Caitilin Walsh, CT, the current ATA President and FLD member, translates from French and German to American English.
How did you get involved in translation? Like many, by accident: I wanted to teach language but after I earned my foreign degree, I was told I needed another two years of graduate courses in the US. A private language school offered me a job to teach certificated teachers enough French to pass their endorsement, so I decided to pursue translation full-time instead. The irony is that I ended up teaching after all—teaching translation!
What subject areas do you translate? I do a lot of geeky stuff (like software manuals or corporate IT documentation, and even a few games), and I love anything that lets me be über-creative, like marketing. I’ve done a couple of book-length food-related translations, and those are immensely satisfying, though I tend to gain weight when I work on them.
What is your greatest strength as a translator? My background is in the theater, so I’m good with creative problem solving, and my dad was an engineer who let us take things apart, so I’m pretty good at understanding how things work.
Please tell us something about one of the most interesting projects you have ever worked on. I worked on the French version of Trivial Pursuit as a question-a-day computer calendar. My job was not to translate, but to come up with three wrong answers to make the questions multiple choice. I dog-eared a copy of the Quid (this was before the Internet!). Every time someone called me, I would ask them a Trivial Pursuit question; if they got it wrong, that was one I didn’t have to look up!
Do you have a favorite word or phrase in French or English that you’d like to share? That’s a bit like asking me what my favorite book is—the others might get jealous. I do love the way French allows for neologisms and playing with the language, and take delight in reading new entries in the J.O.
Outside of works on T&I, is there any book (fiction or non-fiction) that you enjoyed reading that you would like to recommend to others? It can be in either English or French. I’m incredibly behind on my reading pile: ask me after I step down as President in November!
What is something about you that has nothing to do with translation that is interesting or surprising? I’m synesthetic. Everything I read, or hear has color or texture. A loud room is blinding, and playing in an orchestra is psychedelic. The real irony is that I’m married to a man who is colorblind: I’m seeing colors where there are none, and he can’t see the ones that are there!
What is your favorite quote? That’s a hard one. I love J.M. Barrie in Peter Pan: “When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.” There’s a lot of magic in life if you are willing to quiet your thoughts and listen to your heart. But on my more serious days (and when dealing with difficult people), I ponder Goethe, “Behavior is a mirror in which everyone displays [their] own image.”