Working as a French to English translator

hipsetr_deskFive realities of working in the translation industry – from someone who’s done it:

  1. It’s not an exact science

There is (pretty much) no single way of translating anything. Synonyms exist for good reason… there can be all sorts going on behind the use of any word. Different texts and different clients require different tones of voice to be created. Life in general teaches us that whether spoken or written, our words sometimes have a habit of being misconstrued. So it’s quite OK to ask for clarification!

  1. You don’t necessarily need a translation qualification

It’s fair to say I’d had a fair bit of practise before receiving my first professional translation assignment. It wasn’t a legal document or anything particularly specialised, so certified or not, what really mattered was my translation test… get used to doing them! Give them your best, but equally accept that your individual style won’t be everybody’s cup of tea. We’re all entitled to an opinion!

  1. It’s more creative than you might imagine

Who wants a word for word translation? It rarely works v. well, not if the aim is to sound natural. Many famous brands invest heavily in developing clever campaigns and slogans, but it’s unlikely that ‘one size’ could possibly fit all markets without help. Adapting them is incredibly difficult, but hugely rewarding. Sometimes entire concepts need manipulating – a process known as ‘localisation’.

  1. Niche areas are worth considering

There is such incredible scope for specialisation within the translation industry, it would be a shame to spend your time on content that doesn’t interest you. You could specialise in anything from legal to medical, haute cuisine to haute couture. Thinking about France’s greatest exports can help guide you, but you might be surprised how many opportunities exist in the gaming industry as well!

  1. There is no substitute for native speakers

You can have a degree in a foreign language and have spent years living abroad, it’s all useful… but you’ll never achieve ‘native’ status in any language other than your mother tongue. Even people who have been brought up bilingual can be stronger in one language – or confuse the two. The best quality content can only ever be achieved when translated into your own native language, so embrace it.

Who wants to be a French translator?


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