Translation Mentoring Scheme – mentor pairs report: Sue and Peter

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.

Sue Farmery and Peter Cummings: finessing style for business texts

The mentee: Sue Farmery

One of the hardest aspects of launching myself as a freelance translator, my second career, has been gaining experience. I hoped that the ITI French Network Translation Scheme would help with this, and I was not disappointed!

Although my mentor Peter and I did not match in terms of all of our specialist areas, we did overlap on business translation, so we decided to focus on this area of texts. We were also an excellent match in that we’d both become freelance translators following a career change and MA in Translation. This meant Peter was able to relate to the difficulties I was experiencing and offer relevant and practical advice to help overcome these issues.

Peter made an effort to find texts that would be as relevant to me as possible, whilst also providing translation challenges. The first text comprised an internal document for an international manufacturer of consumer goods, the second was an article written for the website of an international organisation, and the third was made up of two articles from a Belgian newspaper. In all cases, Peter had translated these texts himself professionally.

I thoroughly enjoying tackling the challenges presented in all of the texts, which each provided interesting and varied points for post-translation analysis. We discussed all manner of topics including false friends, phrasal verbs, explicitation, conveying subtleties in the ST, how to tackle errors in source texts, sentence structure and research sources for terms.

Aside from discussing the translations, Peter and I also talked about the challenges of applying to agencies and how to overcome these, with Peter providing recommendations and perhaps equally importantly suggesting agencies to potentially avoid from his personal experiences! As a result of these discussions, I feel that both my approach and confidence when contacting agencies have improved.

I would definitely recommend signing up for mentoring if you are a newcomer wanting to both gain experience and develop your translation skills, and would like to thank Peter and the ITI French Network for this fantastic opportunity.

A former international consumer market research project manager, Sue Farmery is now a French to English translator specialising in market research, food and drink, international business and NGOs.

The mentor: Peter Cummings

Sue and I found our mentoring discussions both rewarding and enjoyable.

We agreed to focus on general texts which deal with straightforward business issues, but which linguistically include challenge.

Our first text was a complaint made by an official body on behalf of consumers about a product. The second was an extract of a report about education in the Central African Republic, and the third was a couple of tricky texts from a Belgian newspaper which were full of “journalese”.

In all, Sue did well and as a result, much of our conversation revolved around improvements to style, and the kind of minute changes which make a text sound more as if it had originally been written in English even though the original French had awkward constructions that are hard to express in English without slipping into calque.

We spent perhaps as much as half of each of our sessions on finding ways to increase the number of clients that Sue has. I provided information on some fifteen agencies which I have known or experienced and I know she has been following up these leads assiduously.

From a precious career, I had access to training material provided by the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants which offered advice about how best to write one’s CV bearing in mind that most CVs these days will be subject to Application Tracking Systems. Unless written in a certain way, many CVs do not get past these sometimes inflexible automated systems to the detriment of both applicant and potential employer. I was pleased to be able to pass on this quality advice to Sue.

At the recent Trados online conference, a presentation entitled “Translation insights with RWS Language Services” touched on the desperate shortage of translators and RWS’ need to train up many more. I forwarded the information to Sue and encouraged her to follow up on the possibility of being a freelancer for RWS as its forerunner, SDL, has, in my experience, been a reliable translation agency to work with.

We did discuss the ever increasing use of MTPE and the need to master the skills necessary to excel in what is becoming a tool of key importance for language provision services.

With COP26 in the background, we also discussed the likely rewards to honing translation skills in the specialism of sustainability as it is rapidly becoming a dominant focus of societal and linguistic intercourse.

Sue has clearly been commendably industrious in her efforts to prepare quality translations, in her enquiries with translation agencies, and in updating and adapting her CV where and when necessary.

I sincerely hope that her efforts soon bear fruit as business picks up and the restrictions imposed by Covid gradually diminish.

Peter Cummings is a freelance French and Spanish to English translator focusing on business, tourism and international issues.