By Mery Molenaar,
May 5, 2019
If you attended the 9th Annual CTA Conference in April, you probably met Sean Stromberg at the book signing table where he sold signed copies of his bilingual Spanish/English legal terminology dictionary. Sean is a Spanish-English court interpreter and recently joined the Colorado Translators Association. Learn more about Sean’s work, his new book, and his other passions in life.
Mery Molenaar: You are a relatively new face in our association. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Sean Stromberg: I was born in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico, from American parents. I grew up there and in California. I try to go to Mexico at least once a year, to see my family there. I have worked as a court interpreter for over thirty years in Colorado and California.
MM: You joined the Colorado Translators Association last year. What made you decide to become a member?
SS: I like the diversity of people and their work projects. I am now focusing more on writing and teaching, and getting feedback is important to me.
MM: You started your professional life as a language teacher. How did you make the change to interpreting and translation?
SS: I needed a summer job while school was out. As I was walking down Market Street in San Francisco, CA, wondering what kind of job I could find, I spied a sign for a translation agency, I went in and was given work right away. Perhaps it was chance, but more likely, karma or fate.
MM: The market for English-Spanish translators and interpreters is pretty competitive in Colorado and in the United States. How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?
SS: Court Interpreting has given me a great opportunity to study linguistics, I study every day out of necessity. I get to work with excellent interpreters and translators and learn a lot from them. I have several Court Interpreter Certifications, including the Federal Court Interpreter Certification , but you can’t rest on your past accomplishments.
MM: You recently wrote a bilingual Spanish/English legal terminology dictionary. That must have been quite a project. Tell us a little about your motivation to write a dictionary and your experience doing this?
SS: I wrote word lists to study for certification exams and then wrote more word lists for the Spanish classes and court interpreter courses that I taught, so finally decided to use all these materials to write a dictionary. The writing experience was intense, the biggest challenge was to have faith in the writing process, I often found myself with more doubts as I progressed than when I started. As my knowledge expanded, I had to re-write continually. It felt so good to finish!
MM: I can imagine that. Now, other than of course your own dictionary, what else is on your bookshelf?
SS: I have a library at home, too many books now. Most of the books are on military history, Latin American History, art, philosophy, religion and dozens of dictionaries that I use for reference. I still have my grandmother’s Webster Dictionary that she referred me to as a child, that is probably the main reason I ended up writing my own dictionary. I will be selling most of my books this year.
MM: Something very different, I noticed that your email reads firstname.lastname@example.org. Is photography another passion of yours?
SS: Yes! I love art! I was an Art Major before I went into linguistics and psychology. I find photography to be a way to refocus from my mental work as a court interpreter, to studying the world through a different lens (pun intended!). Photography has been a fruitful way to study art, since one has to focus on composition, color and the great mystery of light. It is also a way of making friends with the world, when I am taking photos, I feel like I am part of the environment while I interact with it with my camera. I am also a cartographer and love drawing maps.
MM: Great! I would love to hear more about this, but unfortunately we only have limited space. Is there anything you would like to add as a closing statement?
SS: I am becoming more and more interested in Cross-Cultural Communication. Having a second language is a blessing.