[Editor’s note: This is my last post as the editor of À Propos. I am stepping down in order to focus on my upcoming duties as Assistant Administrator of the French Language Division. The FLD is proud to announce that Ben Karl will be taking over as editor-in-chief as of our Annual Division Meeting on Thursday, October 25 at 12:30 PM, held as part of the ATA conference in New Orleans. Welcome to the team, Ben! –Andie Ho]
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.
How did you get involved in translation?
I knew I wanted to be a translator even as a teenager. I pursued an undergraduate degree in lettres et traduction françaises, which was very well rounded in terms of theory and stylistics, but not so useful in terms of real, practical application (my instructors never once mentioned CAT tools, for example). I also studied Chinese, so I moved to China after university and continued my language studies there for two years before moving back to the US. I found work as a project manager at one of the top three LSPs, and just over five years ago, I transitioned to freelancing. I haven’t looked back!
What subject areas do you translate?
I focus on financial, corporate communications, and marketing. Three years ago, I decided that I wanted to up my game and my subject-matter expertise, so I went back to school for an MBA. It was a really invaluable experience for me, not only as a translator, but also as a business owner. Most of us are not business-minded people (we’re language people!), so learning about business in such a rigorous environment was really eye-opening and useful.
What’s your favorite word or phrase in French or English?
I’ve always loved the expression Il ne faut pas mettre le doigt entre l’arbre et l’écorce. I find it elicits such a beautiful image. My favorite English words are cahoots (back when I was little, I would always picture two owls talking secretively to each other) and slough (i.e. the verb slʌf, not the noun slu), which has a great sound and also elicits a great mental picture, especially when used figuratively.
Do you have a favorite French or English book?
My favorite book of all time is The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov (I love the Pevear–Volokhonsky translation), but it’s neither an English nor a French book! When I try to think of my favorite books or movies, my mind always seems to settle on something I’ve seen or read recently. I was very shaken and moved by En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule by Edouard Louis and have also really enjoyed Joël Dicker’s page-turners La Vérité sur l’affaire Harry Quebert and Le livre des Baltimore. Reading about an America imagined by a Swiss author is fascinating and very entertaining! Translating a book like that would definitely be my dream project.
Tell us something surprising about yourself.
I have a twin sister! Not only that, we were among the first IVF babies born in the United States and were featured in the New York Times as infants. She also speaks Danish, which I’ve always thought is really cool.