Ellen Elias-Bursa

Interview conducted 9 February 2016 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, by David P. Briand and Leigh Swigart.

ellen Elias-Bursać headshotBackground

Interview Content

In her interview, Ellen Elias-Bursać reminisces about her experience as an American living in Yugoslavia in the Cold War period; her aptitude for learning languages; her recruitment to work at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY); the Tadić case from a translator's viewpoint; different standards of translation for the purposes of investigation and courtroom activities; and the camaraderie of working as a reviser.

She discusses the role of the ICTY Conference Language Services Section; the vetting process for translators; linguistic and substantive difficulties of translation; differences between the interrelated Balkan languages; the creation of the Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian language variety used during the Tadić trial and thereafter; differences between providing language services for prosecution and defense teams; the role of the ICTY staff psychologist; her research and book on ICTY language services; and the impact of the ICTY's work on people in the Balkans.

read full transcript of interview

Biographical Information

Ellen Elias-Bursać was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She received a BA from Macalester College in 1974, an MA from the University of Zagreb in 1988 and a PhD from the University of Zagreb in 1999. She has worked as a Croatian-English translator, in a variety of fields, from 1978 to the present. She was a preceptor in the Slavic studies department at Harvard University from 1994 to 2005.

In 1998, she was recruited for short-term engagements as a translator/reviser in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia's Conference and Language Services Section. From 2005 to 2010, she served full-time in the CLSS. Elias-Bursać has been a contributing editor to Asymptote Journal since 2013, and she currently serves as vice president of the American Literary Translation Association.