MATI Member Spotlight: Tom Bonsett
Tom Bonsett is a German > English translator and has been a MATI member for nearly 10 years. He has an extensive background in engineering and translation, including a BS in chemistry, a MS and a PhD in electrical engineering, along with a BA in German and an in progress BA in translation studies (German to English) at IUPUI in Indianapolis.
Where do you live and/or work?
I live and work in Indianapolis, Indiana.
How did you acquire your B language(s)?
I grew up in a home that was bilingual – my mother spoke German with me while I was growing up. In high school I took four years of German. Later, after moving back to Indianapolis from Arizona, I started taking foreign languages classes at IUPUI in Indianapolis. I received a BA with a major in German in 2001. I then started working on another BA degree at IUPUI; this degree is in translation studies (German to English). IUPUI has an excellent translation program. I have not only benefited from the German translation, grammar, and literature classes that I have taken, but also from the classes that dealt with translation in general in which practical issues (such as how to estimate a translation job) were addressed. Another very useful class dealt with the theory and practice of editing.
How long have you worked in your field? How did you get started in the field of translation and/or interpretation?
I have been active in German to English translation for about ten years. I took early retirement from my position as an engineer in 2011. Since retiring I have been working to complete a BA in Translation Studies at IUPUI in Indianapolis. My goal is a second career in German to English translation.
What inspired you to get into your field?
My mother did translation work, so she had a major influence on me to develop an interest in translation. While working on my first BA degree I found that I really enjoyed the classes dealing with translation. I have three technical degrees (in chemistry and electrical engineering). I worked in the field of turbine engine instrumentation for about 24 years, being employed by two different turbine engine companies. I enjoy all types of translation, but given my background, I put an emphasis on technical translation.
What continues to inspire you?
I think that what inspires me is simply the fact that I enjoy doing translation.
What program/tool/dictionary couldn’t you live without?
I am a bit old-fashioned in that I prefer real books to electronic dictionaries. That being said, I find the BEOLINGUS (TU Chemnitz) and the LEO on-line dictionaries to be very useful. For general purpose dictionaries I use “Cassell’s German Dictionary,” the Oxford Duden “German Dictionary”, and the Collins “German Unabridged Dictionary,” in that order. For technical dictionaries I use the “Wörterbuch der Technik” by Girardet, the “Pictorial Oxford-Duden German-English Dictionary”, and the “Wörterbuch der industriellen Technik” by Dr. Ing. Richard Ernst, in no particular order. For finance and business dictionaries I use “Wörterbuch (Handel, Finanz, Rechts) by Robert Herbst, the “Grosswörterbuch Wirstschaftsenglisch” by Hamblock/Wessels, and the “Wirtschafts Wörterbuch” by von Eichborn, also in no particular order.
Why do you think it’s important to belong to professional organizations like MATI?
I think that belonging to MATI is important because it provides a way to connect and interact with other translators in the Midwest. Translation is usually a somewhat solitary endeavor, but without the interaction with and feedback from other translators it is too easy to become complacent and to lose one’s translation competence.