Thursday, 22 March 2018


I have been translating exclusively from French to English professionally since 2011 and, luckily, have rarely been short of work, for which I am eternally grateful. In part, this is due to the fact that I specialise in the field of aerospace and engineering, where there is no shortage of texts to be translated.

However, with seven years of experience translating a large quantity of these very technical, but now very familiar documents, I recently reached a point in my career where I no longer felt challenged. Feeling like I am learning something new is very important for me in terms of job satisfaction. Variety is the spice of life, as they say!

Therefore, I decided that something needed to change. I needed to push myself outside of my comfort zone.

Further to completing my MA (in 2011), I had been learning Spanish rather sporadically. I have a lot of Hispanic friends and I have taken Spanish lessons on and off. Although I was able to express myself fairly well in the language and my comprehension is good, I never had the confidence to use it on a professional level; it felt so basic compared to my French (I lived in France for seven years after my studies). I had toyed with the idea of adding Spanish as a working language for years, but self-doubt always held me back.
In September 2017, I decided to take a leap of faith and spend a few months in Barcelona to brush up my Spanish. I loved my stint as a digital nomad in Spain so much that when I returned to the UK for the Christmas holidays I just knew I had to return, and that three months were not enough for full fluency.

So I returned to Barcelona in January and have been immersing myself in the language ever since – Spanish friends, a housemate from Ecuador, Spanish books, Spanish films, yoga classes in Spanish – you name it.

Since January, my confidence speaking the language has greatly improved, having survived the trials and tribulations of real life (doctor appointments, accountants, residency applications, opening a bank account, and so on).

Then, this month, after a total of six months in Spain, the challenge came right up and knocked at my door! One of my regular customers in France asked me whether I would be interested in revising a large aerospace project that had already been translated from Spanish to English. Despite my initial nerves, I decided to accept the job, provided I had a longer deadline, as I assumed it would take me much longer than a French job. I am so glad I did! As the project was in my area of specialism, it took a lot less time than I had bargained for, and was nowhere near as unattainable as I thought. The more errors I found in the translations, the more my confidence grew, and I realised that I could have translated the text myself. The customer was happy and I felt pretty accomplished.

The same customer came back to me last week and asked me to take on a Spanish to English translation project and I gladly accepted. Although I spent slightly longer on it than I would have done with French, everything went swimmingly.

The realisation I had from all of the above is that I could not continue comparing a passive (or C) language to an active (or B) language I have been comfortable speaking and writing for years. At some point I had to stop being a perfectionist and just start doing. Doing made me realise that I had been far too critical of my language skills and that my Spanish does not need to be at the same level as my French for me to be able to produce work that meets my customers’ expectations.
If anyone else has any feedback on adding another working language, feel free to get in touch, I would love to hear your stories!

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