Translating is finding a piece that fits the puzzle - Interview with translator Carol Bidwell
This is number 12 in our series of interviews with translators from all over the globe. Translation is a very diverse industry - we want to introduce some of the people behind making the world a more multilingual place. This episode is an interview with Carol Bidwell of www.harperleytranslations.co.uk.
Tell us a bit about yourself
First off, thanks for inviting me to take part in the series! I’m a freelance translator working from German and French into English, with a particular interest in medical and business texts.
I have a Masters in Translation and Interpreting Studies, which I completed in 2013, and while I’m originally from the UK, I recently moved to France. You can find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, read my blog or contact me through my website.
How did you decide to be a translator? What makes you passionate about languages?
I’ve always loved languages and all things linked to communication, especially the way different languages describe the world, but it was only when I worked in a translation agency in Germany during my year abroad that I realised translating could transform this passion into a career. From then on, it just seemed natural to take my Masters and develop my freelancing business!
What have you done to improve your translation skills in the last year?
This time last year, I was still studying while freelancing part-time, so I was working pretty intensively on improving my knowledge of translation theory and learning how to apply that theory to my work. During my studies I also had the opportunity to gain certification in SDL Trados. I’ve also taken part in a number of training courses focused on medical topics, to make sure my specialised knowledge is up to date.
How do you prepare for a translation project?
The first thing I do is always check through the files the client has sent for any obvious issues. Then I read through the text and any reference information carefully and research any terminology I’m not sure of.
If I have time, I like to take a quick break before starting the actual "translation" process, so I know my head is clear and I’m ready to go.
What aspects of your job are the most challenging?
Time management – not allowing work to take over everything when a deadline is approaching. I try to be quite strict with myself to stop this happening, but it doesn’t always work!
What excites you the most about the languages you work with?
I love the challenge of finding a way to translate a word or concept that doesn’t have an exact equivalent in English. I see it as a puzzle, and my job is to find a piece that fits.
What is the funniest translation experience you can remember?
When I was an intern at a translation agency in Germany, I translated menus for Formula 1 Grand Prix viewing parties – each menu was themed around the track for that race, and a group of us worked together to come up with some really creative ideas. The whole process was always interesting and we laughed a lot.
What are good or bad things about freelancing?
I think the best thing is being able to organise your own working life and decide which projects you want to accept. One bad thing is that work can take over your life, so it’s really important to set boundaries.
What are you wishes for 2014? What excites you, what are you sceptical about?
In 2014, I hope to continue developing my freelance business, particularly with regards to gaining some more direct clients. I’m excited to spend my first full year in France, and really feel positive about this year!
What would you pass on as personal advice to new translators?
Read! Everything you can find on translation as a business, your areas of interest, freelancing and business more generally. There is so much information available now, make the most of it! And if you aren't sure about something, don’t be afraid to ask questions – there are a lot of really nice translators out there who are more than happy to share their wisdom.
Thanks to Carol for the answers!