Here at Creative Translation we are proud of our long-standing relationships and collaborations with both our clients and talented language professionals around the world. We work with over 3,000 professional translators, editors and copywriters, and our network is growing every day. This month, we decided to get in touch with two of our regular translators: Marianne, from Austria, and Will from the United States. They both have a deep understanding of the importance of creativity in the translation industry and, having lived in several countries, have extensive bicultural knowledge in regard to the fine nuances that are needed when making a translation work in another cultural context. We asked them about their individual experiences and their career paths in the industry to get an insight into their daily professional lives.

 

Marianne is an Austrian translator, editor, writer, and voiceover artist. At the age of 15, she published her first book. Marianne has worked for the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation ORF as a screenplay writer, director, and editor in chief, and later also as an actress. After living in London for a year, Marianne went from occasionally working as an English-German translator to making it her full-time profession. Marianne is still a keen writer today and is currently working on her second children’s book.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Tell us a little bit about your background. When and why did you decide to become a translator and what language combination(s) do you do?

A friend from Austria asked me if I could translate the subtitles for her short films from German into English, and it all started from there. This was followed by more subtitles for other people. And then my father, who was a motor journalist, suggested me as a translator to a couple of the car magazines he was working for. Again, I did a lot of translations from German into English but slowly started to translate the other way around, too. In 2008 I took and passed my translation diploma with the Institute of Linguists. Following that, I started taking agency work, too. Today I mainly translate from English into German.

  1. How did you decide on those languages and what makes your language combination special to you?

Living in the UK was the decisive factor. English quickly became my second language, so it was a logical choice for me.

  1. What do you love the most about translation and your job as a translator?

I love to write, it has always been part of my life, even when I was a child, and later when I worked for the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation and wrote screenplays for children’s short films. So that aspect of it is wonderful: earning my living through my writing skills. I also love the fact that I am my own boss. I love the freedom it gives you. On the other hand, you do lead quite a lonely life as a freelance translator, so sometimes, when I feel like having a chat with someone, I send very long emails to some lucky project managers 😉

  1. How would you describe your daily life as a freelancer?

Some people ask me if it is difficult working from home. The answer is, as long as I don’t sit there in my pyjamas and dressing gown, I don’t get distracted. I need to get myself ready in the morning as if going to the office. Once my children are in school, I make myself a cup of coffee, go to the study and start my working day. I try to stay focussed until the kids come home from school so I can get as much done as possible. Once the children are back it gets a bit more difficult to concentrate on work, so very often I will need to either get up early and start work at 6am or stay up late and work until midnight. But that is the best part about freelancing: it gives me the flexibility I need in order to spend time with my children and not just sit them down in front of the TV (which happens often enough).

  1. In what areas do you specialise and how did you decide on them?

My main subject areas are marketing, film and entertainment and the travel industry. I have always had a great affinity to children’s literature and love to translate children’s books.

  1. What does your translation process look like?

I first read through the source text and make sure I don’t just translate sentence by sentence, as otherwise it is easy to translate too literally. I do a first draft of the translation, then read through it all once to make style related changes and then I read through it all a second time, to focus on grammar and spelling. With larger texts, say anything over 4,000 words, I try to translate in batches, so the proof-reading doesn’t turn into an automated process. Plus, I read aloud, as otherwise I find myself losing focus. When I translate subtitles or voiceovers, I always read the text out loud to the video to check for readability and also to make sure the text is not too long. Especially with subtitles it is important to always check that the text can be read at a normal speed in the time available.

  1. What piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to become a translator?

It’s a great profession to be in!  But make sure you don’t work below your market rate. Companies often want to reduce our fees and don’t seem to recognise that we help them to sell their product, whatever that may be. A good website translation will help your client to move forward and increase their business. And a bad voiceover translation can turn a great movie into a terrible one. Make sure you always remember how important your job is and don’t let anyone undervalue it!

  1. What has been your most exciting project so far?

I am a fan of all the Harry Potter books and I was lucky enough to work on the Pottermore website, for which large sections of the books were re-written and retranslated. I also translated a lot of new material by J.K. Rowling that was written exclusively for the website. I absolutely loved that project and was very upset when it came to an end.

  1. And finally, do you believe that creativity is an important skill that translators should have?

Creativity is incredibly important for translators. We are all writers in essence. We might be working with other people’s ideas, but by translating them into a different language they become our own. Of course, there is a huge variety of texts you can translate, with different kinds of approach, but even for a finance translation you need to have a creative mind to turn it into something that is interesting to read and can be easily understood. Sometimes, we even need to turn a terribly written source text into something exciting and special, which can only be achieved with a lot of creativity.

 

 

Will is an American-Dutch copywriter, editor and translator. He has worked in international business, academic and non-profit settings and holds degrees in German Studies, Comparative Literature and Journalism. Since 2014, he has been working as a freelance linguist. He has gained extensive experience from working both in Germany and the Netherlands and has a profound understanding of communicative and cultural differences that exist in different international markets.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Tell us a little bit about your background. When and why did you decide to become a translator and what language combination(s) do you do?

I’ve always been interested in language and communication and moved from the US to Berlin in 2004 to study German language and culture as a foreign exchange student. There, I met my Dutch partner and eventually moved to Amsterdam to continue studying and working. While conducting PhD research in Cultural Studies in Amsterdam, I got swept up in the wave of entrepreneurialism that was washing over the culture sector. I remember hearing that over 30% of new graduates with an arts degree in the Netherlands were starting their own businesses at that time (the number is probably even higher now). So, I decided to try it for myself and have never regretted it for a minute. I translate Dutch and German to English, and work as an English writer and editor.

  1. How did you decide on these languages and what makes each one of them unique to you?

I started learning bits of German from a very early age. My grandfather was a second-generation German-American, so I feel like I had some link with the language and culture. I did not become fluent though until I moved to Berlin. Because German and Dutch are closely related, I was able to easily pick up Dutch when I moved to Amsterdam. I lived in Amsterdam from 2005 to 2015, and worked, studied and researched in multilingual settings. I feel like I learned both languages in informal, real-life settings, and this is critical to achieving real fluency.

  1. How did you land your first freelancing job?

After I started my own business, I started trawling the internet for job postings. One day, I discovered a listing from an agency trying to recruit a native American-English speaker who could translate German to English while working in a Dutch-language office. Perfect match. I responded immediately, and I remember thinking, surely there can’t be that much competition for such a specific skill set. I guess there wasn’t, because I was given the job on the spot and went straight to work.

  1. How would you describe your daily life as a freelancer?

No two days are alike. I may be translating repair manuals for heavy machinery from German to English one day, writing blog posts for lifestyle content marketing the next day, and working on a Dutch-language legal translation the day after that. I love the variety. It keeps things fresh and it’s good exercise for my brain. I work long hours most days, but love what I do. I work as a writer and editor as well, but I think translation may be my favourite kind of work. Sometimes it feels like putting together a puzzle. You have to look for the right pieces and put them where they belong.

  1. What do you like the most about working as a freelance translator?

There are many things I love about my work; the variety, the interactions with clients all over the world, the income, the freedom to travel. But I think the best thing is being able to work from home, so I can spend lots of time with my French bulldog, Zoë. She is my “assistant”, and no day is complete without plenty of time spent outdoors with her.

  1. What kind of texts are your favourite to translate and why?

Patent law, without a doubt. There’s such a unique vocabulary to it… I just fell in love with it.

  1. What does your translating process look like? How do you prepare for a translation?

It depends on the type of project, but in general I would say I dive right into it. I am quite systematic about dealing with key words though. Once I pick up on what the key words in a text are, I scan the rest of the document to make sure my word choice will fit in every context, or whether I need to come up with something else before I go any further. Since I work in many different fields and in two different source languages, there’s a lot of variety in the way I handle a job though. I rely on all kinds of resources (mostly online) in addition to my own experience and vocabulary.

  1. Do you believe that creativity is an important skill that a translator should have?

I think creativity is important in any kind of work, but for translators, it is indispensable. I know that in my language pairs, you must have some tricks up your sleeve to create an authentic end product. German tends to be very heavy on nouns, where English sounds better with strong verbs, for example. In Dutch, the written language is often a lot closer to the spoken language than it is in English, so the formality has to be adjusted. You always have to read the source text against the grain, take some distance from the grammatical structure of the original sentence and trust your native-speaker instincts.

  1. What has been your most exciting project so far?

I think my first project was the most exciting, because that was a time in which all my languages came into play – reading in German, writing in English, speaking in Dutch. I was completely new to the industry and had never worked on-location as a freelancer before, so I really needed to prove to myself that I could do this. I fell right into the role and knew from the very beginning that I was doing the right thing.

  1. And finally, what piece of advice would you give to aspiring translators?

Make quality your priority. Take the time to closely check your work and deliver a polished product. That way, you build your reputation and grow your business.

 

A big thanks to Marianne and Will for taking the time to tell us more about their experiences and for the excellent work they continue to deliver. And while we’re here: thank you, indeed, to all of our talented freelancers and language experts all over the world for their continuous support and all their great work!

 

Photo Credit: MichellePatrickPhotographyLLC via iStock