Interview Campaign with Translators: Alexandra Vasilopoulou from Greece

 By Milena Rampoldi, ProMosaik e.V. – An interview with Alexandra Vasilopoulou, an English Greek Translator. Translation can help to build a cooperative and tolerant society opposing to racism and discrimination. 
The translator can create new perspective. And this mediator-function of the translator is so important to build up peace in the community and broader society.
Milena Rampoldi: What are the principal linguistic and intercultural problems for translators into and from the languages you handle?
Alexandra Vasilopoulou: While translating, apart from the barriers of grammar, syntax and vocabulary, you can also face problems relating to political correctness or a country’s culture and history. Regarding the linguistic issues emerging during the translation process I can highlight the difficulty of terminology. As for the intercultural aspect, many times I have to deal with sensitive cultural, religious or historical subjects that require awareness and subtlety.
MR: What do you think is important to promote intercultural dialogue?
AV: The debate between cultures and nations is essential, as we can easily understand watching the historic events taking place today all over the world. Immigration and globalization are a key reason for this need. People should be aware of the other’s uniqueness and similarities in order to cooperate as citizens of the world. Racism and discrimination can only provoke problems. Cooperation and understanding work in everyone’s best interest.

MR: How can translations improve communication between peoples and promote a culture of inclusion and peace?
AV: Apart from the obvious labor, which is to disseminate knowledge and literature all over the world, a translator can take an active part in intercultural communication. He/she can stimulate awareness through the choice of what is being translated and also by choosing how to translate something. Especially when talking about topics like racism or chauvinism, the translator can make a game-changing move. That is what the feminist translators did in the first place. The translator can be both a mediator and a creator of new perspectives.
MR: How can you explain to foreigners how different your native language is?
AV: The uniqueness of a language can be made clear by explaining the different cultural elements that have infiltrated the language throughout history and the fusion provoked by these influences. Also, the structural, syntactical and grammatical aspects may vary between languages, so pointing out such features could help create an image of the language’s nature.
MR: How can you teach your language to foreigners in the best way?
AV: Teaching can be effective by providing good knowledge and understanding of the grammar rules, offering a historic and cultural background, giving opportunities for experience in practice with real life texts, articles, films, songs and situations. Finding similarities between the student’s native language and yours can also help the student internalize and be aware of the language’s concept and philosophy.
MR: What are the principal problems translators have when they have to translate into a European language?
AV: Translating from a European language to another can seem easy because of the proximity of the countries. However, Europe is a fusion of different cultures and that makes localization necessary in many occasions. Also, within the EU there is concrete terminology that should be followed when translating documents. Research and consistency should be ensured.
MR: What does intercultural awareness and intercultural empathy mean to you?
AV: Intercultural empathy is of crucial importance; not only for a translator – as it promotes better understanding of the language’s “philosophy” and thus better interpretation/localization – but also for everyone, since we are currently living in a globalised world. People, like translators, who are in continuous contact and interaction with different cultures, can raise awareness on these subjects.