Meet the translators: Marjorie, from odd jobs to certified translator

The third article in a series on the secret life of a discreet animal called “freelance translator”. We will hear from Marjorie, a professional translator.

After David and Ana, Marjorie is today going to answer the question … We will focus on the training of the translator and the specific difficulties peculiar to this profession.

How did you become a translator?

By chance … I studied literature at university and then moved to Toronto. There, I worked in many different areas: I was a waitress, French teacher, I worked in a publishing house … Finally, through a friend, I arrived at translation. When I accepted the project, as she said, I was probably biting off more than I could chew. She desperately needed help, and since I had just left a job and didn’t have another one at that point, I had time to spare. It was a translation from English into French. As she knew I was bilingual in both languages, she asked me for help. And of course I accepted, because I needed the money.

Does this mean that to be translator, it’s enough just to be bilingual?

Oh no… Actually, I really don’t know if that first project I did was any good. I guess my friend spent a lot of time correcting the bit I did… But it is true that, at first, I thought: I am bilingual English-French, can it really be so difficult to translate a text from one language to another? Practice makes perfect, but also in practicing you understand how difficult it is to master the art.

What are the difficulties a translator faces?

Leaving aside the “peripheral” aspects such as organizational issues, planning and administration, as well as the technological and psychological dimensions of the work, and focusing on the, well… technical issues, I would say that there are multiple difficulties: first, there are lexical issues, particularly in the case of specialized translations such as legal translation, financial translation or medical translation. Then there is the cultural and social dimension to be taken into account, for example, such as connotations, nuances and allusions. Not to mention the rhythmic and euphonious issues and features of literary translation.

How do you learn all that?

In my case, I did most of my training on the job, as they say. After the first project with my friend we began working together on other projects. So that’s how I began gaining experience. After a few months, I decided to take this new activity more seriously and started training as a translator. In retrospect, I would say that both aspects are essential: the theoretical knowledge gained through university studies and the practical knowledge, or experience, that only the actual doing of it can bring.

What advice would you give a beginner?

Translate. Translate a lot. To work for a translation services provider in Paris you need to have a qualification, for example, but there’s nothing like practice to get it right.

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