Translation Mentoring Scheme – mentor pairs report: Hayley and Anne

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.

Below a mentor pair shares their experience of the scheme. Read other mentor reports on our blog.

Hayley and Anne: finding your groove

The mentee: Hayley Smith

Continuing professional development focusing on the craft of translation itself can be hard to come by – but it’s the type of training I find most valuable. Why? Because I can apply what I learn directly in my work and I find it’s what most improves the quality of my final translation, which is, after all, what matters.

I’ve been translating for just over eight years, so I initially felt apprehensive about coming forward as a mentee. I tended to think of mentoring as something for newcomers to the profession. I didn’t feel like the ‘standard’ candidate. However, as I’m based in Italy and work in-house, most of my current day-to-day translation is from Italian, so I try to grab any opportunity I can to work with French to keep my skills sharp. This is something I wrote about in the July-August 2020 edition of the ITI Bulletin (“Positive Supercharge”).

‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get,’ as they say, so, I contacted Cherry. Before I’d had time to finish my morning coffee, she’d come back to me with a possible mentor. I’d specified macroeconomics, banking and business communication as my preferred areas of specialisation. Anne was the perfect fit. I recognised her name from the Twittersphere, and we’d both also attended “Translate in Cambridge” back in 2016, so there was some common ground right from the off. Anne has several decades of experience and so is certainly well placed to impart her wisdom!

The text types could not have been more apt and I found all three to be stimulating in different ways. We covered banking, investing and even tackled something outside the specified remit, as it presented some interesting points for discussion. I appreciate the thought Anne put into choosing the material – this is what really added value to the experience for me.

As I’m already involved in a revision exchange for Italian, I felt more than comfortable receiving feedback and discussing ideas in a virtual setting. Anne’s written feedback in the form of comments in Word gave me chance to metabolise the information, while the Zoom meetings brought the discussion to life, adding a more ‘human’ touch. Anne was clear and professional, and I found her to be approachable throughout.

I provided a short commentary with each translation, as suggested in the guidelines for mentees. Beyond initially taking me back to the days of my MA dissertation (!), I found this to be a useful exercise. It forced me to reflect on the subconscious decisions I make while translating and rationalise these thoughts, turning them into sentences on the page. It was also a good starting point for our meetings on Zoom and stimulated some broader discussion around technique and process.

What emerged from the sessions was a clear sense of progression with each of the texts. By the end, I felt like I’d found my groove again! This was a nice confidence boost, and provided the confirmation I needed that I’d done the right thing by signing up.

Peer learning continues to be one of the most effective ways of improving our technique as translators and keeping our eye on the ball. I’m very grateful to the French Network and the ITI for putting in place the framework for these exchanges to take place.

If you’re considering taking part – as a mentor or a mentee – my advice would be to go for it.

And, when international travel is back on the cards again, the drinks are on me, Anne!

Hayley Smith is an Italian and French into English translator who enjoys working on an eclectic mix of macroeconomics, business communications, interior design, wine and technical translation.

The mentor: Anne Fox

Back in June, on who remembers what day of lockdown, I responded to Cherry’s email about the new mentoring programme. I was interested. But I also wondered if I’d have anything to offer. She immediately riposted that more experienced translators have lots to offer new kids on the block, and most of us are too modest anyway.

With that, I was in. And it’s been a very rewarding experience working with Hayley.

I’ve been a full-time translator for 30 years or so and mainly translate corporate communications and financial texts. The mentoring programme was the ideal opportunity to give something back and help newcomers improve their skills through feedback on real-world texts from a real-world translator. Most of us agree on the value of good feedback – I know I’ve become a better translator by showing my work and seeking out feedback from people whose work and approach to the job I admire.

And so to work. Hayley was keen for texts in corporate comms, but very open to work on almost anything I threw at her. As she’s based in Italy, the first text I chose was one on Italy’s banking sector and how it was coping (or not) with the fallout from the pandemic. We set a realistic deadline and arranged a Zoom call to discuss the revisions and comments on her translation. This was a pattern we kept to for all three texts. From there we moved on to a press release from a food services company, which I had revised for a client, and a piece on socially responsible investing. All the texts were jobs I had completed in my own practice.

It can feel tricky to edit someone’s work and then present the changes in a way that is encouraging and motivating, but the conversations on Zoom gave us the opportunity to flesh out the ideas and talk about choices in more depth. Everybody sees a text differently and our discussions were lively and interesting.

It was a pleasure working with Hayley. I was impressed with the good work she produced and the research she put into each topic. She’s also part of a review group, which meant she was no stranger to discussing alternatives and polishing a translation.

None of us need reminding about how technology is changing what we do. And the machine is getting better. ‘Good enough’ is what some clients are happy with. To succeed in our field, we have to produce excellent quality for clients that demand high standards – and do it consistently. Mentoring programmes are an excellent way to develop talent, improve skills and provide mutual support. Like Hayley, I can only commend the work being put in by the network to offer this opportunity to mentors and mentees alike.

Anne Fox is a translator of French to English working mainly with corporate communications and financial texts.