Nobody understands me

My sister sells tickets in a French train station and is in amost daily contact with English speakers, so she’s been sent on an English course. She has a first assessment this week, during which she’ll have to answer simple questions about herself. She asked me to provide a translation of a few sentences, just to check that she knows what she’s going to say. Among these sentences, the following: "J’ai une sœur, elle habite en Angleterre, elle a 30 ans et elle travaille sur l’Internet" (I have a sister, she’s 30, she lives in England and she works on the Internet). Here we go again. Yet another person who hasn’t got a clue about what I do for a living, but this time it’s my own sister.
Translators seem to be a bit of a mystery to most people. Our self-employed status seems to baffle them, as they can’t quite fathom how one might find clients, and how we fill our days. I often find myself struggling to describe an average day’s work. It does vary quite a lot; last week, I worked form 8am to 6pm pretty much every day, but the week before, I only worked a couple of hours in the morning three days in a row. Last week, I spent one afternoon interpreting in Lewes and translated human resources documents, but this week will be mainly taken up by subtitling Missing and finishing a big project for an English school. I think the variety of it all means that people don’t have a clear idea of what you do, and are likely to forget between two meetings.
Anyway, I did what my sister asked and faithfully translated her little blurb about herself, apart from the one sentence I mentioned earlier, for which I was a bit more creative: "I have a sister, she’s 30, she lives in England and she does my homework for me".

By | 2016-10-18T15:51:45+00:00 October 11th, 2004|Freelance Translation|4 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. Johanka October 11, 2004 at 4:45 pm

    Céline, you rock! 🙂
    It seems you are the only “intellectual” (or do you prefer professional) from your whole family?

  2. céline October 11, 2004 at 5:00 pm

    No-one else in my immediate family has ever been much interested in school and I was the first of the clan to take the baccalauréat. I am a genetic anomaly and should be studied.

  3. jim October 12, 2004 at 4:08 pm

    Do families ever understand what it is we do? I, too, was the first in my family to complete a college degree, but my field of study, linguistics, had everybody at a loss. Luckily, now I work as a computer consultant, so they seem to have relaxed and understand the title of what it is I do.

  4. Crystal November 9, 2004 at 8:29 pm

    I too often find myself explaining the details of my line of work to my loved ones, being the only member of my immediate family that speaks a foreign language fluently and having made a career of it (although they had their doubts that such a feat was even possible). I don’t mind this though, because, now that I am gainfully employed, they are becoming a little less clueless every day. My co-workers, however, are another story. Being that I’m the sole Spanish translator for the whole engineering department, I find myself confronted daily by my peers’ ignorance of linguistic matters.

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