12.12.2017
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Hello,

My name is Mikhail Zagot, I happen to be an experienced professional interpreter and translator and wish to offer you the following services:

  • Simultaneous interpretation at conferences and seminars, consecutive interpretation at business negotiations;

     

  • Translation of texts in the area of politics, economy, law, banking, energy, oil and gas, environment, as well as fiction and poetry;

     

  • Training simultaneous interpreters;

     

  • Translation and interpretation (voice over) of movies and TV programs (English-Russian and Russian-English).

 

INTERVIEW WITH MIKE ZAGOT
This interview was published in the Summer 2008 issue of SlavFile magazine of American Translators Association, Slavic Languages Division.
http://www.ata-divisions.org/SLD/slavfile.htm

Переводчик
Михаил Загот
Ты людям должен помогать - внушал мне папа строго -
И, вот увидишь, жизнь твоя впустую не пройдет.
Однажды я старушку перевел через дорогу
И понял, что мое призванье - перевод.
С тех пор часы перевожу, когда в Сибирь летаю,
И тоннами бумагу день за днем перевожу,
И дух перевести я иногда не успеваю,
Поскольку переводу как солдат служу.

Всегда и всюду между двух, все время в середине:
То между нашим и чужим, то между двух огней,
То между небом и землей, когда сидишь в кабине,
А голова - машина между двух ушей.
Легко свихнуться: взад-вперед таскай чужие мысли,
А у тебя еще своих с тележкою вагон…
И переводчик мне напоминает пианиста,
В которого стрелять, конечно, не резон.

Ты переводчик - переводи, в первоисточник всегда гляди,
За словом, милый, не лезь в карман, импровизируй - как музыкант.
Родное ухо держи востро, не падай духом и будь здоров.
Ни дня без строчки, всегда в пути, ты переводчик - переводи.

А переводчика легко обидеть может каждый:
Мол, я не то хотел сказать, и переводчик врет.
Он черным белое назвал, и даже не однажды,
И никому такой не нужен перевод.
Быть иль не быть, известно всем, сказал бедняга Гамлет.
А может, он имел в виду: была, мол, не была?
А переводчик виноват, в него бросают камни
Поскольку дом его построен из стекла.

Ты переводчик - переводи, в первоисточник всегда гляди,
За словом, милый, не лезь в карман, импровизируй - как музыкант.
Родное ухо держи востро, не падай духом и будь здоров.
Ни дня без строчки, всегда в пути, ты переводчик - переводи.

А если потускнел твой мир переводных картинок,
И мыслями чужими неохота больше жить,
Придет почтовый перевод - и станет жизнь малиной,
Когда начнешь рубли в товар переводить.
И не беда, что ты в тени - ты на переднем крае,
И ничего, что ты свой бой всегда ведешь один,
Зато наводишь ты мосты и людям помогаешь,
Поэтому в крови кипит адреналин.

Благодарность
We would like to call your attention to the large number of really excellent articles devoted to interpreting to be found in this issue of SlavFile. These articles are largely the results of the recruiting efforts of Assistant Administrator Elana Pick. The idea of a “focus on interpreting” issue was hers. We are very grateful to her for this and plan to continue active attempts to provide enhanced interpreting coverage in our pages.

INTERVIEW WITH MIKE ZAGOT
Editors’ note: We first became acquainted with Mike Zagot when a link to the film of his translators’/interpreters’ anthem (www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVJS9Sq36Dk) was posted on the Russian translators’ website. We highly recommend this short fi lm to our readers; when you have seen it you will understand why we wrote immediately, asking Mike for an interview.

SF: Can you tell us a little about your background? Aside from helping an old lady across the street (a reference to a line in the anthem), how did you decide to be an interpreter/translator and how did you actually become one?
MZ: My background is defi nitely far from linguistic. My father was an engineer; my mother was—well, here comes something!—a musician. My father was one of those human encyclopedias: well read, constantly on the lookout for new information, broad-minded. My mother was more of a creative type. Both of them had fantastic senses of humor. My elder brother, Anatoly, was what we call in Russia a bard, quite a popular one; several of his songs have found their way into the treasury of so-called “author’s songs” of the past century. But instead of being a professional musician, he was an engineer, doing two things at the same time. In a way this reminds me of myself, although I have taken a serious turn toward music relatively recently. The real music pro is my son Eugene: his life is music and nothing else. As a matter of fact, my choice of the translating/interpreting trade was not obvious. At 15 my parents decided that it would be a good idea for me to go and study at a radio-engineering technical school, from which I graduated with a moderate degree of success at the age of 19. Only three years later, after serving in the army, I entered the interpreters’ department of the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute of Foreign Languages (the famous INYAZ, now the Moscow State Linguistic University). In the meantime I developed a serious liking for the English language, mostly through my love of English songs (Beatles, Rolling Stones, etc.) and my desperate attempts to make some sense of their lyrics—which were quite successful. Well, I definitely acquired some knowledge of English in this way, but it was quite haphazard and unsystematic. Anyway, by the end of my army time I already knew that I would have to be an interpreter. However I did not have the slightest idea of what the profession entailed, I just liked the idea of it. So I was optimistic enough and conceited enough to take the INYAZ entrance exams—and received an excellent on the English language exam! The rest was simple.

SF: Now for the present: Can you briefl y describe your professional activities in a typical year?
MZ: If we consider the past year (2007) to be typical, I divided my time between interpretation, translation, teaching and… singing. Professionally I devoted most of my time to simultaneous interpretation for all sorts of conferences, both in Russia and abroad. Suffi ce it to say that I was out of Moscow more often than once a month; my interpretation assignments included trips to Germany (3 times), Finland, Greece (twice), Austria, Turkey (twice), as well as inside Russia. Twice I worked as a simultaneous interpreter at fi lm festivals, in Moscow and Khanty-Mansyisk. I also went out to Tomsk (twice) and Voronezh, where I delivered lectures to local interpretation students. In Moscow once or twice a week I teach simultaneous interpretation on a regular basis at my alma mater, the Linguistic University, in the факультет переводческого мастерства. I undertake some translations whenever I fi nd them interesting and worth my while—for example, the reminiscences of Countess Sophia Tolstaya, whose translation into English was ordered by the British Council for the Leo Tolstoy Museum in Yasnaya Polyana. In addition I twice accepted invitations from music festivals—the Kaliningrad and the Adler—and in both cases was fortunate enough to receive awards. Speaking of music, in 2007 my second album, Perevodchik, was published and the video for the title song was made. So life has kept me pretty busy.

SF: One of the diffi culties that would arise in putting your anthem into English would be the fact that in our language we distinguish between interpretation and translation. I gather you do both. Do you think this strange English bifurcation is justifi ed and that there are major differences between these two skills, aside from the obvious of course?
MZ: I am sure there are indeed major differences. The interpreter and the translator have two different personalities, at least ideally. The former is quick, energetic, restless, even adventurous, and unafraid of people; the other is pensive, meticulous, thorough, and prefers the seclusion of his room. Being onstage is usually too much for him. Since he leaves a “paper trail,” he has to check and control what he writes over and over again; otherwise he will immediately be nailed. He works for posterity. On the other hand, the interpreter’s skill dissipates into thin air and leaves no trace. He lives and works in the present. He is an actor, even an entertainer. As to knowledge of a foreign language, the work of the translator may be more passive, since he has time to go through linguistic intricacies, which the interpreter, especially a simultaneous one, simply cannot afford.
Of course, life is not a chessboard, and there are many overlaps. I have a friend who is a pretty decent simultaneous interpreter, but he is tense every time he gets another assignment or invitation to do this job. “To face the audience again!” On the other hand, he is quite happy at home hammering away at his computer. As for me, I am fi ne with both translation and interpretation–I like to work with words, but not for too many hours in a row. Usually if I have a written assignment, I sit at my computer from 9 to 1; then I need a change of scene. I need company, I need people around me, I need “adrenalin boiling in my blood.”

SF: Could you tell us the story of making your delightful video? My husband wants to know if all those gorgeous girls are really your students?
MZ: First, thanks for your appreciation of the Perevodchik video, I defi nitely cherish enthusiastic comments from my colleagues. After all, it was done for them. Well, how was it made? I have to begin from the very beginning. I used to sing in my younger years, played a guitar and was a member of a rock group when I was a student. But then I became engrossed in my profession, which I came to like very much, probably fi nding it to be a creative outlet, so music was somehow left by the wayside, at least, for a while. Then my son Eugene grew up and displayed extraordinary music talents. In the long run he turned into a fi ne composer, pianist, arranger and even music director. Anyway, we started writing songs together—his music, my lyrics. We even released two records: And the Light of Music and Dynasty ZA, not too highly acclaimed, but still, those were steps on the ladder. After a while we went our own creative ways. He found new partners, and I also found new composers to work with. But relatively recently—no more than four years ago!—I began trying to sing myself and was told I wasn’t all that bad. I got easily carried away by the process, and this soon resulted in my fi rst album, Uriupinsk-Moscow, which somehow attracted the attention of our Internet pirates and was popularized without my participation. So I decided to carry on and, in particular, got the idea of writing a song about our noble and reckless profession. So the song now has gained popularity among our colleagues in Russia, and evidently is making its way abroad.
As to the video version, the president of a small Moscow linguistic college—where I do not work—offered me support in fi lming the song. Thus, all the girls in the movie are not my students, beautiful as they are. I recruited a professional filmmaker, and we more or less collaborated on the script. The college’s facilities were placed at our disposal, the students were quite happy to be fi lmed, and we also used our music studio outside the city (that is where the lake you see is). To make the fi lm more “weighty,” I invited the President of the Union of Russian Translators, Leonid Gurevich, to assist me in “professional” scenes. And that’s the story.

SF: Clearly you have both very strong linguistic and very strong musical skills. What about the differences and similarities between these two activities? Do you think you would have been more, less, or equally satisfi ed with your life, if you had worked as a musician and played with words as a hobby?
MZ: That is a tricky question since I am quite satisfi ed with my professional life. I have a chance to travel and see new places and people. I enjoy the company of my students at the University and get my kicks in the booth working as a simultaneous interpreter. Similarities? Defi nitely, you need a good ear to interpret well, and in this respect music is a great help to the process of interpretation. Both these professions are public, and I was never afraid of the stage or the audience. I have been working since the seventies at international fi lm festivals in Russia and abroad, too. Twice I was in the U.S. in the capacity of an interpreter of fi lms during some U.S.-Russian fi lm events. When you interpret movies, you have to entertain the audience and in a way, you have to be an actor. I still work at fi lm festivals because I enjoy it so much. As a matter of fact, this particular type of interpretation is my favorite, since it offers the opportunity to play with words, but to do it quickly and spontaneously—simultaneously.
I do not favor hypothetical questions: what might have happened in this or that case? I rather like a line from our popular poet Andrey Dementiev: “Никогда ни о чем не жалейте” (Never regret anything). As a matter of fact last year I have already answered this question, which was put differently by another interviewer: “What did the job of a translator/interpreter take away from you?” My answer was that I probably would have become a musician, but I am fi ne the way I am. On the one hand I like my current occupation; on the other, my song is not over yet (моя песенка еще не спета).

SF: Obviously, writing verse holds no terrors for you? Have you translated any English poetry into Russian? If so what?
MZ: I am defi nitely not terrifi ed by the prospect of writing verses or, rather, lyrics because I always imagine rhymed words set to music. But as to translation of verse… As a matter of fact, every now and then some Russian musicians ask me to translate their songs into English, or they want to sing some popular English (American) song in Russian, and I always say that I can do it, but it will not be a translation, but rather a variation on the theme. My impression is that if you try to translate poetry, you get either a piece of translation that is not poetic, or you get a piece of poetry that is not a good translation. The result should be something very creative in the target language, but there are all sorts of barriers to achieving this. And that is why I avoid translating poetry. In those rare cases when I come across some verse in my translation of prose, I always ask someone else to translate it. I have translated several of my own songs into English, but it involved a rather free interpretation of the text to make it sound good and easy to sing.

SF: Do you have any anecdotes to tell us about how your sense of humor has affected (positively or negatively) your interpreting/translating performance?
MZ: Well, sense of humor defi nitely helps. I cannot now remember any particular case when it really helped me out of trouble, but I recall a couple of examples when funny things were said or written by translators. Here is one: a foreign speaker was presented to a Russian audience by another foreigner of Russian origin, and the latter said, referring to the speaker’s wife: “Наш уважаемый докладчик родом из Копенгагена, а его жена – выходка из Парижа”. The audience, as you may imagine, found this hilarious, because in Russian you can say “выходец” (by birth) about a man, but “выходка” is a prank, a trick, an escapade and a freak—and nothing else. Another brilliant mix up: “The Russian Tsar Ivan Grozny was called Vassilievich because of his fierce temper”. (Царь Иван Грозный, которого за его буйный нрав прозвали Васильевичем.)

SF: Do you have a message for the approximately 500 Slavic interpreters and translators who are members of our organization?
MZ: Translators and interpreters constitute the subset of the human species I feel most at home with. These people understand me, my life and my problems! Therefore my message to colleagues anywhere in the world would be very simple: be of good cheer, eat, drink and be merry, and do your best to enjoy life. All this is pretty biblical, of course, but true. Also: always be professional, take care of your reputation — which is the only thing you have—and respect your colleagues.

 

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