We talked to Erin Brady, a translator in the whitefox network, who has translated works for Disney, Assimil and Oxford University Press. She translates from French, Italian, Catalan, and Spanish to English.We asked Erin about her translating career, her life as a freelancer and what she feels everyone should know about the profession.
1. Did you always know you were going to be in translation? How easy or hard was it to get qualified?
Although I have always been interested in languages, I didn’t plan to become a translator. I studied French, Italian, and creative writing at university but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after graduation. I spent some time as an au pair and English teacher, and I was working at a bookstore when I began to do more translation work. After about a year, I had enough projects to make the switch to full-time translation. The first six months or so of freelancing were the hardest, but as I completed projects and made connections with new clients it got easier.
2. What has been your most challenging project to date?
For the past year or so, I have been translating an academic book that makes use of a variety of material, from classical texts to medieval art. This has made for interesting and often challenging work, especially when it has involved translations of older Italian poetry. I have also found that translating one-line jokes in comics can be just as difficult if the source text centres around an untranslatable pun or cultural reference. I have to find a way to be true to the original material while making sure the final product is still funny and relatable.
3. How do you find the freelance lifestyle?
Almost every freelancer has experienced going from an eighty-hour workweek to suddenly having nothing to do for a month. That can be frustrating, but overall I have really enjoyed the flexibility and independence that come with freelancing. I choose my working hours and work from wherever I want while doing something I enjoy – there’s not much more I could ask for from a job.
4. What do you feel the general public should know about the profession of translation?
I think the following points are worth keeping in mind: you shouldn’t expect a translator to be able to work with every kind of text, translators tend to translate into their native tongues only, and translation and interpretation are related but very distinct services.
5. How does translating fiction and non-fiction differ for you?
Fiction and non-fiction can be more or less similar depending on the style in which they were written. Translating a comic or a children’s chapter book is different from translating a history or linguistics paper for obvious reasons, but I have worked on language learning texts that were quite informal and light. I would say that overall I think more about the tone and vocabulary of the source material than about whether it is fiction or not.