Lebanese Translator Jocelyne Gerges: Grad’s Penchant for Language Translates into Great Job

2011-2012 Issue 2
Jocelyne Gerges

Jocelyne Gerges

After Jocelyne Gerges completed her studies at McGill, she returned to her native Lebanon, where she set out to find a job as a translator. Her résumé quickly earned her a nickname among prospective employers: “the McGill lady.”

“When I submitted my CV, they were pretty impressed by the fact that I was at McGill,” Gerges says. “McGill has an excellent reputation everywhere.”

Gerges’s fluency in Arabic, English and French helped her land a job as a translator and interpreter for the office of Lebanon’s president, Michel Suleiman. She also regularly delivers workshops and seminars on communications, and has delivered lectures on her craft to some of the country’s top firms. And she owes much of her success to her Canadian alma mater.

McGill entered Gerges’s life during her undergraduate studies at Beirut’s St. Joseph University. One of her classmates was considering pursuing a graduate diploma at the Canadian institution, which she knew ranked among the world’s finest. “And it just clicked in my mind,” Gerges says. “I started investigating the process with her, and we decided to go to McGill.”

When the pair arrived in Montreal, they discovered a campus with a distinctly international character. “I remember in my Translation course, at a certain point the teacher said, ‘I’m teaching in a United Nations class!’” Gerges recalls. “We had people from Brazil, Lebanon, Africa and Quebec. So it was very diverse, and very enriching.”

Equally enriching were the classes themselves. “We had a specialized course on medical translation. And then we had a course on technical translation that had to do with translation specific to cars, engines, etc.” Gerges says.

But her favourite course was Translation Studies taught by James Archibald. “It really led to a lot of reflection,” Gerges says. “It taught us about the cultural components of language.”

Gerges says that Archibald “inspired me to explore new patterns, to conduct research, to think about what I translate.” She and her former professor remain in touch and make a point of meeting whenever he visits Lebanon. “When I saw him three or four years after I graduated, here in Beirut, I said, ‘I just want to go back and take your course again!’”

Now, though, Gerges’s hands are full. In addition to translating high-level documents like speeches and correspondence and preparing briefings for the Presidency of the Republic of Lebanon, she’s working toward a master’s degree in intercultural mediation at St. Joseph University. But Gerges has fond memories of her time in Canada, and she hopes to retain her ties to McGill for years to come. “I do believe that the McGill approach to professionalism gave me great confidence and really showed me the way of approaching any professional task.”

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