To kick off the New Year we’d like to present our very first “In the Spotlight” interview to feature a translator.
This month, Helen Macauley takes centre stage. She’s one of our most enthusiastic, dedicated and engaged translators. We’re truly proud to have her on-board.
From the initial translation through to a project’s final checks, the Translation department at DA Languages work very closely with our linguists. Alongside our team, our translators are dedicated to achieving quality and success. Highly qualified, well experienced and committed to her role, Helen is no exception to the rule and as you can see, our team couldn’t agree more!
“Helen knows how to deal with tight deadlines and is always really professional”. “She’s enthusiastic, friendly, and really shows that she wants to deliver the best quality”.
We hope you enjoy Helen’s insightful glance into the world of translation. So, without further ado:
Thank you for taking part in the interview Helen. Please: tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live in Leicestershire with my husband, daughter and dog and enjoy going for long walks in the countryside; I also run regularly to clear my mind and to stay healthy. Photography is something I’m also keen on and I recently snapped a winning photo for our village’s Christmas card competition. My job as a translator is something I love and I feel honoured to have been asked to do this interview.
How long have you been working in your role, and what languages can you speak/translate?
I am a newcomer and have only been working in the role for 11 months. The language pair I work with is French to English. I also speak German and studied Spanish, Classical Latin and Ancient Greek with the Open University.
What drew you to working in this industry and what is it about translation work that you enjoy the most?
I was very fortunate that learning different languages came easily to me at school; consequently, I decided that I wanted to work with languages. I remember being asked by students on French exchanges to translate English pop songs into French and it’s something I still love doing now. I was also often the interpreter for my friends.
Some of my previous jobs involved using French, German and English in customer service roles. I’ve dealt with telephone queries, translated promotional material and interpreted at trade fairs. I gained a lot of experience working with languages and realised that translation was something that I really enjoyed. I find it both challenging and mentally stimulating; it’s something that people have always told me I’m good at.
As a translator, I’m sure you’d agree that attention to detail is essential to your work. How do you get into the right frame of mind to focus on your work?
Attention to detail is something which I have always considered to be extremely important. My mind is naturally geared towards it and I take it very seriously. Having previously worked as an editor, I understand the value of accuracy and always endeavour to ensure that my translation work is as accurate as possible. I also understand that human error is often unavoidable; accepting that mistakes can (and do) happen is part of the challenge of being a translator.
Does the challenge of working with two languages simultaneously get easier over-time? Do you employ any unique methods to cope with the challenge?
I wouldn’t say that working with two languages gets easier. Each new piece of work can be as challenging as the last and to expect it to become easier can lead to complacency. However, if you are working with material that is repetitive, the work can become more straightforward as you become familiar with terminology and vocabulary.
I have created a parallel text database to cope with the work that I do and have found that, even after almost a year of dealing mainly with one specific genre of translations, there are still surprises and challenges and I frequently have to add new information to my database.
How would you say the job has affected you personally? For example, do you feel like you’ve learnt a lot from what you do, or has the work ever surprised you in any way?
The job has definitely affected me personally. When I first started, I was in unknown territory; not only was I working with unfamiliar terminology, I was also working on my own from home. Having previously worked in offices, working from home was a very different experience. If I was unsure about something, I couldn’t turn to a colleague and discuss it, I had to make a quick decision due to the fast turnaround of the texts I work with. I also have to be my own IT department; without technology I would not be able to do my job and I have certainly learnt a lot about that in the last 11 months. As a result, I feel more confident and have also, rather surprisingly, realised that I really like working from home on my own.
Do you have any advice you would give to anyone new starting work as a translator?
My advice would be to prepare as much as you can before the work starts coming in. Research the subject, ask for examples of source and target texts (if available), create your own database of information, find websites that can help you if you are stuck (there are plenty out there). Most importantly, be honest with the translation agency. If you have encountered a translation problem and are unsure of your decision, tell the agency. Accuracy, reliability and trust are the key factors that nurture a good working relationship.
What are some of the challenges you encounter when working on a translation; how do you ensure you can overcome them?
There are two main challenges that I regularly encounter: #1 unfamiliar terminology and #2 technology that misbehaves.
#1 – To overcome the challenge of unfamiliar terminology, I search the internet not only for the translation of the source text but also for the English target text to see whether it exists in the right context. Due to time constraints with my work, I cannot afford to dwell on deciding which is the best translation so I have to make very quick decisions. If I am unsure of my choices I will always tell the agency. They often have a translation in their database which I can then add to my own for future reference. They also let me know if my decision was right; this is very helpful and reassuring.
#2 – Reliance on technology concerns me; it is my responsibility to do everything I can to make sure that everything is working as it should be but I have learnt that most technological mishaps are beyond my control. For example, if an email gets lost in cyberspace or if my broadband connection isn’t working properly, there is very little I can do and it can be very frustrating. I once lost a completed 20,000-word summarisation because Word crashed! I had to do it all over again, with very little time available. Fortunately, everything works perfectly most of the time.
Our team have spoken very highly of you, your work and your positive attitude to the job; what has appealed to you most of all about working with our team at DA Languages?
Working with DA Languages has many appealing aspects. I often ask questions and they respond promptly and effectively – the team are very helpful and understanding. When I first started working for them, I received praise for my work; this was very encouraging and helped me to settle into my new role. If I raise any issue with any aspect of my job, I know that it will be resolved quickly. I think we have a good, professional relationship which has been built on trust and I hope it will last.
In today’s global society, translation is incredibly important as it enables people to communicate the world over. However, we’d be interested to know if you enjoy translation beyond it being your job/career; do you do work with languages in other ways for fun or recreation?
I am currently translating a novel from French into English, although this is taking some time as it is something that I do in my spare time. Literary translation is my favourite type of translation and I relish the challenge of translating poetry; as I discovered during my MA in Translation Studies, this form of translation is considered impossible by many translation experts. I am interested in machine translation but firmly believe that humans will never be replaced by machines. Translation will always require the human touch.
It was an absolute pleasure to see what Helen had to say about the industry! We hope you enjoyed it too.
It’s always reassuring to hear from linguists who are passionate about the work that they do. For Helen, her love for language is abundantly clear. We’d also like to wish her the very best in her linguistic endeavours: we’re especially intrigued about the translation of literature!
It’s individuals like Helen who make working in this industry such a rewarding experience. The dedication and enjoyment that Helen gets from her work is something we not only want to embrace, but also encourage. While confidence, clear communication and dedication are essential attributes, it’s that creative spark and passion for work that is also very important. Certainly, Helen’s enthusiasm is reflected in the quality of her translations and the feedback received from our clients. We couldn’t be more grateful and we look forward to working with Helen for a long time to come.
Nominate, review and contact!
If you work with us, or know someone who does, then please do get in touch to nominate them to feature in the spotlight! We’d also love to receive more feedback! You can review us via Facebook and Glassdoor, or write to us by visiting the page linked here. We endeavour to respond to every message we receive. Many thanks.
Written by Rhys Pattimore
Title image produced with Snappa.io.