Chartered Institute
of Linguists

Meet our members

Sara Horcas-Rufián

Tell us about your early experiences. Have you always had a passion for languages?

I vividly recall my fascination with the (big) wide world long before I could articulate it in words. As a child, I felt an exhilarating sense of adventure watching the cartoon Around the World with Willy Fog. I began writing short stories and for three years in a row I won a competition organised by my local council in Andújar, Andalusia in Spain. Each story concluded with a moral about how people can transcend language and cultural barriers to understand each other – a theme that resonated deeply with me.

Could you say a bit about your work…

I am a translator with a passion for teaching, and proudly hold the position of an Adjunct Professor at URV in Spain. I completed my (translation) university studies in Spain, which included an Erasmus year in the UK and an enriching six months in Russia, and began my journey as a freelance translator in 2013.

What has most surprised you about working as a linguist?

When I started my studies, I was advised to opt for a ‘rare’ language as it could offer better career prospects in translation. I was told there was an abundance of EN-ES translators, so I decided to pursue Russian. Interestingly, about 95% of my work has been from English to Spanish. The rest has been French to Spanish. Regrettably, I haven’t had any opportunity to utilise my Russian language skills professionally.

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

My parents – they are behind all my accomplishments. Their influence on my life has been immense. They bestowed upon my sister and me the most valuable gift of all: education. We had a room we affectionately called ‘the library’. It was filled with books and I spent much of my free time there, engrossed in reading any book I could get my hands on.

And at the moment you’re doing a PhD?

My research focuses on the competence of translation teachers. The aim is to identify and address any weaknesses, which I believe will enhance the overall quality of the teaching.

You tweeted that doing a PhD has completely changed the way you think…

Yes. Our understanding of the world remains limited, as evidenced by the pandemic. Engaging in research is a profound journey that sparks moments of enlightenment, unveiling new wonders of the world. The pursuit of knowledge is endless, and the thrill lies in continuously discovering more ways to learn and grow.

What is one of your bugbears with the translation industry?

The notion that translators should work for free, especially when it’s considered to be ‘for a good cause’. In my opinion, working for free can be detrimental to both our profession and the effectiveness of non-profits’ work, and it may even raise ethical concerns.

Have you been following the case of the British Museum using Yilin Wang’s translations without payment or consent?

Yes! The museum featured her translations of Chinese feminist poet Qiu Jin in the ‘China’s Hidden Century’ exhibition without seeking her permission, compensating her or giving her credit. I stand in solidarity with Yilin. Although the museum eventually reached an agreement with her, it mishandled the situation and set a highly disappointing precedent in terms of how translators, especially women of colour, are treated.

Do you have a tip for fellow translators?

From time to time, I send cold emails to organisations that pique my interest. I reach out when my enthusiasm is genuine and I aim to convey that authenticity in my messages. This rather fearless, informal method has led me to some of my most valued clients today.

Have you made connections through CIOL?

I joined in February 2021. At that time, I was living in Spain, but I also had a temporary stay in Argentina, so I missed out on in-person events. I’m excited about my upcoming move to the UK and eager to take advantage of all the networking opportunities that CIOL offers!


This article is reproduced from the Autumn 2023 issue of The Linguist. Download the full edition here.