Proust Questionnaire – feat. Gay Rawson

ata-fld-newsletter-logoThis is part of a continuing series of Proust questionnaires answered by members of the FLD Leadership Council. Gay Rawson is a professor of French at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota.  She also has over 20 years of experience as a freelance FR <> ENG translator and interpreter working across of a variety of subject areas from local to international levels.

Do you have a personal motto?

Courage!  My advisor for the MA thesis used to sign her emails with this and now I do.  Seems like everyone can always use this.  I also try to remember these words: “Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle” apparently attributed to the Reverend John Watson.  I find it helps me frame my interactions so that I am more of a listener and problem solver.

What talent would you most like to have?

I wish I knew every language so that I could communicate effectively and speak to everyone in the language of their heart.

How did you get involved in translation?

I was doing a Ph.D. in French at the University of Iowa and they needed someone to translate and interpret for some political asylum cases at the Legal Clinic.  I was looking for extra money and interested in using my French in different ways so I applied.  I eventually was chosen to work on the project and it was life changing.  It was both humbling and powerful to be able to help tell someone’s story and, hopefully, play a role in their quest to find peace in their lives.

What is your greatest strength as a translator?

My path to translation and interpretation is not traditional.  I have eclectic interests that have allowed me to gather unique experiences.  When no one else wanted to do it and when no one else thought it was interesting, I tried it.  If we take cultural and linguistic competency as a given (I think this is the most important basic feature that a translator must have), I think my greatest strength is that I have a wealth of diverse subject areas and experiences that are applicable in surprising ways to most any situation.  I encourage my students to take full advantage of their degree in the liberal arts at my university (I am a professor at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota).  A true passion for lifelong learning and a natural curiosity have been my greatest gifts and are my greatest strengths as a translator.

What are some of your favorite translation or language resources?

I love collecting new resources all the time!  I have a webpage with some of my favorites: https://freefrenchresources.weebly.com/.  Please send me any of your suggestions and I would be happy to add to this collection.

Lately I’ve been trying to learn slang to be able to relate more to my students (and kids).  Some of the websites we play with for that (not applicable in many situations per se but interesting):

Amusez-vous bien!

FLD Continuing Education Series – Episode 12: Les mots délaissés

Welcome to the 12th episode of the French Language Division’s Continuing Education Series. In today’s episode, Marie-Christine Gingras joins Angela Benoit to discuss a list of mots délaissés: words that translators don’t always think to use in their work.

Marie-Christine holds a B.A. in English and Intercultural Studies (Professional Writing, Literature and Translation) from the University of Sherbrooke and has been a language professional since 2008. An OTTIAQ-certified translator, she works from English into French and from French into English. She has translated a wide variety of materials—everything from content marketing for an industrial equipment manufacturer to scientific reports on bison and rabbit farms—but specializes in corporate communications.

Marie-Christine constantly challenges herself and her fellow translators to do away with translationese and mimic actual writing in the target language. She teaches a class for translator training school Magistrad (Yes You Can: Surviving Poorly Written English Source Texts), posts translation advice on Twitter (@TraductionsMCG), and was an instructor at the 2017 Translate in Quebec City conference. She lives and works in beautiful Quebec City.

SOUNDCLOUD: You may access Episode 12 and other podcast episodes on SoundCloud here. On SoundCloud, you can listen to the episode in your browser or download a copy of this episode directly to your computer.

ITUNES: This episode and the entire podcast series are also available on iTunes. On iTunes, you can subscribe or stream the podcast.

A Newbie’s Impression of the ATA 58th Annual Conference

ata-fld-newsletter-logoBy Gabriela Nunes

As a Brazilian translator and interpreter (my working languages are Brazilian Portuguese, English and French), one of my career goals was to attend an ATA Conference. Finally, in 2017, I had the pleasure of going to the ATA 58th Annual Conference in Washington, DC—and the meeting was an amazing event for the reasons that I list below. One of them was totally unexpected.

First, as I aimed to establish contact with new clients, the job fair represented an awesome opportunity to be in touch with them. Being a good student, I did my homework, having my résumés prepared in advance and my business cards attached to them. As a result, today I am working with some of those agencies that I met in the fair.

Going to the ATA 58th Annual Conference was also important to meet new and old colleagues (even those from other language pairs). For this, I used every opportunity to connect with other attendees and exchange business cards: breakfast, lunchtime, elevator, salsa and yoga classes, sessions, etc. I also went to the dinner of two Divisions to which I belong, the Portuguese Language Division and the French Language Division. On both occasions, I met wonderful people with whom I exchanged professional experiences and have been in touch since then.

Needless to say, being in Washington, one of the most influential capitals in the world, was also an opportunity not to be missed by me as a former international affairs student. So, I also enjoyed the tourism aspect of the event. I visited the main memorials of the city, government buildings and, of course, its malls and surrounding outlets.

In short, the ATA Conference was worth all the energy I invested into it: visa procedures, redesigning my business card, updating my résumé, finding nice roommates for the conference (which I did!) and rescheduling my projects. Incidentally, telling my regular clients that I would be unavailable during that week because of the ATA Meeting impressed them and reinforced my commitment to professionalism and continuous quest for excellency in my work. What a good surprise!

I recommend to every translator and interpreter working with English to attend at least once an ATA Conference. It does open our minds as professionals and does put us in contact with amazing people and insightful ideas. So, let’s start 2018 with plans for New Orleans. I hope to see you there!

Gabriela Nunes is a Brazilian translator and interpreter. Having lived in the United States, France, Switzerland, and Brazil, she works with Brazilian Portuguese, French, and English. Her fields of expertise are international relations, medical, and technology.

Reflections on the ATA Conference by a Second-Year Attendee, or The ATA Conference and the Cycle of Learning

ata-fld-newsletter-logoBy Michele Rosen

Now that I’ve attended my second ATA conference, I can see annual attendance will influence my career as a freelance translator. Each year, I’ve gone to the conference with a set of questions about the profession and the industry, and, so far, I’ve come out with enough partial answers and new questions to drive my professional development throughout the following year, until the next conference, when I expect the cycle to repeat.

Surrendering to the flow of information coming from the conference was easier this time around. In 2016, just six months after deciding to embark on a new career as a freelance translator, I went into the San Francisco conference with basic but important questions about how to set my rates and whether I needed to add a second language pair. I came home from that conference with copious notes and pointers to books, blogs, podcasts, and papers that helped me to find the answers.

For example, as a beginning freelance translator, I feared that translators who work in less-common and more-difficult-to-learn languages than French were somehow more valuable, and therefore more likely to be in demand and more highly paid, than translators in a common language pair like French and English. Initially, seeing all of the (more experienced) French-to-English translators at the conference, I started to fear, as I heard one Spanish translator say, that “everyone can translate French.”

However, as I began to explore the fountain of information I had collected at the conference, I began to see that, as Corinne McKay has noted, every language pair has its pros and cons. In a blog post entitled “Which Language is Best,” McKay explained that, in her view, French and German are appealing for U.S.-based translators “because there’s a good balance between work volume and rates, and because U.S.-based translators have some financial advantages” over European translators. At the same time, while there is a critical need for Middle Eastern and Asian languages, she cautioned that, “for some of these language combinations, there is a lot of competition from translators who are not native speakers of English but who translate into English anyway, even if they shouldn’t.” This information made it easier for me to decide to shelve my tentative (and frankly unrealistic) plans to become fluent in Japanese.

As I prepared to attend the conference in 2017, the previous conference served as a milestone that let me see how much I had learned since then. With a conference and a year of freelancing under my belt, I certainly didn’t qualify as a newbie anymore, but I didn’t feel quite ready to be a buddy. That said, I knew the conference would provide the opportunity to ask new questions about what it means to be a translator and to continue to figure out what kind of translator I want to be.

These questions led me to attend T&I Advocacy Day, at which such questions moved from the theoretical to the practical. The event, organized by the ATA in partnership with the Joint National Committee for Languages, was intended to introduce ATA members to public advocacy for issues important to the profession. The organizers scheduled meetings for attendees with Congressional staffers and asked us to focus on three topics: wage rate estimates for translators and interpreters from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), language services procurement policies, and best practices for machine translation.

During the strategy session with the Maryland delegation, we discussed how to explain to Congressional staffers why the BLS should change the way it estimates hourly rates for translators and interpreters. A major point of contention is that the BLS only surveys translators with full-time permanent positions to determine the median hourly rate for translators and interpreters ($22.17/hour in 2016). In pointing out how reductive this single rate is, Evelyna Radoslavova argued convincingly that it’s difficult to generalize about translators and interpreters because we all deal with different language pairs and subject matters.

While I agreed with Radoslavova that it was important to make this point to the staffers, we also agreed that the diversity in the profession makes it difficult to craft a more precise description of the profession than the one currently used by the government, which states that translators and interpreters “convert information from one language into another language.” This definition is clearly vague and incomplete, but it isn’t easy to come up with a more precise definition that won’t exclude some translators.

While this difficulty poses a challenge for language industry policy advocates, it also creates the opportunity for each translator and interpreter to define the profession for ourselves. I expect to be contemplating this scary and exciting idea for the next several months, until I have another chance to immerse myself in the impressive breadth and depth of the ATA annual conference.

Michele Rosen is a freelance translator and editor. She lives in Baltimore with her husband, two dogs, and two cats.

Working In (And Maintaining) Two Very Different Foreign Languages

ata-fld-newsletter-logoBy Ben Karl

When I tell other translators what language pairs I work in, I inevitably get one of several reactions: wow, those are so different! That’s impressive, where did you learn that second one? How the heck did you pick those two up? They’re nothing alike! Which language is that pink dot on your ATA badge?

My two working languages are French and Chinese (Mandarin). When I moved to Montreal for university, I decided that in addition to jumping into French translation, I would start taking another language as well. Portuguese, a language I was drawn to at the time, wasn’t offered, but I could choose from all of the official UN languages and others, including Hebrew and even Tibetan. At 8:00 a.m. on the first Monday of my first week, I attended my first Chinese class. The rest, as they say, is history.

Working with two very different languages presents a number of challenges and rewards. Below are just a few of them.

Challenges

  1. The “mental gymnastics” of translation

An article in the November/December 2017 issue of The Chronicle by Roz Schwartz includes the following quote from Nicky Harman, a Chinese to English translator:

“I’ve no evidence for this since I only translate from Chinese, but I think that languages that are very different from English are harder to translate because you have to do more mental gymnastics to get an acceptable English version. Not even the simplest sentence can be translated ‘literally’ (yes, I know that word opens another can of worms!).”

While my observations are also purely anecdotal, I would agree that working from Chinese to English is much more challenging and requires significantly more time and effort than working from French to English. English has borrowed extensively from French and, by virtue of the fact that both are Indo-European languages, they share many more similarities than do English and Chinese. The increased difficulty of Chinese affects all aspects of a translation project, from quoting to the translation itself to quality control, adding an additional layer of complexity and difficulty.

  1. Differences in prospecting tactics

The francophone world and the United States have relatively similar business practices. Marketing usually involves demonstrating your value to a potential customer and the customer deciding whether or not to buy based on a variety of factors, from price to perceived quality to simple convenience. China, on the other hand, has an additional level of complexity. Many people have heard of guanxi, a Chinese term that literally means “relationship” but encompasses the myriad personal connections that lubricate business dealings in China. This often means getting to know your client or counterpart on a personal level over multiple meetings, meals, and drinks. For a US-based freelancer, developing such relationships in China is very challenging. Therefore, in my experience, Chinese-to-English freelancers in the US generally work with US-based companies that are communicating with China, whereas French-English translators are able to work more easily with clients all over the world.

  1. The world’s most challenging writing system

Chinese is widely touted as one of the most difficult languages to learn. Tones completely aside, the writing system rivals all others in terms of difficulty and complexity (you may be seeing a common theme here: difficulty and complexity!). According to the BBC, there are over 50,000 distinct Chinese characters (thankfully only about 20,000 of which are still in use and listed in modern dictionaries). A university-educated Chinese person will know approximately 8,000 characters and to read a newspaper (and be a decent translator), you need to know upwards of 3,000 of them. Since there is no link between a way a character is written and how it is pronounced, Chinese is one of the only languages where you can see the words on the page, know what they mean, but not remember how to pronounce them; or conversely, know how to say a word but forget what it looks like. These complexities, coupled with the stark differences between English and Chinese, mean that I consult my dictionary far more frequently for Chinese than I do for French.

Benefits

  1. Broad cultural and linguistic reach

With English, French, and Mandarin combined, I can understand and facilitate communication between nearly 1.5 billion people. That’s almost a quarter of the people living on the planet! I get to experience an inspiring amount of cultural richness in what I am lucky to translate on a daily basis. In a single day, I can “travel” from Mainland China to Quebec City to Geneva to Kinshasa and back again.

  1. Lack of grammatical similarities or cognates

French and Chinese have almost nothing in common. French is relatively highly inflected; Mandarin has zero inflection. French grammar is derived from Latin whereas Chinese is a Sino-Tibetan language. This makes it all but impossible to confuse them or mix them up. Other than English loan words in Chinese, such as caffeine (kāfēiyīn, 咖啡因), pizza (pīsà, 披萨), salad (shālà, 沙拉), and others, including many place names, there are no cognates and therefore no need to keep a watchful eye on faux amis. When working in Chinese, I do not have to worry about getting tripped up by éventuellement, excité, or luxurieux.

  1. Daily intellectual stimulation

I often have the privilege of working on Chinese and French texts in the same day. Working from just one language to another can be challenging enough, so having the chance to work from multiple languages a day is an excellent way to keep my synapses firing. I definitely earn myself a nice glass of wine at the end of a long day (and that wine is often un bon vin français).

If you work in two very different languages or have had similar experiences, tweet the FLD at @ATA_FLD and Ben at @Bentranslates.

Ben Karl, MBA, CT is a French and Mandarin to English translator based in Reno, Nevada who specializes in marketing, financial, and creative content. Visit his blog, Ben Translates, or connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

FLD Member Updates – First Quarter 2018

Members provide updates to share with the French Language Division. If you have a professional update you would like to share, please email it to us at divisionfld@atanet.org.

  • Nelia Fahloun won the “Translate in Cambridge” (2016) EN>FR translation contest. The announcement of her award was made in 2017. The source text and her winning translation are available here: https://www.translateincambridge.com/fr/concours-de-traduction/ and her translation is number 8 in the list. In addition, Nelia’s first published translations were released in 2017, four chapters in a book on youth policy in Europe (L’Europe de la jeunesse) for the Presses de l’EHESP (École des hautes études en santé publique). 
  • Ben Karl graduated with an MBA from the University of Nevada, Reno in July 2017. Congratulations, Ben!
  • Nanette McGuinness had three French graphic novel translations released ​in 2017:
    – ​​Sea Creatures: Reef Madness #1 – (Papercutz, January 24, 2017)
    ​​- California Dreamin’: Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas – (First Second, March 7, 2017)
    – Sea Creatures #2: “Armed & Dangerous – (Papercutz, May 23, 2017)​
  • Jenn Mercer and Carolyn Yohn co-translated Can Finance Save the World? by former World Bank director Bertrand Badré (originally published in French as Money Honnie). The translation was released on January 30, 2018, by Berrett-Koehler Publishers,. It includes forwards by both Emmanuel Macron and Gordon Brown. More information is available here: https://www.amazon.com/Can-Finance-Save-World-Regaining/dp/1523094214
  • Dr. Bruce D. Popp‘s translation of Poincaré’s On the Three-Body Problem and the Equations of Dynamics has been published and can be found here: http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319528984#aboutBook. In addition, at the 58th ATA Conference held in October 2017 in Washington, D.C., Bruce was awarded the S. Edmund Berger Prize for his translation of Henri Poincaré’s classic work. See the FLD newsletter article on this for more information.
  • Valeriya Yermishova is an FLD member and both a French and Russian to English translator. Her first Russian > English translation was published. in July 2017. It was The Life of a Bishop’s Assistant by Viktor Shklovsky and the translation was published by Dalkey Archive Press.

My Day on Capitol Hill

ata-fld-newsletter-logoBy Karen Tkaczyk

When I saw that ATA’s 58th Annual Conference in Washington, DC included ATA’s first Translation and Interpreting Advocacy Day I jumped at the chance to attend. I wasn’t alone: forty-five translators and interpreters participated. We met with staffers in congressional offices to inform them about issues affecting the T&I professions.

This event was arranged by the Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL). JNCL, along with the National Council for Languages and International Studies, lobbies Congress and the Executive Branch on behalf of the language community.

About a week before the event we received statements on advocacy issues and recommendations for action that were the foundation of our discussions. We had three topics:

  • Inaccuracies in Prevailing Wages Rate Determinations for Translators and Interpreters
  • Machine Translation vs. Human Translation
  • Language Services Procurement: The Need for the Best Value Approach

These position papers impressed me when I received them, and I tried to absorb the material as I prepared for the day. As well as the papers we were to hand off to the staffers, we received several pages of helpful tips on what to expect and information on navigating Capitol Hill. (Tunnels: who knew?)

In the morning JNCL gave us training on how to present these problems and solutions to the people we met. After lunch they bussed us over and set us loose. Three of us present were from Colorado, so I had reassuring company for our first two meetings with our Senators’ offices. Then I was on my own as I went to my Representative’s office. Having the statement papers to fall back on when I was nervous was very helpful.

We had been warned in the training to expect a range of responses from staffers and to avoid using any keywords that might trigger partisan hackles: better not to mention the ACA in my Freedom Caucus Representative’s office, for instance. In practice the receptions varied from dry to warm and friendly, without any awkwardness. None of the staffers I met appeared to know anything much about language issues and how our industry works. Two seemed to think that using machine translation was not a wise option for anything that mattered, so that led to some light humor. I felt that we had raised awareness of how our industry operates—the idea of many of us being self-employed, small business owners. One of the staffers seemed especially intrigued by the ideas in the three papers we discussed, appeared to be convinced that they had value, and told us who he had shared them with when we followed up.

I hope that among the 45 of us we managed to influence some of these Counsels or Assistants to a point where they will reflect on what we said and tell their bosses, and also that this will just be the first of many such opportunities for ATA. In addition, I and many others who participated can say that this was a valuable life experience and are thankful to have had the opportunity.

Karen Tkaczyk has been a Fr>En technical translator since 2005. She is the current ATA Secretary.

Proust Questionnaire – feat. Beth Smith

ata-fld-newsletter-logoThis is part of a continuing series of Proust questionnaires answered by members of the FLD Leadership Council. Beth Smith is a French to English translator specializing in tourism, advertising/marketing, and the psychology of happiness (an accidental specialization developed when translating the book The Finance of Happiness by Renaud Gaucher).

How did you get involved in translation?

I did my first translation back in grad school. One of the professors was editing a special edition of a journal and needed a bunch of people to translate texts, so he asked me to translate an excerpt from a Haitian novel. I enjoyed it, I got paid, but never really thought about translation again. Several years later (in 2007, I think), a French friend who is a filmmaker asked me if I would translate one of his scripts into English. I enjoyed it so much that I started researching translation, did the NYU certificate, and here I am.

Do you have a favorite French or English book?

I’m going to reveal my lowbrow tendencies here, but in English, I’d have to say the Harry Potter series. Ok, it’s not a single book, but I’m not going to pick one over the others. I’ve read the series several times and have spent much time over the years discussing the books and movies with friends, students, acquaintances, random people, errr… anyway. Harry Potter.

In French, I’m really torn, but I’m going to go with Boris Vian’s L’écume des jours. I read it for the first time in a grad school class, and struggled a bit, as I had only been studying French for four years at that point. But I love Vian’s inventiveness and the way he plays with language, plus there’s such heartbreak at the end. In a good way.

Where would you most like to live?

The obvious answer is “somewhere in France,” as that was something I dreamed of for a long time. But in the summer of 2014, I went to visit a friend in The Netherlands, and he took me to the island of Texel for a day. For some reason, I completely fell in love with it: the beach, the boats in the harbor, the small towns, the cute houses, everything. I’m not even a beach person! So I have a semi-plan to eventually move to Texel. At the moment, I’m still teaching full-time as well as translating, but eventually I’ll take the plunge into full-time freelancing. Then who knows?

What is your favorite quote?

What do you want? A medal or a chest to pin it on?

This is kind of obnoxious and I’m not sure it’s an actual quote, but my dad used to say it to me all the time when I was a kid, and it makes me laugh. I never got a medal, so I should have asked for the chest!

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Buying a house. My finances were a shambles for several years after grad school.

Facets of French Translation: Geeking out at ATA58

ata-fld-newsletter-logoBy Trudy Obi

I find conferences to be most valuable for encountering new ideas and new people. The 2017 ATA conference, offering a multi-day schedule of educational sessions and networking events, provided opportunities for both in spades. As a bonus, the sessions and events offered by the French Language Division gave me the opportunity to geek out about French (sometimes even in French) with a group of knowledgeable linguists. I discuss below two FLD sessions that were helpful in expanding the way I think about specific facets of French translation.

Having attended Grant Hamilton’s session entitled “Turning Abstract French into Hands-On English” last year at ATA57, I was excited to see that he was offering a session this year on Canadian French: “Translating for Canada.” Hamilton did not disappoint, presenting a lot of practical information about breaking into the Canadian market. (The good: Canada is officially bilingual, so virtually every Canadian company needs translation services and will pay premium rates for high quality. The challenge: Canada is officially bilingual, so many translation buyers will be fluent in your target language—you’ll need to be on top of your translation game.) Hamilton also emphasized the importance of being familiar with the geography, history, politics, and language policies of the region where the target audience lives; he provided a useful overview of these details for Quebec.

What interested me the most, though, was Hamilton’s discussion of the differences between European French (FR-FR) and Canadian French (FR-CA). No two translators I’ve asked about this issue seem to agree on what they are, so I was interested in hearing his perspective. After outlining the evolution of Canadian French, he noted that FR-CA is very similar to FR-FR in more technical texts (with the exception of legal texts), whereas there are substantial differences in vocabulary between the two in informal writing.

Especially interesting to me were the differences Hamilton described between the way FR-FR and FR-CA each interact with English. Where FR-FR often imports English words for use, FR-CA tends to calque English or, as Hamilton puts it, “commit anglicisms with French words.” I was reminded of a survey about shopping habits that a client recently had translated for several countries: to render the phrase to go shopping, the translation for France imported an English word (faire du shopping), while the translation for Canada used a calque (magasiner, formed by analogy: EN a shop (n.) → to shop (v.); FR-CA un magasin (n.) → magasiner (v.)). Another difference between the two varieties of French—one that might be jarring to translators used to working with FR-FR—is the tendency of FR-CA to treat faux amis as true friends: for example, FR-CA uses eventuellement to mean EN eventually, while FR-FR uses it to mean EN possibly.

While Hamilton touched on the differences between Canadian and European French, Angela Benoit focused on the differences between anglophone and francophone audiences in her session, “Breaking the Mold Again! Throwing Out Even More Translations for an Intimate Look at Source Material.” As you might guess from its title, this session was the sequel to the one Benoit presented last year at ATA57 (“Breaking the Mold: Throwing Out Translation for an Intimate Look at Source Material”). In order to avoid falling into the trap of translation-ese, Benoit proposes a method involving studying pairs of analogous native documents in English and French—adjacent texts rather than parallel texts, since both are originals. She demonstrated her approach using several pairs of advertisements for similar products from anglophone and francophone countries. Benoit pulled out the concepts common to each pair and then opened the floor for discussion of the differences in the way the advertisements communicated these ideas. We also looked at the ideas that were found in one ad but not the other, discussing what clues these might give us about the expectations of the respective audience. Benoit’s process is a systematic way to identify the elusive conceptual gaps between source and target audiences. Of course, we all know these gaps exist—but they may exist only as vague notions hovering around our mental periphery, and peripheral vision is fuzzy. As a result, we may take these gaps for granted or not consider them closely (enough) in the translation process. Benoit’s process forces us to articulate and attend to them before we begin translating.

Many thanks to the French Language Division for offering these and other sessions that engaged my inner French geek. I’m also very happy to have gotten acquainted with other French linguists, both in FLD sessions and in social events. Au plaisir de vous revoir (ou vous rencontrer) l’année prochaine!

Trudy Obi, Ph.D., is an editor, project manager, and French to English translator at ION Translations, LLC.

Proust Questionnaire – feat. Carolyn Yohn

ata-fld-newsletter-logoThis is part of a continuing series of Proust questionnaires answered by members of the FLD Leadership Council. Carolyn Yohn translates French and Hungarian legal and academic texts into American English under the name Untangled Translations.

How did you get involved in translation?

With earning a language degree in mind, I spent my first year of college in Switzerland at a small, dual-accredited American school. About a month in, the career counselor called about a job she found that immediately made her think of me: one of our politics professors was writing a book on Switzerland’s relationship to the EU, and the Euro currency specifically. He could read his Italian and German sources but needed help accessing information in French. I spent the year poring over books, articles, and speeches, summarizing everything in English and picking the stand-out quotes to translate more completely for him. To this day, I don’t believe he has finished his book, but the project taught me just how valuable my language skills were—and that I could get paid to use them.

What subject areas do you translate?

I translate French and Hungarian texts related to law and political/economic history, with a substantial sideline translating documents for visa applications. Book-length non-fiction projects are my favorite.

Tell us about a particularly interesting project you have worked on.

Soul Stories, my first Hungarian book translation, is on its way to the printer now. What a fun ride getting there! I originally connected with the author, a journalist, through an expat mailing list for Bay-Area Magyars. He had written several popular collections of poetic bursts of encouragement in a charming prose style and was interested in self-publishing English translations of his favorites in a new volume. It was a leap of faith to take on the project, and I have no regrets.

Where would you most like to live?

Budapest and Montréal are definitely on my list of “some day” homes. For now, the Sacramento, California area treats me well; it’s nice to have so many days with good weather to get outdoors.

Do you have a favorite French or English book?

I actually collect copies of Le Petit Prince in languages that I have at least dabbled in. So far, that includes the French original and translations into English, Hungarian, and Swahili. I even have a beautiful pop-up book version. Some day, I’ll add Italian, German, and Romanian translations to the collection.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.

I recently became a PADI-certified SCUBA diver! I grew up by the Atlantic Ocean and might as well be a fish, but being able to dive several stories underwater for 30-40 minutes at a time took the experience of swimming to a new level. The final training dive was to 35ft at Lake Tahoe (about 60ft adjusted for altitude). We played tic-tac-toe on the sandy bottom, annoyed a few crawfish, and watched a school of silvery fish shimmer by. Magic!

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Some volunteer translations I provided helped a client of a Georgetown law clinic earn political asylum. The young attorneys working his case sent me a photo of the group in front of the courthouse on the day asylum was granted—the man’s big grin of joy and relief reminds me just how personal translation work is. Whether we see the end result or not, what we do to help people communicate truly touches lives.