I have been a member of the Translation Mastermind group since its inception in January 2017 and members get to take over every Wednesday and introduce themselves. Here's my profile...
Firstly, who are you?
I guess my answer will depend on who asked me the question in the first place. I wear very many hats, you see. I currently spend large chunks of my day as Mummy Ellen, to both my human baby Izzy and fur baby Sally. I’m also Wife Ellen, but largely at a distance sadly as Husband Ben works away 95% of the time. When I remember, I’m ITI East Midlands Social Media Secretary Ellen and on a Thursday in particular, I’m Spanish After-School Club Teacher Ellen swiftly followed by Netball Coach Ellen. But I guess you’re all most interested in Business Owner Translator Ellen, indeed ITI Award Winner Ellen.
Next up, what exactly do you do?
Some days I don’t know whether I’m coming or going, but I’m proud to run my language business, EW Languages, from my little office at home here in the Northamptonshire countryside. I’m currently only working part-time around Izzy’s naps, but dramatically reducing my hours seems to have worked wonders for my productivity - and I have the RescueTime records to prove it! In fact, I generally work ~12 hours a week, yet I am able to translate around 75% of the volume I was translating when I was working ~40 hours a week, pre-baby. Granted, I am very very careful about the projects I accept (i.e. I try to avoid texts that require hours and hours of in-depth research as I simply do not have the luxury of whiling away many an hour diving down the Google/Wikipedia rabbit hole right now), but I work with some fabulously understanding project managers and direct clients who know I need an extra day or two to deliver these days, but they’re happy to wait knowing their project is in safe hands.
So how do I earn my keep? I mainly translate from German into English, but also from French and Spanish into English when the opportunity arises. I specialise in furniture manufacturing (something I loosely blame on my parents, who have worked in the furniture trade all my life and have been wonderful self-employed role models but who also organised a three-month work placement at a furniture factory in Mexico for their 18-year-old daughter back in 2006, all so that she could learn Spanish!). My other specialisms include travel and tourism, animal and nature conservation and renewable energy. I am passionate about our beautiful planet and I am determined to do all I can in my power to keep it so for my grandchildren’s grandchildren, even if I’ve been branded an eco warrior mum at some of the baby groups we go to (think breastfeeding, baby-wearing and squishably cute cloth nappies...).
Lastly, what makes you different?
I’m acutely aware that we all experience our own version of reality, even if we’re exposed to exactly the same stimuli at the same time of day in the same part of the world, so that makes us all unique in our own special way. But in this instance, I think I can say I’m different because, unbeknownst to me aged 3, I grew into being a translator when we moved to rural France in 1991. I was thrust into a little French primary school where nobody spoke any English so I had no choice but to learn the language. Fast-forward 6 years and I returned to the UK a somewhat precocious 9 year old who was keen to educate her new classmates in the ways of French cuisine, boldly declaring her favourite food to be Moules Marinières and that frogs legs taste just like chicken! It still fascinates me today that my stories from the mid 90s show that I was thinking in French while translating into English: I have a copy of one particular favourite whereby “Tom and Jerry go to the movies and the evening passéd veri welle”.
I learnt German the “traditional” way at secondary school in the UK then learnt Spanish in Tijuana, Mexico, while on a gap year that also involved a few months as a hotel receptionist in a French ski resort and as an au-pair in Munich. All this naturally lead to an undergraduate degree in languages and I thought I was heading towards a high-flying interpreting career in Brussels, Geneva, New York... I boldly enrolled on the MA interpreting and translation course at Bath University where I was suddenly confronted with the hard truth that I wasn’t cut out to be an interpreter. My brain simply wasn’t wired that way. I was utterly heartbroken. What on earth would I do now? Would I have to go back to my part-time job selling cuddly toys at Longleat Safari Park?
Even before toiling through my MA exams, I whimsically applied for a job as an in-house translator, despite having next to no experience, especially where CAT tools were concerned. Somehow (or perhaps in spite of a heady cocktail of painkillers due to an injury sustained playing netball the previous evening), I was miraculously offered a job. I quickly got my head around CAT tool shortcuts and translation jargon, and before I knew it I was the go-to translator for a variety of different clients. But after a while, I grew disenchanted with translating instruction manuals for concrete pumps and gas boilers, so decided to set up my own business and I’ve not looked back since. The past 4 years have had ups and downs, but all my hard work has paid off, especially as I was this year’s proud recipient of the ITI prestigious John Hayes Prize, awarded for the best performance in the MITI translation assessment.