Alison Hill Campbell

Who are you? Please introduce yourself
I’m Alison Hill Campbell, a medical translator living just outside Brighton, on the Sussex coast. Although I was born in Leeds and studied at the University of Birmingham, I’ve now lived in the south most of my adult life.

Do you translate, interpret, or both? What are your areas of specialism?
Thinking on my feet is way out of my comfort zone so I never interpret! I mainly translate medical texts. I’ve been a freelance translator for 15 years now, and my specialist areas have grown increasingly niche. I love to work in the fields of orthopaedics, dermatology and public health.

Why did you decide to get into translation or interpreting?
Truthfully, I never had any idea what I wanted to do but was always good at languages, so I fell into studying French at university without any clear plan. Back in the 1990s, there was a prevailing idea that university graduates could walk into any job, but it turned out not to be the case! A quiz with the rudimentary university careers service suggested I should be a translator or radio DJ, so that gave me a direction to aim for. A few years later, I got a job in a medical assistance with an insurance company, which involved being the point of contact for UK citizens who had fallen ill or been injured abroad, liaising with hospitals in France, among other countries. I was later moved to the repatriation team, which was rewarding, exciting and stressful in equal measure. This was alongside studying for an MA in translation and linguistics, during which I took a module in Portuguese to add a string to my bow. It was a natural step into medical translation after that.

What’s your favourite type of project?
I really enjoy working on patient information texts. It’s so important to have clear, accessible information available for everyone. It can be a challenge to convince clients that lower register terms are appropriate in English for these kinds of documents. I also love working on documents to do with public health. I find it fascinating to get an insight into the interaction between social issues and healthcare, and to learn about the types of strategies and campaigns that are rolled out to attempt to deliver public health benefits.

What do you do outside of translation or interpreting?
I’m a passionate gardener, and I spend a lot of my breaks pottering outside, getting caught up in those little weeding and dead-heading jobs. I was proud to be self-sufficient in salads and tomatoes over the summer months this year! Of course, like everyone who loves languages, I love to travel. Next year I’m looking forward to visiting Corsica for the first time. To spread the love of languages, I’ve just started running a French club at a local primary school, which is rather chaotic. I’ve discovered it always goes better if I take French food along! Finally, there’s going to theatre and concerts, although for the latter it’s mostly taking my two daughters to see shows that interest them!

Alison Hill Campbell is a medical translator working from French and Portuguese into English.