10 questions for translators

Back in July, Cibliste asked 10 questions of translators, “to help us get to know each other.” I always enjoy reading others’ responses to these sort of surveys, so below are my answers, too. Thanks to Catharine Cellier-Smart for the tip-off to the original post!

  1. Four-parter: Where do you live? What are your language pairs? How did you learn those languages? What types of documents do you translate?I was born in southern Virginia and now live in northern Virginia, near Washington, DC. I learned French in school and Hungarian through high school academic exchange (thank you, Rotary Club!). I work from either of those languages into US English, mainly translating legal contracts, birth and marriage certificates, and academic articles. Virginia map and symbols
  2. Do you do other language-related work?My first job out of college was teaching French and English at an international summer camp in Switzerland. Then, I did proofreading and copyediting for a couple companies in DC while taking classes to transition to translation full time.
  3. What do you like most about translating? least?I really love the variety of topics and texts that come across my desk, even though I’ve specialized to an extent. It makes it a rather spontaneous field to be in. I could do without the occasional “dry spells” in work volume, I suppose. Although if I didn’t experience those, I might work myself too hard and burn out…
  4. What are your future dreams or goals, professionally speaking?I would love to someday have a small office with a few employees, someone to do the accounting and someone to help with the marketing. Maybe a full-time editor-translator partner. But that’s very long-off. My most immediate goal is to work in Hungary for a few years, with the occasional one or two months in France to balance my language skills better.France-Hungary flag pin
  5. What do you think: do all translators need to specialize?I think most translators should specialize to some degree, if only to inspire confidence in potential clients that you are well-versed in the lingo of their field. That could mean learning everything there is to know about law in general, or focusing on international business law only, or focusing on everything related to a particular product or service—doing marketing, patenting, legal, and tourism-related documents for wine country, for instance.
  6. What is your #1 tip for new translators?Always ask for feedback and references. Don’t be pushy, but don’t be shy about it, either. Positive feedback is great for “proving” you are worth the risk of hiring someone with little experience. Negative feedback is necessary for improving the quality of your work.
  7. What is a translation-related lesson you’ve learned on the job?Working in teams can be great, but you have to know when to stand your ground on word choice. (I wrote about that here.)
  8. What book(s) are you reading right now?I just finished Joyland, by Stephen King. It took me one day—very entertaining. I also loved The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller. It’s sort of a post-apocalyse journal from a sensitive-but-manly man’s point of view. I think I mainly liked it because of the descriptions of Colorado; I’ve never been to the western States before.

    The Brothers Karamazov has been on my nightstand for a few months, too, though I imagine it will be Christmas before I actually finish it. (And this list shows me I need to start reading more female authors again! Suggestions welcome.)The Dog Stars by Peter Heller (cover art)

  9. Do you have a blog or other online presence where we can learn more about you? Any favourite links or tips to share?You’re reading it! But you can also find me on my professional website, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. I’ve got a list of useful links set up here.
  10. What’s one non-work-related tidbit your virtual colleagues might like to know about you?I worked on a ropes course during college (despite being afraid of heights), so I know a lot of silly “team building” games that are actually just fun to play. Related to that, I was a mountain search and rescue volunteer around the same time, though (thankfully) we didn’t get too many calls for help.Appalachian Search and Rescue logo

7 thoughts on “10 questions for translators

  1. Thanks for sharing your answers, Carolyn! I’ll try to think of some great female authors for you.


    Ooh, I know! If you like graphic novels, you absolutely must read La Célibataire by India Desjardins and Magalie Foutrier. It’s a fun, easy read full of humour and wit. My boyfriend and I were reading snippets out loud and giggling.

    The other one I’d recommend, though I haven’t read much of it yet, is Ru by Kim Thúy. My plan is to read both the original French and the English translation by Sheila Fischman.

    Bonne lecture! 🙂


    • Thanks for the reading suggestions! The graphic novel actually sounds like something to keep in mind for one of my close friends. She really loved Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

      • Persepolis sounds interesting. Seems a bit tricky to track down a copy in French. I’ll add it to my “must-read someday” list. 🙂

  2. Pingback: 10 questions for translators | A Smart Translator's Reunion

  3. Pingback: Weekly favorites (Aug 12-18) | Adventures in Freelance Translation

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