Rory McKenzie – 2016 Sovereign Gold Award winner 

  • A Masters student in Literary Translation studies at Victoria, finishing end of February 2017
  • Completed an undergrad and honours in Italian at Victoria, and decided to continue as a Masters student, focusing on subtitling (writing subtitles for films)
  • For his thesis this year, he is looking at the bare bones of translating humour from culture to culture; and keeping things funny 

Top tip

Do what you want, not what you’re told.

He says, 'Doing what I want has led me to go to the other side of the world twice because of studying Italian, and to Canada once. In five years I’ve had an amazing experience.'

Some of his achievements in just five years

Subtitled The Dark Horse, the NZ Film in 2014. It was part of a summer scholarship.

'It was a really cool project. We screened the film at the University’s marae. The film’s producer came down and the Italian ambassador was there.'

Helped set up Victoria University of Wellington Applied Translation Services, a translation company for all languages, within Victoria's School of Languages and Cultures.

'So far we’ve translated Victoria international videos into Chinese. The idea is Victoria students translate work to get more students interested to study at Victoria. If parents overseas see a video in their native language they may feel more comfortable, culturally, sending their children overseas to study. As a globally minded University, it’s important to stick to that. We cannot be monolingual.

'We’ve also turned videos in Chinese, and pamphlets into Japanese in the last couple months.

'We’ve translated a kids storybook, The Promised Land. The Wellington author and illustrator came to us because they wanted to have the project Wellington based. We got some staff members from the University who spoke different languages.'

Guest speaker at conference in Vancouver, Canada: Translating Local Flavour for Global Audiences

'I spoke about translating Italian dialect into English. The movies I translated had Italian and dialect, when these are almost two different languages in themselves.'

Developed network with NZ Translation Centre

Set up internships, and translated film What Lies that Way.

'My supervisor and I went to the NZ Translation Centre. We wanted to get more of a relationship with them, so there was a pathway for NZ Translation Centre students to Victoria.

'We took a film by Paul Wolffram, What Lies That Way. He made this film in Papua New Guinea about tribal rituals and magic. We took that film to the NZ Translation Centre, cause he’s taking these films overseas. He wanted translations in German, Italian and French.

'All the translations have been done and we’re waiting for film subtitles to be completed. Hopefully, the film will be taken to big film festivals around the world. Having subtitles already there increases the chance of getting into the film festivals.'

Pursuing dreams over 9 to 5; and it's paying off

Rory decided on his degree based on passion and interest, not money. And it seems to be paying off. In just five years he's done some amazing things. 

'I started doing my degree because it interested me, and doing an arts degree has left options quite wide to what I can do. 

'I never set out to do these things. I never thought I’d set up a little company, translating movies. It’s been a really cool experience. I’ve taken my passion of languages, and seen just how far in five years that can be taken.'

Although he was told that languages would get him no where...

'In terms of my background of taking French at high school, the thing that annoyed me most is how I was told languages wouldn’t get me anywhere. I was told to study law, commerce...

'I’ve gone back to my old high school and spoken about what I’ve been doing with languages.'  

Passionate about the romantic languages – and cultural experiences

In high school Rory studied French, and then decided to continue with French in university and Italian as an interest paper. He ended up enjoying Italian more than any of the other subjects. 

'Having another language opens up so many doors. And doing an arts degree allows one to be a lot more creative, more open minded to how things are.

'I felt it [learning languages] was something I was quite good at. I’ve been to Italy with my mom and dad and then since being at Vic twice through scholarships.'

Scholarship one: The first time Rory went to Italy he stayed in Perugia, Italy. He studied the language the whole time, and even got to transfer the experience into credits. 

Scholarship two: The second time Rory went to Italy he stayed in Florence for a month. Although this time he couldn't transfer his language-learning into credits, he took home another epic experience.