Are foreign languages a second nature or a business skill? In my case, I believe it’s a second nature I turned into a professional ability. I am a language lover. As far as I can remember, I always wanted to learn more words. First in my native language, then in English, and then in other languages I decided to learn. Words are so precious when you think about it. A combination of letters that yields a unique meaning should you manage to decipher them. I cannot imagine ever quitting such a delicacy.
In a few words…
- A few other languages
My native language is French. It normally is the language I translate into since it is one of the golden rules of translation: You can translate from any language but only into your native one. I do write a lot in English though; it is the language I use to convey ideas, communicate with colleagues and clients, or write articles for various online publications. I have what one could call a “near-native level” even though I don’t really like to use this term.
My third language is German. I have lived in Hamburg for almost seven years and after years of practice and extensive learning, I have come to a point where I can use German as a means of communication rather effortlessly. My next language is Spanish. Although I lack practice, it is good enough to be listed as a language I actually speak and work with.
The other languages I can understand to a certain extent include Italian, Portuguese, Swedish, Russian and Esperanto. However, I could only barely introduce myself in any of these. Understanding a text would be possible, but that is about as far as it goes.
Translation and its many facets
In a few words…
- Business translation
- Technical translation
- Legal translation
- CAT tools
Since I had set my mind on building a career in languages, I did a BA in English literature and history in Cergy-Pontoise, in France, followed by an MA in translation studies at Dublin City University in Ireland. I learned a lot about the different types of translation and their typical requirements. The methodology differs whether you translate a legal contract, marketing material, a touristic brochure or a fictional novel. I also learned about domestication and foreignization, the rigor needed for terminology, how to manage subtitles, and how to make the best of CAT (computer-assisted translation) tools.
It also set the stepping stone to my interest in marketing. When studying about localization, glocalization, and internationalization, I embraced the challenge of translating more than words. Getting the message across is not enough. A successful product is a product that feels natural. It must feel familiar instantly: the words, the colors, the tone, the layout. Users must feel at home at once – this is localization done well.
Translation and entrepreneurship
In a few words…
- Communication & advertising
One thing I learned very early on was that translators often work freelance. Which means I had to learn many other things apart from the art of translation itself. I started to attend conferences and gatherings where I was likely to make valuable networking contacts. I built a website from scratch to advertise my translation services. I learned to run administrative tasks such as writing invoices, doing taxes, managing translation assignments or finding other translators whenever a client needed a different language pair. Working as a freelancer taught me many skills I had never sought to learn!
John Barré speaks four languages and can help you conquer foreign markets.