Translator of the month, January 2011
Jonathan Goldberg interviews Stéphanie Soudais, who lives in Rezé in the Department of Loire-Atlantique on the west coast of France. Stéphanie is a professional translator. Her hobbies are theatre and running.
Jonathan: How did you become a translator?
Stéphanie: From an early age I knew I would one day engage in some profession connected with writing. Initially I wanted to become a journalist. Then I encountered English and was enthralled by it, especially after completing high school, and it soon became clear to me that the best way to combine writing with this newly-discovered foreign language would be to become a translator. After obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Culture, I made several trips, each for a few months, to England and Ireland, as well as to Germany, before joining ESIT (Superior School of interpreters and translators of the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle) in Paris. In 2006 I obtained a Diploma in English-French and German-French Translating. Nevertheless, I do not translate into English, because I am not sufficiently in command of the subtleties of English to assure a quality translation.
Jonathan: You began your career in 2005 by translating a tome entitled “Encyclopaedia of Trees”. Did you have prior experience in this field? How did you go about acquiring the necessary terminology? Did you have to consult a specialist?
Stéphanie: At that time I was still studying at ESIT and one of my friends put me in touch with a publishing house that was urgently looking for a translator to complete the translation of an encyclopaedia about trees. I did not really have any expertise in this field, but the subject interested me enormously and I jumped at the opportunity. Translating often involves doing a lot of research, not only with the use of dictionaries but also on the Internet and by consulting specialists. I was therefore delighted to be able to conduct that research and in doing so to expand my knowledge. Moreover, the style and terminology of the short descriptions which together comprised the work were similar and this made my task easier. Consequently I was able to pick up speed as I progressed from one page to the next.
Jonathan: You went on to translate a book on wild flowers and another on the landscaping of small gardens. Did the knowledge that you had acquired about trees help you with these later translations, or did you have to start from scratch?
Stéphanie : No, I didn’t have to start from scratch. A command of the relevant knowledge and terminology of trees is admittedly different from that of botany and gardening, but the topics are fairly closely related, and they sometimes even intersect. So I was provided the opportunity to expand my knowledge in a vast field that could be classified as “Nature and the Environment”.
Jonathan : Is that knowledge useful to you today?
Stéphanie: Yes. Today I no longer translate books, but I am often offered contemporary texts on deforestation, sustainable management of forests, climate change, sustainable development, etc.
Jonathan : Is it by choice that you no longer translate books?
Stéphanie: Yes, that is a voluntary choice. In my early career, while translating books, I also translated technical texts for translation agencies. I gradually realized that I was spreading out more in the direction of technical translation rather than publications, and that this gave me greater freedom to choose my texts and to organize my weekly schedule – as compared with the translation of books, which involves weeks and sometimes even months of continuous work on a given topic. I did an internship with an agency specializing in Finance and I turned naturally in that direction and from there I became more and more specialized.
Jonathan: So are Finance and the Environment your two preferred fields?
Stéphanie : Yes, and even if at first glance these two subjects appear to be very different, I often find links between them. Topics such as climate change and sustainable development have become increasingly important in economics, commercial management policies and financial markets. These subjects are related to current affairs which I find fascinating and I learn a lot myself.
Jonathan: Does it happen that you turn down jobs out of ethical considerations?
Stéphanie : That has happened to me only once. It was a book on a sensitive subject, the contents of which did not match my own convictions and where the author expressed himself very aggressively. I began to translate the first page but that made me so uncomfortable that I immediately discontinued the work.
Jonathan : Do you use software as an aide to translating? (CAT)
Stéphanie : Yes, after much hesitation, I soon began to understand the potential benefit offered by translation memory, which is particularly useful when one repeatedly translates related subjects. It allows me to ensure consistent terminology and to check how I previously translated a given term one week ago or one year ago. Nevertheless, in certain fields such as literature and marketing, texts are very distinctive and they do not lend themselves to the use of a memory bank. These translation tools, as their name indicates, do not offer automatic translation, but simply memorize work already performed by the translator.
Stéphanie’s web site: www.stephanie-soudais.fr