Friday, 12 October 2018


Last week I attended the 2018 Mediterranean Translators and Editors Meeting (METM18). It was set in the beautiful Catalan city of Girona - conveniently only a stone's throw away from Barcelona, where I am based. As well as taking part in a practical workshop led by Laura Bennett* and learning a wealth of information from presentations by fellow translators and editors, METM18 was a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow colleagues based in the Mediterranean region and beyond.

When talking to other translators, I was struck by how hard it was to get a straight answer to the simple question: "Where are you from?" 

Now, before you jump to conclusions, I'm not saying that translators are a shifty or reserved bunch. To the contrary, most answers were fascinating and reassuringly resembled how I usually (sometimes uncomfortably) respond: "I was born in Country A, studied in Country B, moved to Country C for work and am currently living in Country D". 

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It felt great to be in an environment where I didn't have to justify my nomadic lifestyle. Indeed, I realised that it is simply part and parcel of the job. If so many of us have moved around so much, it is surely because translation is not merely an academic exercise. Some translators have never lived abroad and are successful, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, for many of us, to integrate the cultural aspects of a language into our work, we have to have spent a significant amount of time in the country(ies) where the language is spoken. Therefore, the more languages a translator has under his/her belt, in all likelihood, the more places he/she will have called (or will still call) home.

So, dear colleagues, the next time your family/friends ask you when you'll finally settle down, lift your chin up high and proudly explain that to do your job well, you need to be a global citizen. Keep roaming, keep exploring, keep learning. To grow, just as a flower needs to be watered, a translator needs to be regularly immersed in his/her working language(s). Go on, keep getting lost for the good of your profession!

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*Translating for the Art World


  1. For many you could add: married to someone from Country E whose parents come from Country F. :-) But your so right. Important to be on the move, lovely to be on the move. Although this raises the question: Where is home?

  2. For me the past year has been one of Translating on the Go. France, UK, Spain, Greece. On average it took 3 weeks to secure mainframe internet connection. By the time I'd forked out €90 to readdress my mail and La Poste had actually started delivery it was time to come home and stopping the whole deal. Greece was a wonderful place. Nobody seems to actually have an address - I opened a box at the local post office - and after the summer rush, regional staffing was down to one and a notice regularly appeared "10 am to 1 pm, closed for mail delivery". My microphone always caused a fuss at customs and stopped the queue. Transferring Wordfast files between laptop and desktop had me cross-eyed. I just couldn't do it. So just a teeny bit of technical ability is needed. The extra hour in the morning was a Godsend to get work in early.What have I got out of it all? Swimming twice a day for 3 months. Lovely low rents. My accountant in France lightening up and accepting complete quarterly VAT just on the basis of an emailed cash book and record invoices later. Some wonderful days at Delphi, Thessaloniki, the Pelion, Evia. I think I'll take a break, cut an acre of brambles, complete the insurance claim for vandalism on the house (we never locked the doors for 18 years here in BĂ©arn, amazing!) Chat with my amazing neighbours and push my French naturalisation papers down the road....

  3. I have come to dislike the question "Where are you from?" There is no simple answer; if I attempt one, people invariably probe.