How did you get involved in translation?
I earned my degree in French but didn’t know what I wanted to do with it, so after graduation I took a year off to work. During that year, I met a math grad student at Dartmouth who discovered that I also have a formal math background. He asked me to translate a 50 page research paper by an eighteenth-century Swiss mathematician for a project he was working on. I agreed, not knowing what I was getting myself into. That first translation was embarrassingly terrible, but it introduced me to translation, and the very next year I began my master’s degree in the field. Since then, I have continued doing math translations for the same person, and we are working on publishing one of them.
What subject areas do you translate?
My areas of specialization are food, cosmetics, and law. It sounds like a strange hodge-podge of subjects until you think about it: France is known for its gourmet food and high-end cosmetics. As for law, well, everybody needs contracts.
Tell us about a particularly interesting project you have worked on.
I translated some divorce documents for a wealthy couple. Their antics were worthy of a reality TV show, and the descriptions of their assets were unreal. I didn’t even know flooring could be designer-label!
Tell us something surprising about yourself.
I performed in Carnegie Hall when I was 16. My high school orchestra entered a competition and was one of three groups chosen to perform. We raised $60,000 for the travel expenses, and our saint of a teacher, only a few years out of college herself at the time, managed to take 50 unruly teenagers to one of the most chaotic cities in the country without losing any of us. If you’re a music aficionado, do yourself a favor and attend a concert in Carnegie Hall at least once in your life. The acoustics are phenomenal.
Do you have a personal motto?
I have a sticky note in my office that says “Why not me?” It’s not intended as a complaint; rather, it’s a reminder that I can achieve the same success as the people I look up to if I simply set my mind to it and work hard. Sometimes I dismiss an idea or goal because I assume it’s out of my reach, but if I just sit down and think it through, I can almost always come up a with a feasible game plan. I’m a pretty good problem-solver.
What’s your favorite word or phrase in French or English?
My favorite French word is si (the one that means “yes” in response to a negative question). English doesn’t have an equivalent, which occasionally causes confusion.
“Didn’t you like the movie?”
“Yes you liked the movie or yes you didn’t like the movie?”
In French, there is no ambiguity.
What words or phrases do you overuse?
It’s not a word or phrase, but I have an unhealthy affinity for the em-dash. I use them à toutes les sauces. I know I have a problem, but I managed to get through this entire questionnaire without using a single one!