L’arabe du futur : une jeunesse au Moyen-Orient (1978-1984) – Riad Sattouf

ata-fld-newsletter-logoI am not someone who has a natural inclination to read graphic novels. The first one I read, at the urging of a book group, was Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. I thought it was a fascinating peek into what it was like to grow up in Iran and it made me realize that graphic novels can indeed be literary endeavors. This particular genre is a revered form of expression within Francophone culture so I am in good company. My most recent foray into the world of graphic novels was to read Riad Sattouf’s L’arabe du futur : une jeunesse au Moyen-Orient (1978-1984) by Allary Éditions, the subject of this article.

Sattouf, who has published various autobiographical and fictional works to acclaim and worked as a cartoonist for both Charlie Hebdo and Le Nouvel Observateur, was born to a French mother and Syrian father. His graphic memoir covers, as the title notes, Sattouf’s first years of life, from 1978-1984 when the family lived very briefly in Paris as well as their time in Libya and Syria, his father’s homeland.

Sattouf’s mother comes across as a sympathetic figure but is not as fully developed as the character of his father. I often marveled at her ability to put up with the rudimentary conditions in which they were forced to live and while she seemed to do so without complaint for the most part, this is not to say that Sattouf portrays her as a pushover. She is surely a product of her era and her experiences living in lands so different from France, her country of origin. At times we see her stand up for herself, her family and her European values while still being mindful of the cultures in which finds herself (Libyan and Syrian). The author’s admiration for his mother and her ability to adapt is evident in his work. Her steadfast respect for herself and her children from a European perspective make me curious to read Sattouf’s next volumes in the series (there are three in total) to see how her relationship with her strong-minded husband evolves.

This first volume of Sattouf’s memoir is as much about his father as about himself. His father is always in search of a “better” life for himself, where he will receive the “recognition he deserves.” As the story begins, Abdel, Sattouf’s father, has recently received his doctorate in history from the Sorbonne. To put it to good use, he uproots the family, leaving France to accept a low-paying, low-prestige teaching position in Libya. He is a pan-Arabist whose sometimes inconsistent philosophy of life revolves around what Sattouf portrays as Abdel’s obsession with the Arab way of life getting the respect it deserves.

While Sattouf approaches his story with humor and makes us laugh at times, his frankness about the harshness to which he was sometimes subjected as a child can make us cringe. We learn about his bicultural experience through his personal perspective. As someone who is the product of a very different bicultural lifestyle, I found this fascinating and I am anxious to read the next two volumes in his autobiographical series.

Eve Lindemuth Bodeux

Eve Lindemuth Bodeux is a French to English translator and independent project manager who lives in Denver, CO.

Getting Certified: The Canadian Experience

ata-fld-newsletter-logo“You either have it or you don’t.” That’s what a lot of language professionals think about our profession. It’s what I thought when I was a university student studying abroad in France and I would listen to other American students speaking French, trying to determine if I was as good as they were. Ten years later, I decided for myself that I had a gift for languages—without anyone ever telling me so—and I decided to give freelance translation a try while living in Quebec City, Canada. It was only recently when I obtained the title of Certified Translator from the Corporation of Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters of New Brunswick (CTINB), however, that I felt that my opinion of myself was justified. While the road to certification was a bumpy one for me, it has turned out to be a positive and fulfilling experience that I would recommend to all translators, regardless of where you live.

First, let me give you some background information. Not having studied translation formally in school, when I first started out I didn’t realize that Canada had its own roster of translators associations, or that certification was even an option. After speaking with an acquaintance in the US who had told me that I needed to be certified in order to work for the company where he worked, I joined ATA and decided to start by completing a mentorship with an experienced translator. At the beginning of our mentorship, my mentor told me how she had failed the ATA certification exam twice before passing on her third try. Since I looked up to her and valued her advice, I figured that getting certified was essential in order to make it as a translator, and I decided to go for it on my next trip to the States. Unfortunately, after eventually failing twice myself, I decided that I would wait until trying again, thinking that I needed more experience and practice.

At the same time, since I didn’t know how long my husband and I would be living in Canada, I debated whether an American or Canadian certification would bring me the most benefit. I eventually heard about Quebec’s professional association, the Ordre des traducteurs terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec (OTTIAQ), and started looking into their certification process. I learned that, in Canada, the titled of Certified Translator is granted by each province’s regulatory body, the Canadian Translators, Terminologists and Interpreters Council (CTTIC), and that each province’s translators association has its own certification process. I was happy to find out that OTTIAQ offers a few different paths to certification, all of which take into account one’s educational background and professional experience and don’t necessarily involve an exam (more on that later). Given my specific experience, the only other criteria I had to fulfill before submitting my application for review was obtaining at least 5 years of experience.

Just before reaching the 5-year mark, my husband accepted a job offer in Saint John, New Brunswick, and more options became apparent to me after looking into New Brunswick’s certification process. Now, I not only had the option of taking an exam or having my qualifications reviewed, but I could also get certified by way of a mentorship. Given my experience with the ATA exam and the uncertainty of meeting the requirements for a “certification on dossier,” I opted for the mentorship in the hopes that my work would speak for itself, in the end.

I should note that, while ATA certification boosts your credibility in the United States, it is not required by all government agencies and, in some cases, a foreign certification will do. In Canada, however, certification is often required by the Translation Bureau in order to translate official documents for the government. And in New Brunswick—the only officially bilingual province in Canada—certification is mandatory. All the more reason for me to be certified.

Over the next 6 months, I submitted more than the minimum of 30,000 words to my mentor for her review and feedback. While my first few translations came back with a slew of comments (turns out I did need more practice), little by little I started seeing fewer and fewer revisions and, by the end of the mentorship, more than one document came back to me with no revisions at all. Although my mentor told me from the beginning that her aim was for me to go from a “very good translator to an excellent one,” I didn’t start to feel worthy of receiving the title of Certified Translator until she told me a few months into the mentorship that she was definitely going to recommend me for certification.

The big news came a few weeks after the end of the mentorship when I received word from the president of the CTINB that my mentor’s recommendation had been approved by the board and I was officially a certified French-to-English translator. Hooray! It was about time.

Looking forward, I hope to take advantage of the reciprocity agreement between the CTINB and Quebec’s association to have my certification recognized by OTTIAQ, as well as benefit from the liability insurance that the Order offers. As with ATA, there are many benefits to being a member of other translators associations; you just have to pick and choose which ones are most beneficial to you.

And who knows: maybe ATA’s new computerized exam will prove to be another way for me and many other translators to demonstrate our skills, in the conditions in which we feel most comfortable. It’s what I’m hoping for, at least!

Natalie Pavey is a French to English translator who specializes in French to English translation services in the fields of sustainable development, business communications and marketing.

FLD Dinner in San Francisco for ATA’s 57th Annual Conference – Sign Up Now!

Registration Now Open:

French Language Division Dinner for the ATA’s Conference in San Francisco


Please feel free to organize informal lunches and dinners with your French colleagues.

Meet up with friends and colleagues for the annual FLD dinner on: Friday, November 4, 2016, at 7:00 pm

Café Bastille
22 Belden Place, San Francisco.
0.6 miles from the conference hotel, a 15-minute walk.
Tel: (415) 986-5673

Cafe Bastille

Space is limited and this event is expected to sell out! Advance payment required. Cost is $52.25 per person, including tax and gratuity.
> Please note that no beverages are included and are to be purchased on a cash basis only.

To reserve a spot, [SOLD OUT] No reservations accepted after Wednesday, October 26, or after the event is full. No refunds.


MENU (selections to be made the night of the event)

First Course, choice of:
French Onion Soup or
Mixed Baby Lettuce Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

Second Course, choice of:
Beef Bourguignon or
Coq au Vin or
Mushroom Fettucini (Vegetarian) or
Moules Mariniere or Normande (Mussels in white wine or cream)

Third Course, choice of:
Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake or
Raspberry Pistachio Cake

++ If you have special dietary needs that are not accommodated in the menu above, please contact us at divisionfld@atanet.org immediately after making your reservation on PayPal so that we may make arrangements.

Contact divisionfld@atanet.org