The Joliet native moved to Germany and now translates German books into English – Shaw Local

Leanne Cvetan said she took German lessons at Joliet West High School in the early 1990s, as did her older brother.

Cvetan said she thought they might use German as a “secret language.”

“But it never worked out,” Cvetan said with a smile.

However, Cvetan fell in love with the German language.

“For me it was like a puzzle trying to figure out what all the words meant,” Cvetan said. She has since used her skills to create her dream job from home: translating books into English for self-published German authors in hopes of gaining a foothold in American markets.

Yet Cvetan did not envision a career as a translator when she pursued her German studies at Joliet Junior College and Illinois State University. At the time, Cvetan wanted to teach German in high schools.

But after teaching introductory German classes at the University of Illinois at Chicago while working on her fluency, Cvetan decided she loved the language more than she loved teaching.

Thus, Cvetan changed her focus to German literature without any career goals in mind, she said.

Cvetan also spent a year at Friedrich Wilhelm University in Bonn as part of the Junior Year Abroad exchange program, which she called a “great step towards independence” by being left alone in a foreign country with no parents on board. who to lean on.

He also tested his German skills.

“I came home every day with a headache just trying to make myself understood,” Cvetan said.

Cvetan’s first job as a translator found her while she was still at UIC. A company had contacted the UIC’s German department to need a translator and Cvetan said she thought, “Sounds fun.”

She moved to Germany in 2001 with her husband after completing her master’s degree and “we’ve been there ever since,” she said. Their three daughters, ages 18, 15 and 14, were born and raised in Germany and are fluent in German, Cvetan said.

Over time, Cvetan made contact with other translators, who sent him commercial work. But Cvetan aspired to translate literature.

“I really like reading books,” Cvetan said. “I love all the symbolism, all the ‘lyricism’ of this one.”

Six years ago, Cvetan took the leap. At the time, she was working “a little part-time job” while wishing she was home translating books.

“So I finally quit my job, made a website, and pretty soon had my first book,” Cvetan said.

The book was “Three Brothers” by Joerg H. Trauboth and it was nearly 600 pages, she said.

“I felt like fate was calling me,” she said.

Cvetan said she needed two months to translate a 200-page book and was still translating from German to English.

“You always translate into your mother tongue because it’s almost innate. It is not a learned language,” Cvetan said. “You already know what’s right and what’s wrong.”

That said, Cvetan said that the translation of books from German to English is not necessarily a word-for-word translation, but a translation of the essential meaning.

Not all words have a translatable counterpart, and translators must take into account variations in grammatical structures between languages. The translator’s goal is always to create a smooth, easy-to-understand and enjoyable reading that keeps the essence of the meaning intact, she said.

Even so, it’s difficult for self-published German authors to break into US markets, she said.

“My mission is to change that,” she said.

So Cvetan offered agents, hoping that some of those translated books would be picked up by prime publishing hours and “introduce more German fiction books to the American market,” she said.

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