Chatting with Marianna Breytman, Global Voices Translator

During the Global Voices Summit en Nairobi, Kenya, I met some (relatively) new Global Voices collaborators. One of them was Marianna Breytman, who translates posts from Spanish into English, making her an avid reader of the content published by the authors from Latin America [es] and Spain [es] at Global Voices in Spanish.

I spoke to her informally and you can see (and hear) her in the video below talking about Global Voices, translations and languages:

Since then we have been in contact via email, through which we spoke about the following:

Juan Arellano: You recently crossed the mark of 100 translated GV posts. Was this, in a way, a goal you set for yourself when you started? 

Marianna Breytman: No. The truth is that when I started with Global Voices, I didn't know where it would take me. I was just doing the translations because it was something I liked doing. It was fun, as I mentioned to you in Nairobi. But with each translation, I was learning more and more about the organization and its importance in the world of journalism. The goal of 100 posts came about when my 2nd anniversary with GV was approaching (in March 2013) and I wanted to translate 100 posts before then. Well, my 2nd anniversary came on March 18 and a few days later, I translated my 100th post, so I almost made it!

JA: Have any of the translations that you have done for GV had an impact on you? Do you have any anecdotes about them? 

MB: The translations that have an impact on me are the ones that take place in places I have been. I remember a post that Ariel [Moreno] had written about the “red devils” [es] in Panamá right when I had taken my trip there. I knew that I had to translate that post because I had just had that experience of seeing them all over the city.

There is another post I recall by Robert [Valencia] about the protests in Brooklyn following Kimani Gray's death [es]. I didn't even know that this was happening in my own city until I took on the translation.

Nonetheless, the translation that has affected me the most was not for GV, but rather for a GV'er — Elaine Díaz Rodríguez. When Elaine had been denied her visa to come to the U.S. (*), she published a post [es] on her blog with her reaction to what had happened. She wanted to spread the word and I told her immediately that I would translate it. I was so sad upon reading her touching story and learning more about her situation, since she was my colleague and friend, that I was inspired to do the best translation I could. At that moment, I realized the importance of doing translations to give a voice to people who want to tell their stories to the rest of the world. That is why I love what I do.

JA: Since Spanish is not your mother tongue, how did you become interested in this language? 

MB: Everyone asks me this and I still don't have a good answer! I have been studying Spanish for many, many years, since I was a little girl in elementary school, but I think that the first time I really became interested in it was when I was in the 6th grade and I had a Spanish teacher who was Orthodox Jewish from Panamá (that is that beauty of living in New York City!) I think he had seen something in me that even I did not recognize and he encouraged me to continue learning the language. Thanks to him, I began reading more, listening to more Spanish radio, and taking advanced classes.

I think it was half that, half the simple fact that learning Spanish was something enjoyable for me. I always had good grades in my classes just because I didn't want to have bad ones and I worked very hard to get them. But learning Spanish was never like that for me. It was interesting and a lot of fun. I studied it because I didn't feel as though I was struggling to learn it. I was simply doing something that I enjoyed. (It's also the second language of New York City so it obviously came in handy!)

Marianna Breytman

Marianna Breytman

JA: Given that you are a volunteer for GV, what other things do you do to occupy your time?

MB: Right now I work for a non-profit organization that has various student exchange programs. I work specifically for the Au Pair program, which gives students who live abroad the opportunity to come to the U.S. to take care of children and study at the same time. My position is the International Recruitment Coordinator, so I review all of the candidates’ applications and work with our international partners to help them promote the program in their home countries.

Aside from this, I occasionally teach Spanish classes in a center for collaborative education in Brooklyn.

JA: I read that you are interested in gastronomy… Do you cook in your free time? 

MB: Where did you read that?! Haha.. I am interested in gastronomy, but I don't cook as much as I would like. I love trying food from different countries. I was in Panamá for the first time in March (and had the chance to visit another GV'er, the wonderful Ariel Moreno) and I had my first ceviche. It was delicious and I would love to learn how to make it.

JA: You are quite young. What plans do you have for the future? 

MB: For now I would really like to continue working in the field of international education. I am fascinated by this topic of blending and coexisting cultures, which is why I love living in New York.

For the future, I have thought about working at an organization that is dedicated to fighting for human rights and/or is involved in economic development projects. I would also like to continue teaching Spanish classes.

And obviously I hope to continue working with Global Voices. I would like to branch out and learn more about other projects within GV as well. In fact, I recently did a few translations for Eddie [Ávila] in Rising Voices and that gave me the opportunity to learn more about that part of the organization. I have also been volunteering with WITNESS (one of GV's partners that creates videos to fight for human rights) for over a year and I plan to continue helping them and doing translations for their initiatives.


In the following video we talk a bit more about Global Voices and the meeting that took us to Nairobi.

JA: Anything else to add? 

MB: Yes, with the help of Firuzeh [Shokooh Valle] and Silvia [Viñas], I hope to continue developing and growing as a translator. The truth is that I never in my life thought that, being a volunteer translator, I would have the opportunity to become part of this GV family and meet so many incredible people who are changing the world. It has honestly been a dream come true.

(*) – In the end Elaine was granted [es] the visa on April 10, following a review of her case.

Other related posts:

Talking about Cuba with Ellery Biddle and Elaine Díaz
Matisse Bustos Hawkes, WITNESS and the power of video
Chris Moya, SpainRevolt and cyberactivism
Afef Abrougui, blogging from Tunisia
Talking to Rebecca MacKinnon about “Consent of the Networked”
A visit to Kibera [es]
The first day of the Global Voices Summit 2012 [es]

Photo provided by the interviewee.
Thumbnail from a foto taken by Rezwan for Global Voices.


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.