Céline invited me to share on her blog my journey as I start a career as a freelance translator. She thinks it will be informative and educational for others planning on doing the same thing. For me, the thought process of putting down my experiences in writing, as well as your comments and advice, should help me view my efforts from a critical point of view and take a few steps back, thus helping me in my endeavour. However, this remains a personal experience and should be seen as such.
Part 1
I shall dedicate this first part to presenting my background. I was born and grew up in France, where I studied languages and literature. I started getting interested in languages when I discovered reading in primary school, and more particularly through the books of a mysteriously named author: Enid Blyton. When my mother told me he was English, numerous questions came to my mind. How was this possible, since Oui-Oui (Noddy) spoke French? Later, when I understood the principle of translation, questions kept coming up, thick and fast, like: "Does the name of an object, translated from English into French, refer to the same object we have in France?" I am still moved by how judicious and penetrating a child’s questions are. How is it possible that, at such a young age, the complexity of such questions can be perceived?
On top of that, the pronoun "he", used in "he was English", refers back not only to the generic term "author", but also to the individual. Just imagine: for over 15 years, I believed that the creator of my childhood friends (Noddy, Brer Rabbit, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven), was a man! This discovery taught me two central lessons: first, a shaky knowledge of the source language’s culture can bring about enormous mistakes, and second, every piece of information must be verified. All this shows that my decision to start a career in translation, far from being a fad, is born of a profound, long-lasting passion for languages.
From then on, my education was straightforward. I studied as many languages as permitted by the French education system. Two living languages and one dead language from age 11 to 15, then three living languages until age 18, with trips abroad in the summer. English became my favourite language at secondary school and I decided to become a teacher. After the Baccalauréat, I carried on studying arts in hypokhâgne and khâgne before taking a degree and an MA in English literature at the Sorbonne University. I then took a teaching degree and a French as a foreign language degree. As well as my studies, I did all I could and travelled as much as I could to learn more about this fascinating country and its language: I worked as an au pair in Lancashire and studied in Liverpool.
My teaching diplomas allowed me to teach in the Paris region for three years before taking some time out to join my husband (a researcher) in the UK. I’ve been teaching French to adults for the last five years. As the chances of going back to France were getting slimmer and the need to find a mobile and flexible job was increasing, I decided to go back to my first passion: translation.
As I was searching the Internet, I found a site full of good advice managed by a French woman, whose background was similar to mine. Following Céline’s advice (you had probably guessed it was her site), I signed up to a long distance learning course at City University to take the Chartered Institute of Linguists’ Diploma of Translation. This ten-month course provided me with a framework, documents to prepare for the exam, deadlines and goals. It also helped me to recapture translation skills, improve my speed and learn more specialised vocabulary.
Eighteen months later, armed with the diploma, I’m about to give up, temporarily at least, my comfortable life working in education to dive into the murky waters of freelance work.
To be continued