Translation Mentoring Scheme – mentor pairs report: Gillian and Katherine

The Translation Mentoring Scheme was launched by the ITI French Network in 2020. The scheme focuses on developing translation skills and is aimed at both experienced translators and newcomers to the profession. Mentees work on three translations over a period of six months, which mentors provide feedback and guidance on.

In December 2020, the first mentor pair, Clara Avrillier and Sue Leschen reported back. Read on as other mentor-mentee partnerships share their experience of the scheme, below.

The mentee: Gillian Shaw

Mentoring is a theme that has run throughout my professional life. In my first career in the IT industry, I had a number of official – and unofficial – mentors. Some were line managers and some project managers, but they all offered excellent advice and made opportunities available to me. Not to mention the support they provided to do things I’d never tried before.

So when I had the chance to benefit from translation mentoring in my freelance career, I jumped at it. The value that the mentoring relationship can offer is immense. Approached with a positive, ready-to-learn attitude, mentors can make a huge impact on translation quality and finesse.

I was very lucky in the mentor I was paired with for my sports and travel specialisms. Katherine is easy to talk to and we found common ground from our first meeting. I was keen to try my hand at texts that were more demanding than the ones I was used to so that I could develop and improve my skills. We’d often spend some time discussing various ways of translating one phrase into English and determining which would fit with the required tone and style, together with the industry. Katherine also shared tips on which online resources were useful for finding synonyms – another perk of having a mentor!

As we approached the end of the three translations, we discussed how we’d like to stay in touch and continue to offer help and support to each other. So besides developing a sense of confidence in my ability as a translator, the mentoring programme has resulted in a new professional friendship that I hope will endure.

Gillian is an Italian and French to English translator specialising in travel and tourism, wine and spirits, and outdoor sport and fitness. Visit Gillian’s website.

The mentor: Katherine Capaldi

Over the past few months, I’ve been working with Gillian Shaw on the French network’s translation skills mentoring programme. Gillian was looking to work with someone with experience in her specialist areas of business and commerce, sport, and travel and tourism. I’ve been freelancing since 2012, and although I only have limited experience in the field of sports, I have worked on a wide range of texts for the travel and tourism industry, with clients such as tourist boards, art galleries and hotels. In our introductory emails, Gillian and I discussed different aspects of her translation technique to work on: finding a natural style for more creative texts, and research skills, particularly for more complex sports translations.

The first piece I set Gillian came from a set of snowboard reviews I had translated back in 2019. It was a highly technical piece, which I hoped would really test her research skills. The style of the text was also quite unusual: these reviews were marketing texts in disguise, aimed at a young, sporty crowd to whom money was no object. Gillian did a fantastic job with her research (especially without having access to the glossary I had been sent by the client!). She also managed to capture the dynamic sales voice needed to engage her readership. As a follow-up from this session, we discussed research skills, such as the corpora-based approach she could have used if she were taking on a large job of this kind in the real world.

We decided to move onto something more creative, so I sent Gillian some website content from a tourist board in the Champagne region. This really was an exercise in creative writing, with the article aiming to inspire its readers to visit the area and enjoy the various experiences on offer. Some of the activities offered by the website raised particular challenges, such as la sophrologie, a type of relaxation therapy widely used in continental Europe but less well-known in the UK. As Gillian put it, “This body and mind therapy lets you glide into deep relaxation while reinforcing your awareness of physical sensations and letting you live fully in the present.” It sounds like it might do us all a bit of good at the moment!

For our third and final text we decided to move back to sports, this time a magazine article about rally driving. The style of the piece was somewhat awkward as it had been written for a corporate in-house magazine, rather than by a professional journalist. Gillian rose to the challenge and managed to create a very readable piece in English that captured the spirit of the article and made sense of the various complexities of the sport.

It has been a real pleasure to have worked with Gillian over the past few months. Every translator who works on a text sees it in a different way and we can all learn so much from each other, and from taking part in schemes like this. Gillian has inspired me to join a rev club later in the year (once the children are back in school!)

The mentoring scheme also helped me realise the value of networking and partnering with colleagues. During our last session Gillian and I talked about how hard it has been trying to stay focussed on your career with the children at home. I have three children under the age of seven, so my whole freelance career has been spent juggling work commitments and childcare. Over the years, I have often wondered if there were others out there like me who would benefit from support. Gillian and I realised that with so many people struggling during lockdown, we should do something sooner rather than later. With Nicki Bone’s help, we set up a Zoom meeting on 11 February with fellow parent translators. It was a wonderful opportunity to share homeschooling challenges as well as tricks and tips to cope.

I am hoping that it will lead to a more long-term support network for those of us who are trying to combine this wonderful and fulfilling career with a very busy home life!

A huge thank you to Cherry Shelton and the French network for enabling me to take part in this very rewarding mentoring scheme.

Katherine Capaldi MITI has been a freelance translator since 2012, working from French, Spanish and Portuguese into English, mainly in the areas of retail, travel and tourism, procurement and market research.