Hall of fame: Ben
Ben, a Paris-based translator working in three language pairs, is the newest addition to our growing roster of Gengo Wordsmiths. His penchant for mastering languages and understanding cultures has been instrumental in his translation career. He advises budding translators to manage their time well and do whatever it takes to ensure high quality as these efforts will eventually pay off.
What languages do you speak and what are your experiences with learning them?
I speak English, French, Japanese, Arabic and some Italian. I’m also currently learning Indonesian. I grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, where I spoke English, French and Arabic in primary school. My family moved to Melbourne, Australia when I was in high school but I still spoke French with my mother. After high school, I studied social anthropology and ended up doing fieldwork in Syria and Lebanon, then I earned a B.A. in Modern Standard Arabic from the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations in Paris.
I was bilingual yet English-dominant until my family moved to France and I graduated with a French International Baccalaureate. I’ve been living in Paris ever since. After finishing my master’s degree in social anthropology, I started translating in English to French to English.
Japanese came into the picture when I met my wife, a Japanese pianist, in Paris. I learned the language through self-study then got a B.A. with honors in Japanese studies and Japanese language, with a focus on interpretation and translation. I still study Japanese daily by reading novels, papers and material available online.
After a long break in Japan, I started working as a full-time English to French to Japanese freelance translator. I’ve also dabbled in literary translation, and translated my first English to French book, which was published in 2013.
I love working with Gengo for the flexibility. I get to choose projects covering a variety of subjects in my own time. I currently work for Gengo in three language pairs, English to French, Japanese to English and French to English.
Aside from translation work, I do basic interpretation and guide Japanese professionals around Paris. So, languages and translation have always played a very important role in my life.
What are your favorite translation tools?
I started using Memsource through Gengo and have been using it more for my freelance work, too. I also use OmegaT, which is a great, free, open source and multi-platform tool that supports all current versions of TMX. I’ve also used MemoQ and SDL Trados in the past. Otherwise, due to the nature of most projects I work on, Google search engine helps a lot.
Access to online resources is incredibly useful in translation, whether you need to check a picture or the uses of a particular Japanese idiom, unlock terminology or read up on unfamiliar topics. Reading in source and target language online is also vital. Plus, you can always reach out to others through online translator forums when things get really technical. Lastly, translation collections, such as, Linguee are good, but you really have to be selective, as unverified resources online could lead to the same repeated mistakes.
What are your tips to become a Wordsmith?
Time management is probably the first tip on my list. If you’re working full-time as a translator, projects have a learning curve as you’re getting familiar with a subject or the terminology. Gengo projects, especially small Standard jobs, can be very useful in this respect.
In the end, it really comes down to trying to do a good job, checking repeatedly and being able to justify decisions. You might spend extra time, but overall quality will increase and that pays off over time. Keep in mind that automated translation is just around the corner and we are bound to lose when it comes to speed and efficiency. However, we still have the edge because of context and quality that can only be attained by truly understanding the material for translation.