Feb 21, 2024

Asunción Ferrer Makes Sure Nothing Gets Lost in Translation

The multi-lingual pro is also a notary—notably

By Ed Goldman

The first thing you should know about Asunción Ferrer is that she’s a professional translator, not interpreter. While those professions are often confused, as a general rule a translator deals with the written word, an interpreter with the spoken one. 

If you’re not fluent in Spanish, I imagine the second thing to know is how to pronounce her name: It’s ah-SOON-see-own FERR-er. However, since she’s been a friend and neighbor of mine for a few years, I call her by her nickname, Suncita (soon-SEE-tah), which I’d always been curious about, thinking it meant “sunny one” or some such. But no.

Edgy Cartoon

Asunción Ferrer and Shully at home

“I was born when my brother was five,” she explains. “He could not pronounce Asunción, after the Assumption of the Blessed Mother. It’s also the capital of Paraguay. He called me Suncita, and it stuck.”

The Cuban-born Ferrer has been a translator since 1995 and is the owner of ES Wordsmith Translations, which she founded 13 years ago. (You can reach Ferrer through her website, eswordsmith.net.)  In that time she says she’s done “a considerable number of employee manuals” for the restaurant, landscaping, food packing and investment industries—including vitally important on-the-job safety program manuals. She also has experience in the translation of legal documents from Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Peru and Venezuela.

“I also do vital records-certified translations from Spanish, Italian, French, Romanian and German into English,” she says.

Over an afternoon espresso in Cafe Bernardo, a popular bistro a few blocks from her home, Ferrer reacquaints me with her action-packed background. She lived in Venezuela from 1994 to 2010 when married to the late Ruben Dominguez, a celebrated opera tenor, and traveled the world with him. Then, this past September, she lost her life partner, lawyer/novelist Robert Ira Harris (“The Island of the White Rose”). 

Meanwhile, her nephew, Francois Lopez Ferrer, is an up-and-coming conductor who lives in Padua, the charming Italian village Petruchio selected to find a wealthy wife in Shakespeare’s hilarious (and definitely non-PC) play, “The Taming of the Shrew.”

I ask Ferrer what the biggest challenge in translating is, assuming it’s breaking through a culture’s idiom. “That can be tough,” she says, “but what’s tougher is translating abbreviations.” She says another test when she first began her work was that vital records from other countries—”specifically El Salvador, Columbia and Ecuador”— were and sometimes still are “in cursive” (longhand). In short, if you think you have trouble reading the doctor’s handwriting on your prescription, imagine if it, and your medical report, were handwritten in a foreign language. 

Ferrer, who’s also a notary public, is proud of how she’s managed to keep her services not only competitively priced but also rapid. Large translation companies usually charge high per-word rates,” she says. “But I do most of the work myself.” She also does an analysis of the documents you’re paying to have translated, using state-of-the-art TRADOS software. “In addition to giving the client a real-word count, which is usually much less than Microsoft Word’s count, (the software) looks for repetitions, for which we don’t charge.”

And, unlike almost every professional you can think of, and many of your friends, Ferrer replies to emails “on the same day” she receives them. “I get that sometimes clients need their files urgently, and I’m willing to work overtime without extra charges.” 

I’d call that service—in any language.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).