Meet Kanja van der Merwe

Studying BA Language and Culture at Stellenbosch University was the best option to unlock my career path since it offers many subjects and a variety of focus areas. Language had crept into my heart early on in my life, originally reflected in my love for creative writing. I wrote for our high school newspaper, Fidelis, for three years, covering topical and social subjects. And when one of my creative writing pieces made the front page, it further kindled my desire to work with languages.

I discovered my love for editing and translation while working as a language tutor in high school and at university. I often had to help students with essays and orals in their second language, whether it be Afrikaans or English. We also had an undergraduate editing and translation module, where I was surprised by the number of approaches to these subjects. One of our assignments was an Afrikaans translation of an English poem. I was very proud of my rendition that retained the original rhyming pattern. However, creatively speaking, my translation did not hold a candle to a fellow student’s translation into Kaapse Afrikaans. This exercise demonstrated the flexibility of language and the freedom and creativity the translator enjoys in certain contexts. All these revelations and some experience in the field (including translating mathematics papers, of all things!) made my decision to pursue the postgraduate degree in translation and editing at Stellenbosch University easy.

As most people in the field know, editing and translation requires much more than what is assumed by an outsider. I see the translator as a creative mind that reimagines source texts to bridge semantic divides. Translation is so much more than a technical exercise involving dictionaries, spelling and grammar. From day one I felt as if I was flourishing in this field and this was reflected in the feedback from my lecturers. Along the way I also found an unexpected passion for interpreting, which I studied as my thesis topic in the context of language pedagogy. The goal of my research was to reconcile the fields of interpreting methodology and second language acquisition theory to determine whether interpreting would be a successful technique in teaching Afrikaans as a second language. I was very committed to my research and shared my insights at the European Society for Translation Studies Congress in 2019, where I worked as an assistant. At the congress I also met professor Anthony Pym. A huge source of inspiration behind my work, he encouraged me to persevere and to continue my studies. At the end of my honours year I was awarded a bursary for the master’s degree in translation at Stellenbosch University.

I am excited to gain practical experience at the Folio Group and to discover how much there is to learn. The beauty of this incredible field is that you never stop learning and you never stop gaining new insights. My dream is to be a professional editor, translator and interpreter, and perhaps even a copywriter. In addition to working as a language practitioner, I also hope to broaden my language horizons by learning Dutch.