I’m a professional French to English translator, and as such I’m invisible. “How come?” I hear you cry. Well, the best translations are invisible. That means you don’t notice that what you’re reading has been translated, and I’m sure you don’t think about the person who’s translated it.
So what is life as a translator on Reunion Island like? Personally I work mainly with local clients in Reunion, but also with some translation agencies in Europe. As a freelancer I’m glad to say no two days are alike! During the course of my working day as well as translating I also have to find time to answer e-mails and phone calls, draft price quotes, invoice clients, chase up any late payers … and make myself copious cups of tea of course.
When you translate you have to be an investigator and an explorer. You’re constantly solving a complex puzzle: you can’t just take words from one language and turn them into words in another language; you have to rearrange, and rephrase, and think very hard about the word choice in order to produce seamless writing in the target language.
If I’m home for lunch I follow the news in French on TV and/or in English via the internet. As somebody who translates into English but who lives in the French- and Creole-speaking environment of Reunion it’s important for me not to lose my native language!
In addition it’s essential to keep up to date with Continuing Professional Development, or CPD as it’s known, and although Reunion is far away from where most translation industry conferences and presentations take place, I manage to stay abreast using online webinars.
When I go out I admit I sometimes have trouble switching off, as at the cinema I tend to compare subtitles with the dialogue, and at a restaurant if the menu has been translated into English I invariably end up finding a humorous mistake: souris d’agneau translated as ‘lamb with mouse’ for example, or the fish cabot de fond translated as ‘dog’s bottom’! At the weekend in ‘Meeting’, sorry Reunion Island, I could go and stay in Saint Pierre at the ‘Beating of the blades’ hotel…
If I want to visit one of the ‘circuses’, as I’ve seen Reunion’s caldera called many a time, I could go to Cilaos and see its famous embroidery ‘days’, or hike in Hellbourg on a path whose sign proudly proclaims that it’s been ‘done’ (as opposed to amenagé).
All in all I think there’s plenty of days work left for us ‘invisible’ translators to do… and I’m not talking about embroidery.
translator – traducteur
“How come?” – comment ça se fait?
to draft – rédiger
price quotes – devis
to chase up – relancer
late payers – client retardataire
to solve – résoudre
to turn into – transformer
to rearrange – reorganiser
to rephrase – reformuler
seamless – harmonieux
up to date – à jour
to stay abreast – se tenir au courant
webinars – webinaires
to admit – avouer
to switch off – décrocher
bottom – fesses
blades – lames
caldera – cirque
embroidery – broderie