FLD Continuing Education Series – Episode 16 – Recapping ATA61

Welcome to the 17th episode of the French Language Division’s Continuing Education Series. In today’s episode, Podcast Host Cathy-Eitel Nzume and Andie Ho, the new FLD Administrator, recap ATA61, discuss new FLD developments, and let you know how to keep abreast of FLD announcements.

Cathy-Eitel Nzume is a certified French to English and English to French Court Interpreter, translator, Department of State Certified Linguist and Legal professional. She holds a Master’s degree in International and American law from Howard University, as well as a Master’s degree in European and International law from the University of Amiens, France. She grew up in her beloved country of origin, Cameroon that she left to study abroad. She specializes in legal and conference Interpreting as well as legal and financial translation. You can find her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cathyeitelnzume/ or on Twitter at @CathyENzume.

Andie Ho is a certified French to English translator specializing in the food industry. She has a Master’s in Translation from Kent State University and is based in the Houston area. Visit her website at www.andiehotranslations.com or find her on Twitter at @JHawkTranslator.


SOUNDCLOUD: You may listen to or download Episode 17, and our previous episodes, on Soundcloud here.

ITUNES: This episode, and our previous episodes are available on iTunes here. You can subscribe or listen online.

For SoundCloud and iTunes:

Welcome to the 16th episode of the French Language Division’s Continuing Education Series. In today’s episode, Cathy-Eitel Nzume welcomes Jenn Mercer and Andie Ho to discuss the State of the FLD and the upcoming ATA Conference that may or may not be in Boston. For more information about our podcast, please visit the French Language Division’s website here: www.ata-divisions.org/FLD/category/podcast.

FLD Continuing Education Series – Episode 16 – State of the FLD 2020

Welcome to the 16th episode of the French Language Division’s Continuing Education Series. In today’s episode, Jenn Mercer (FLD Administrator) and Andie Ho (FLD Assistant Administrator) welcome our new Podcast Host, Cathy-E Nzume!

Cathy-Eitel Nzume is a certified French to English and English to French Court Interpreter, translator, Department of State Certified Linguist and Legal professional. She holds a Master’s degree in International and American law from Howard University, as well as a Master’s degree in European and International law from the University of Amiens, France. She grew up in her beloved country of origin, Cameroon that she left to study abroad. She specializes in legal and conference Interpreting as well as legal and financial translation. You can find her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/cathyeitelnzume/ or on Twitter at https://twitter.com/cathyenzume



SOUNDCLOUD: You may listen to or download Episode 16, and our previous episodes, on Soundcloud here.

ITUNES: This episode, and our previous episodes are available on iTunes here. You can subscribe or listen online.

For SoundCloud and iTunes:

Welcome to the 16th episode of the French Language Division’s Continuing Education Series. In today’s episode, Cathy-Eitel Nzume welcomes Jenn Mercer and Andie Ho to discuss the State of the FLD and the upcoming ATA Conference that may or may not be in Boston. For more information about our podcast, please visit the French Language Division’s website here: www.ata-divisions.org/FLD/category/podcast.

FLD Dinner in Palm Springs, CA for ATA 60, 2019


The French Language Division’s dinner at the 2019 Palm Springs conference will be held at Eight4Nine. We hope to see you there!
Friday, October 25, 2019 at 7:00 p.m.
849 N. Palm Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA 92262
(760) 325-8490

Price: $63.00 per person. This includes three-course dinner (see menu below), tax, and gratuity.
NOTE: All non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages will be the diner’s responsibility and are *not* included.

Payment for the dinner must be made in advance by PayPal (https://www.paypal.com/us/home) to andie.n.ho@gmail.com and received, on or before Friday, October 18, or before the event sells out.

Please select the “send money to friends and family” option so that the FLD is not charged additional PayPal fees.

IMPORTANT NOTE: We do not provide refunds. You may sell or give your ticket to another conference attendee to attend in your place. If you do so, please notify us of the update, but the FLD does not provide refunds once a spot for the dinner has been purchased.

Eight4Nine where the FLD dinner is being held is located 1.2 miles (approximately 25 min walk) from the conference convention center. As this is farther than previous dinners, you may prefer to use Lyft or Uber.

Contact us at divisionfld@atanet.org.
For information about the 60th Annual ATA Conference in Palm Springs, please visit https://www.atanet.org/conf/2019/.


(you will choose your dishes the night of the event)
Simple Green Salad
Hand-selected baby lettuces, fresh herbs, lemon vinaigrette, and rose petals. Gluten-free.
Avocado and Roasted Tomato Tart (vegetarian)
Vine-ripened cherry tomatoes, house-made ricotta, black garlic butter, fresh herbs, cracked pepper, toasted brioche
Cauliflower Steak and Purée
Walnut-caper salsa with Fresno chili, dried currants, served with lemon wedges. Gluten-free, vegan.
Grilled Scottish Steelhead
Fennel, orange, basil, crispy rice cake and arbequina olive oil. Gluten-free.
Beef Tenderloin
All-natural filet of beef, St. Agur blue cheese and red wine reduction, fingerling potatoes, roasted carrots. Gluten-free.

Peach Cardamom Crème Brûlée
Gelato or Sorbet

Note: Drinks are not included.

Proust Questionnaire – feat. Jenn Mercer

ata-fld-newsletter-logoThis is part of a continuing series of Proust questionnaires answered by members of the FLD Leadership Council. Jenn Mercer is a French to English translator specializing in Legal, Financial, and IT translation. She has degrees in French and English from NC State University and a Certificate in French to English Translation from New York University. She is the current Assistant Administrator of the French Language Division.

How did you get involved in translation?

Quite deliberately, but after a rambling path through more mundane professions – and when I say mundane I am not kidding. Other translators have exotic backstories that involve traveling around the world and herding llamas, I worked for an insurance company and later prepared taxes. I loved learning about taxes in a way that still frightens people close to me, but was a fair premonition of some of the things I enjoy about translation.

I love learning about complicated systems and how they fit together. This applies to both learning languages and the subject matter for the documents I translate. I don’t just learn the minimum, I delve into exotic areas with little immediate practical application (ask me about fuel tax exemptions for watercraft).

However, eventually I went back to school to finish my Bachelor’s degree and find an actual profession rather than just a job. I started out majoring in English because, well, have you ever seen me in a bookstore? It’s not a pretty picture unless you own the bookstore. I found a cool sounding course, Introduction to Translation, took, um, most of the French classes in preparation for it, so much so that I got a second major in French and started research on how to become a translator. There was even more work and studying after this, but my rambling path had paid off. I had detailed knowledge on a variety of subjects, particularly those others find boring, but are often more lucrative. I also had many business skills that I had learned in a cubicle, along with a firm desire to never again find myself back in one.

 What subject areas do you translate?

Legal, Financial, and IT. Legal and financial are easy enough to understand from my work background. IT makes sense because I studied programming for a few years (it was a rather rambling path) and one of my jobs was in Tech Support for an IT logistics company.

What talent would you most like to have?

 I’d like enough musical talent to at least be able to play an instrument. I tried the ukulele, which is supposed to be as easy as it gets and I can’t even tell when it’s in tune.

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

I’ve worked on translations of two books. One is “Can Finance Save the World” by Bertrand Badré, which I co-translated with Carolyn Yohn. It looks at what financial tools can do in an entirely different way and it was quite refreshing. I also was part of a team translating a “book” that is actually part of a video game. The language in it was deliberately archaic and over the top. It’s still in pre-release, but I’ve been able to see a few previews with people’s reactions to it, which is a lot of fun – particularly when you translate a lot of things that you are not sure anyone ever reads.

Where would you most like to live?

In a library, preferably an enormous one with comfy chairs and hidden passages.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.

I don’t know if either of these things are surprising, but I have a few passions that do not come up often in translation. I am a major comic book fan (mostly Marvel) and have a rather extensive pull list at my local comic book store. I also keep tropical fish, which is a nice quiet hobby for a translator.

What’s your favorite word or phrase in French or English? 

It is always hard to pick an absolute favorite anything, but I have “Au milieu de l’hiver, j’ai découvert en moi un invincible été” tattooed on my left shoulder, so that makes the cut. It is reminder to me that there is always light, even when things seem the bleakest. 

What is your favorite quote? 

On a lighter note, I have two movie quotes that motivate me as a freelancer:

  1. “Coffee is for closers” from Glengarry Glen Ross. I’ve modified this rule to mean that I’m only allowed to grab Chipotle for lunch when I have a big project.
  1. “When someone asks if you are a god, you say yes” from Ghostbusters. This reminds me that sometimes a bit of extra self-confidence is actually the safest course of action.

 Do you have a hero?

 Thor, Goddess of Thunder (KRA-KA-THOOM!).

Proust Questionnaire – feat. Eve Bodeux

ata-fld-newsletter-logoThis is part of a continuing a series of Proust questionnaires answered by members of the FLD Leadership Council. Eve Lindemuth Bodeux is serving her second two-year term as Administrator of the French Language Division. In the 1990s, she was editor of the FLD newsletter (when it was still printed on paper!). A French to English translator, she has been active in the translation industry for more than two decades. She specializes in high-level business documents, international development and digital marketing texts. She has authored many articles for industry professionals, clients and the business community as well as her book for language professionals, Maintaining Your Second Language. She can be reached at www.bodeuxinternational.com.

How did you get involved in translation?

When I moved to Colorado in the 1990s, I was looking for a job doing “something international.” I ended up getting invaluable industry experience working at two translation agencies before I went out on my own. I have a background in both multilingual project management and French to English translation as well as two master’s degrees—from both an American university and a French one. I have been a member of the American Translators Association for almost 20 years and the organization has been a wonderful resource for me as the industry and my own business have evolved over the years.

What subject areas do you translate?

I translate corporate marketing content, business documents and many RFPs. I also translate international development documents for NGOs active in francophone countries. In recent years, leveraging my experience with my own bilingual children, I have also translated several children’s books that have been published.

What job would you do if you weren’t a translator?

I have heard the saying that, “no one ever wants to be the backup singer.” I understand that this means that people usually want to be in the lead, not in the background, but, taking it more literally, I want to say that, as a life-long alto, I always thought it would be fabulous to be a professional backup singer. It would be less stressful than being the star, but still lots of fun. A few years ago, I saw Johnny Hallyday in concert in Los Angeles and he had a powerful group of backup singers, so that confirmed that this would definitely be my “dream” job in an alternate universe.

What is your greatest strength as a translator?

My family and educational backgrounds have provided me with in-depth cultural knowledge that is often the key to understanding the meaning of original French texts. I build on that by reading a lot in French, watching French movies, keeping up with French news, staying active with the French community where I live, and visiting France often. In addition to strong source and target language skills, cultural knowledge is imperative for accuracy in translation.

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

A few years ago, I translated several seasons of a French-language TV series about women giving birth in different parts of the world. It was fascinating to learn about the conditions under which women give birth in different places and how this rite of passage is viewed by cultures around the globe.

Where would you most like to live?

I have lived in Colorado for over 20 years and adore this state, my town and my own neighborhood. I love traveling and meeting new people and exploring new places, but I am proud to call Colorado home.

Do you have a favorite French or English book?

I like reading memoirs as well as, unsurprisingly, books about France. Two in English that can be read as a pair that I come back to over the years are My Life in France by Julia Child and Clémentine in the Kitchen by Samuel Chamberlain. Child’s book focuses on immediate post-war France while Chamberlain’s book focuses on pre-WWII France, and they both lovingly discuss food.

I picked up one of my go-to French-language books at a museum outside Paris. It’s entitled Femmes du XVIIe siècle : en verve and is a compilation of quotes from women in the 17th century on various topics such as friendship, beauty, loyalty, happiness, jealousy and others. You’d be surprised at how modern their ideas were.

Tell us something surprising about yourself.

I was born and raised in Alaska and am one of seven siblings. As I mentioned, I do love Colorado, but you can’t take the Alaska out of the girl and I go back often to visit.

If you could translate anything in the world, what would it be and why?

I have to decline to answer this directly because I like translating a range of content and think that the variety of topics we are offered is part of the magic of what we do. It is also part of what makes translation intellectually stimulating. My answer, then, is that I’d like to continue to receive interesting and varied projects.

What is your greatest achievement?

I don’t know if it is my greatest achievement, but I am proud of having released my book Maintaining Your Second Language in 2016. It was a labor of love and it thrills me to be able to share my ideas on language learning and retention with others who are passionate about language.

Les avantages insoupçonnés des glossaires

ata-fld-newsletter-logoBy Audrey Pouligny

[Editor’s note: This article was originally published at Le mot juste en anglais.]

Traducteurs : Quelques réflexions sur la manière dont les glossaires peuvent nous aider à éviter certains écueils avec nos clients, voire même améliorer et renforcer nos relations avec ces derniers.

Avez-vous peur de la critique ? Avez-vous déjà reçu un e-mail de la part d’un client, quelque peu embarrassant, vous expliquant que votre traduction ne s’avérait pas entièrement satisfaisante ? Cela peut nous arriver à tous, traducteurs débutants comme expérimentés. Mais ne soyons pas pessimistes ! Posons-nous plutôt la question suivante : comment pouvons-nous transformer une expérience quelque peu difficile, à savoir la peur de la critique et la critique elle-même, en une expérience positive ? Soyons honnêtes avec nous-mêmes. II est beaucoup plus facile de progresser quand nous parvenons à changer notre perspective. Observer les problématiques rencontrées par nos clients avec curiosité et enthousiasme, au lieu de ressasser nos frustrations, peut en effet nous permettre de nous donner cette impulsion.

Offrir un glossaire à nos clients est une stratégie qui nous permet de mieux gérer la critique. Le glossaire dans un tel cas se transforme en un véritable outil pour développer un style de travail collaboratif avec nos clients, tout en offrant l’opportunité de découvrir des bénéfices supplémentaires et inattendus.

Les glossaires ont leur rôle à jouer, dès lors qu’ils clarifient et matérialisent un accord sur la terminologie à retenir. Ils permettent de faire évoluer une relation stressante vers une relation de travail apaisée et collaborative.

Partager un glossaire à mi-chemin d’un projet peut ainsi créer un système préventif de validation de la terminologie avec vos clients. Par exemple, si vous traduisez un rapport d’entretien annuel d’évaluation pour une société caractérisée par  un domaine d’activité très spécialisé et technique, le glossaire pourrait se révéler un précieux allié. Proposer à votre client de revoir votre glossaire une fois arrivé à mi-chemin du projet vous permettra de vous assurer, d’une part, de la pertinence de la terminologie choisie par vos soins, et d’autre part, que cette dernière correspond effectivement aux préférences de votre client pour des raisons, notamment, d’uniformisation.

Vous pouvez également commencer à entrevoir comment cette stratégie peut constituer une excellente manière de développer une nouvelle spécialisation en tant que traducteur. Il faut bien commencer un jour, n’est-ce pas ? C’est en forgeant qu’on devient  forgeron. C’est dans cette optique que les glossaires peuvent nous offrir l’expérience tant nécessaire au développement d’une nouvelle spécialisation. Un glossaire envoyé à mi-chemin d’un projet s’inscrit dès lors dans une stratégie gagnant-gagnant, s’il nous permet de réduire notre niveau de stress, de renforcer notre tranquillité d’esprit et de développer avec nos clients des relations basées sur la confiance.

Un glossaire envoyé à la fin de votre projet de traduction peut également offrir à vos clients l’opportunité de réduire le temps passé par ces derniers en interne à effectuer leur contrôle qualité. Si je reprends mon exemple du rapport d’entretien annuel d’évaluation, au lieu  de se plonger directement dans votre traduction et de l’examiner à la loupe, votre client (probablement un directeur RH) pourra dans un premier temps consulter votre glossaire et sera immédiatement en mesure de déterminer si certains termes diffèrent  de ses préférences ou de la terminologie utilisée au sein de la société. Cette étape pourra ainsi permettre à vos clients de réduire le temps passé à relire votre traduction finale. Vous avez ainsi un argument de taille pour vos clients en faveur des glossaires : réduire le temps passé par ces derniers en interne à effectuer leur contrôle qualité. Et pour vous, quels sont les avantages ? Essentiellement les mêmes que ceux qui peuvent être retirés de l’envoi d’un glossaire à mi-chemin d’un projet : vous développez vos connaissances, vous réduisez votre niveau de stress et vous gagnez en tranquillité d’esprit, tout en renforçant vos relations avec vos clients.

Plusieurs avantages inattendus peuvent également être découverts dans le cadre de ce processus. En plus d’apprendre de votre client et d’être ainsi en mesure de diversifier vos domaines de compétences, partager des glossaires pourrait vous aider à offrir des services hauts de gamme et à vous positionner sur le marché comme un prestataire soucieux d’aider véritablement ses clients. Et par véritablement aider ses clients, je fais référence à quelque chose de tangible et non à de simples promesses. Grâce à vos glossaires, vous avez quelque chose de tangible à proposer à vos clients afin de vraiment les aider.

Cela étant, en procédant de la sorte, il demeure légitime de s’interroger sur le risque qu’un client puisse ensuite recourir à un service de traduction moins cher axé sur le volume et non la qualité. Au bout du compte, la question à se poser est de savoir si nous avons vraiment envie de travailler avec ce type de clients. Si la réponse est non, alors travailler avec des glossaires vous permettra de vous débarrasser des clients avec qui vous ne souhaitez pas travailler. L’utilisation des glossaires peut ainsi être envisagée comme une manière de créer votre propre style où vous pouvez consacrer votre temps et votre énergie au service de clients qui partagent vos valeurs et votre vision : le travail collaboratif, le savoir-faire, la minutie, le développement, etc. Le choix vous appartient. Vous pouvez choisir et définir la façon dont vous voulez travailler.

Et en pratique, comment pouvez-vous « vendre » vos services de glossaires ? La prochaine fois qu’un client retient vos services pour un projet dans lequel vous avez envie d’établir un dialogue, commencez à créer un glossaire, envoyez-le à votre client et n’oubliez pas d’ajouter la mention « glossaire offert à titre gracieux » sur votre facture. Par la suite, vous serez peut-être en mesure d’ajouter les glossaires à vos différents services, tout en défendant leurs multiples avantages.

Est-ce que cette stratégie vous permettra de vous positionner en tant que prestataire de services haut de gamme ? Est-ce que cela vous permettra de définir l’éventail de services que vous souhaitez offrir en tant que traducteur ? Pourquoi ne pas essayer ? Je serais ravie d’échanger avec vous et de recueillir vos observations et commentaires.

Audrey Pouligny is an English-French legal translator. She can be reached at audrey@quidlingua.com and www.quidlingua.com.

Proust Questionnaire – feat. Andie Ho

ata-fld-newsletter-logoThis is part of a continuing series of Proust questionnaires answered by members of the FLD Leadership Council. Andie Ho is a French-to-English translator to the food industry.

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!

Proust Questionnaire – feat. Jennifer Bader

ata-fld-newsletter-logoThis 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.

Getting My Poincaré Translation Published

ata-fld-newsletter-logoBy Bruce Popp

Faithful readers of this newsletter and attendees at the 58th ATA Annual Conference will know that Springer published my translation of a book by Poincaré in May 2017. The editor of this newsletter suggested to me that readers might be interested in hearing about my experience finding and working with a publisher. To tell that story, it is best to start at the beginning.

In March 2014 I started translating, from French into English, a book by Henri Poincaré that is considered a classic in the field of mathematical physics. I chose to translate this book because of my personal interest and with the goal of better understanding what Poincaré had done. That means that the translation was not commissioned or done under contract. I had no idea then whether it would even ever be published. I did however know that it could be published because there were no questions of copyright ownership on the original work; Poincaré died in July 1912. I also did enough checking to know that I could work in Microsoft Word and if necessary could do a conversion to LaTeX (a typesetting system popularly used in academia, especially in the sciences) if that was required for submission to a publisher.

As months and months went by and I kept coming back to work on the translation, I started to develop ideas and strategies for where and how the book would be published. I decided that I would not contact a publisher until I had a complete translation that I had edited on-screen. Also, I decided that self-publishing the translation would be a last resort; because of the specialist knowledge required to understand the material I was translating, it was clear that my target market would be academic and that I would need a publisher with access to that market—self-publishing would be a significant market barrier. To narrow the list of potential publishers, I looked for academic publishers that had already published books about Poincaré or his work. That led to a core list of the American Mathematical Society (AMS), Princeton University Press and Springer. I also had an informal discussion with a translator who had been an editor at Harvard University Press; that led to some good advice (more on that later) and the decision that the Press was unlikely to be interested in the book. After looking at websites of other possible publishers, I also added Cambridge University Press, Cornell University Press (I’m an alumni) and MIT Press to my list.

In March 2016 I finished a pass of on-screen editing of the complete translation of the book. I prepared single-page proposal letters for acquisition editors at the six publishers on my list. I tried to indicate why the book was relevant for them to publish and why it was worth publishing. I also stated that I had a complete manuscript that I was willing to share. I heard back from Cornell quickly: “We are not interested.” I also heard from Cambridge University Press fairly fast with some nice words about impressive effort and scholarly importance, followed by “It doesn’t fit into our catalog.” I also received an acknowledgment and promise to look at my proposal from Springer.

I heard from the AMS in June. Their management committee decided they were not interested; they thought it wouldn’t sell enough copies.

At about that time I prepared a version with Poincaré’s original work and my translation on facing pages that I had printed at Staples and I started editing it. While I was doing this editing, I also made notes in the margin (in a different color ink) of things I wanted to include in an “It’s in there!” section of the preface.

By August, about five months after I sent out the proposal letters, I had not heard from Princeton University Press or MIT Press at all, and had not heard from Springer beyond the editor’s acknowledgment that she had received the submission. I sent follow-up emails to MIT and Springer and a revised paper letter to Princeton. The following day (yes, really) I got a paper letter from Princeton responding to my original submission from March and indicating that my book didn’t fit their publishing plans. I got an email message from MIT apologizing for the delay and stating that they were forwarding the proposal to a different editor. I also got an email from the same editor at Springer apologizing for the delay (dealing with personal issues) and promising to look at the proposal.

In September I finished editing the paper copy and transferred my edits into the electronic copy. I never heard back from MIT Press. I started looking more at what was involved in self-publishing.

The next month, I got a second letter from Princeton University Press praising the scholarly importance of the project and apologizing for not having room in their catalog for such a worthy project. A couple weeks before the ATA Conference in San Francisco in 2016, I sent a third email to the editor at Springer. This time I got a real reply: “We are interested. Please fill out and return our submission form.”

I should emphasize that at this point, I had not sent my translation to any publisher. All discussions were based on what was in my proposal letter.

Finding a publisher took patience and persistence and then more of both.

When one story ends, another begins.

I filled out and returned their form. Beyond obvious questions like author, affiliation and completion schedule, it asked for key marketing advantages, my bio, a brief description of the book and a description of the target audience. (After one back-and-forth round of edits, the last two were used on the back cover of the book and the bio appears on the book’s page on the Springer website; except for the copyright page, pretty much everything in and on the book is my writing!)

And then I waited.

Just before Thanksgiving, I sent a follow-up email and was told that the proposal had been sent to the editor of a book series. The reasoning was that “books that are part of a series sell better.” (The book became volume 443 in the Astrophysics and Space Science Library.)

And I waited.

On December 6, I was sent a contract. I read it and compared it to the PEN model contract for literary translators (available online). I considered the advice that I had been given by the former Harvard University Press editor. Based on that I asked for:

  • More: A higher percentage for royalties, more free copies for me.
  • Escalating royalties: When the total number of copies sold reaches certain levels, the percentage for royalties goes up. The first bracket is 2000 copies sold.
  • Reversion of copyright if the book goes out of print (see PEN clause 13).
  • A commitment that my name would appear on the cover, and on the title and copyright pages (see PEN clause 11).

The contract already provided that I would have the final review of the page proofs of the book (see PEN clause 4). There was a good bit more in the contract but it looked reasonable. They didn’t offer an advance against royalties, and I didn’t ask for any. I also asked what they would do for marketing the book and how many copies they thought it might sell.

At this point things started to move fast. They replied the next day with a revised contract that included the higher percentage for royalties, all the free copies I asked for, and a schedule for the escalating royalties. (I didn’t ask for a particular schedule, but their proposed sales numbers and percentages looked okay.) They said that because they used a print-on-demand technology the book in effect would never go out of print and therefore a reversion of copyright clause was not meaningful. They said they couldn’t put anything about where my name would appear into the contract, but provided a sample cover from another book translation and said they would follow that example; they also agreed to review the cover design with me. (In the end, I was pleased with where and how my name appeared.)

The contract then went through a round of signatures and everything was done and signed within two weeks after I first received the contract.

I submitted the manuscript the day after the contract was signed and mostly things went pretty fast and smoothly from there.

Right away Springer asked for a list of head words for an index (and I provided two, one for persons and one for concepts) and a list of references cited by Poincaré. Producing the reference list was an interesting challenge, because Poincaré provided in-line references that ranged from incomplete to obscure descriptions. I had already looked for and at some while I was doing the translation; others I had thought wouldn’t be interesting. It is amazing how many scanned images of 19th-century books and journals are available on the internet. I found all the references without having to visit a physical library to look through rare books.

I was shown a couple drafts of the cover design and was consulted on some changes in the wording I had proposed for the subtitle of the book. I really liked the picture of Poincaré they had picked, my name was in the place and size I expected, and I easily agreed to the changes in wording.

In the manuscript I submitted I maintained page breaks so the page numbering matched Poincaré’s original work. Obviously this made editing easier for me. I asked the editor that the page breaks be maintained in publication. The outsourced layout service said that wouldn’t be possible and the editor didn’t argue the case for me. At the time I was disappointed; I had liked the bilingual layout (on facing pages) of the paper copy that I edited during the summer. I came to like, and now prefer, the layout without the page breaks matching the breaks in the source.

About March, I got copies of the page proofs (in PDF) and the manuscript that had been converted from Word to LaTeX and edited. I was able to use Word to compare the manuscript I had delivered to the edited one that was returned. There was very little editing and nearly all of it involved systematically applying the “house style”: They eliminated all contractions and added Oxford commas, and in the equations, they made the d (which stands for “derivative”) non-italic. They had not removed the page breaks correctly, leaving paragraph breaks that should’ve been closed up when the page break was removed. The page proofs had a small number of questions at the end of each chapter (e.g. “Where’s equation 4? The numbers go directly from 3 to 5.” Answer: “There was no equation 4 in the original and I didn’t renumber the equations.”)

More importantly, there was a serious problem with the formatting of many equations; most numerators and denominators in fractions were much too small, in many cases making parts of the equations unreadable. In the cases where I looked at the equation layout in LaTeX, I didn’t see any problem; I believe the issue was in a global option used by the layout service that wasn’t included in the file returned to me. I demanded that the problems with the page breaks and the equations be fixed and a new set of page proofs returned to me. The project manager at Springer agreed with me and I was copied on some emails with the supervisor of the layout service, who was persuaded to provide new proofs.

I got the new proofs in about a month and things went smoothly from there.

I was absolutely thrilled when the box with the author’s copies was delivered, unannounced, in early May. It took about 38 months from the time I started the translation to the moment I was able to hold the published book in my hands. The thrill still hasn’t worn off.


Bruce D. Popp, Ph.D. is a French into English scientific and technical translator.