all kinds of COVID-19 related documents. In fact, companies around the world have encountered the need to translate a variety of information related to the pandemic, teleworking, and lockdown for their employees, clients, and suppliers. These are the topics that are being demanded most today.

In your view, will the translation industry be able to recover quickly once the health crisis is over? Why?

I believe that recovery of translation services is directly related to the regeneration of the different sectors that comprise both the Peruvian and the global economy, especially for specialized translators. For example, a translator who specializes in medical texts or technology might receive more translation assignments than one who specializes in architecture.

On the other hand, while the global economy has been battered by this pandemic, once the health crisis has been overcome—which could take months or perhaps years, according to some experts—the economy will hopefully pick up again, and with that the work for the translation and interpreting industry. However, we will need to rethink the way we have been providing our services and find new ways to adapt to the post-pandemic world.

Translation is a task that is directly associated with the reality of other countries. Tell me a little bit about your links and contacts with other countries and how they have been influenced by this situation worldwide.

Globalization has forged links between all countries. There is no doubt about that. Technology is moving ahead at a staggering pace and information needs to be disseminated almost immediately. This is where the work of translators is always required. In the case of Peru, as the number of foreign investment projects in our country increases, so does the need for translation and interpreting services. In other words, our income depends directly on foreign investment and on the execution of projects in the various sectors of the economy, such as fishing, mining, medicine, or construction, to mention a few.

Probably all industries will need to reinvent themselves in one way or another. In your opinion, which practices will need to adapt to this new world?

The pandemic is forcing mankind to reinvent itself. Many companies have had to use teleworking to pursue their activities, whenever possible, and schools have implemented distance education, to the extent possible, so as not to interrupt the academic year.

And that is where the answer lies: digital platforms. Following this global confinement, many, if not all, public and private companies and institutions will need to rethink their ways of working, and the use of online media is going to be an indispensable part of that.

With regard to translations, the use of electronic media for official translations will need to be explored, yet this would require changes in laws, the use of electronic signatures, and authentication security, in order to replace the physical submission of documents. This would of course save time and costs for the users of such services.

We still have a long way to go, but, with the cooperation of everyone involved, we will manage to reinvent ourselves sooner rather than later, and we will re-emerge as an empathetic and supportive society.


Gloria Cabrejos is a professional translator, proofreader, and editor. She has run GCK Traducciones for 23 years and is the current vice president of the Peruvian Association of Professional Translators (ATPP). Gloria is the editor of Intercambios, the newsletter of the Spanish Language Division of the American Translators Association.





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Universidad ESAN. November 2023 to date. New position: editorial assistant of JEFAS, Journal of Economics, Finance and Administrative Science