This is part of a continuing series of Proust questionnaires answered by members of the FLD Leadership Council. Jennifer Bader is an ATA-certified French-to-English translator specializing in corporate, legal, and financial translations. She is also a practicing attorney and and a founding partner of Provenzano Granne & Bader LLP. She has been a translator since 2011 and an attorney since 1999.
How did you get involved in translation?
I had left my job as a corporate attorney and decided to homeschool my kids. I didn’t want to stop working completely, so I started trying to think of what I could do from home with a flexible schedule. Suddenly I remembered a translation company that had come into our Paris law offices years before to pitch their services, and I thought, “Gee, I wonder if any of those translation companies take freelance translators?” As we all know, the answer to that is yes!
What subject areas do you translate?
Because of my professional background, I primarily translate legal, financial, and other business documents.
What talent would you most like to have?
This is not related to translation, but I wish I had a beautiful singing voice. Oh, well.
What is your greatest strength as a translator?
I think having been to law school in both the U.S. and France and having worked as a lawyer in both countries are my greatest strengths. I didn’t have translation credentials when I started, but I was so used to writing and so familiar with the kinds of documents I was translating that it was a very comfortable fit.
Tell us about a particularly interesting project you have worked on.
I did one translation that was completely different from my usual work. A children’s author approached me. She was writing a picture book about Jules Léotard, the 19th century French acrobat after whom the leotard is named, and who was the inspiration for the song “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze.” She asked me to translate portions of his memoirs, which she had found scanned into Google Books. It was written in a very dated style and challenging to translate.
Where would you most like to live?
Having recently moved back to NYC from Baltimore, I’m pretty darn happy with where I live right now! I do miss Paris terribly, though. I would love to be able to spend more time there. I’m definitely a big city person.
What’s your favorite word or phrase in French or English?
A very old French friend of mine always tells me, “Je te connais comme si je t’avais tricotée.” I love that phrase.
Do you have a favorite French or English book?
This is tough, since I have so many. My favorite area of literature overall is the 19th century novel. I think if I had to pick, my favorite French book would be Zola’s L’Assommoir, and my favorite English book would be Maugham’s Of Human Bondage (though that’s early 20th, not 19th).
What words or phrases do you overuse?
Do you mean in translating or in real life? In translating, I probably overuse “with respect to.” However, I would like to take this opportunity to defend all lawyers by stating that I have never in my life used the phrase “party of the first part.”
Tell us something surprising about yourself.
Hmm. I guess my translator friends mostly don’t know that I was a very serious ballet dancer when I was a child and teenager. I thought hard about whether I wanted to go straight to college or first try auditioning for ballet companies. In the end, I didn’t want to “ruin” the college experience by starting older than everyone else, and I thought I needed a more intellectual career. I stopped dancing altogether because I couldn’t bear the fact that it wasn’t leading to a career anymore. One day my sister will drag me back into class, she’s promised me.
What is your favorite quote?
I know I said my favorite literature is the 19th century novel, but my favorite quote is from a 20th century poem. Actually, my favorite quote is the entire poem: “Mother to Son,” by Langston Hughes.
If you could translate anything in the world, what would it be and why?
Most (or all) of my favorite books have been translated already. I guess I must have very conventional taste. I would love to translate a non-fiction book at some point, though—maybe a biography. Or, if it hasn’t been translated, a schoolbook that captures an era in French education, like Le Tour de la France par deux enfants. On a day-to-day basis, my favorite documents to translate are briefs in legal cases with long and complicated factual backgrounds, and preferably individuals rather than companies as the parties to the litigation. Those are a lot of fun.
What are some of your favorite translation or language resources?
For legal writing, and in fact for writing in general, anything by Bryan Garner is wonderful. For translation specifically, I use iate quite a bit (the European Union’s terminology database), and the Council of Europe’s French-English Legal Dictionary.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being sworn into the Paris Bar was pretty exciting. I got to wear a black robe.
Do you have a hero?
Hillary Clinton. Is that too political?
Do you have a personal motto?
See “Mother to Son,” above.