French to English: Extract from photography festival programme General field: Art/Literary Detailed field: Photography/Imaging (& Graphic Arts)
Source text - French La simplicité des moyens utilisés comme celles des formes qui résultent de ses photographies aux tonalités essentielles et ordonnées ont imposé Grégoire Alexandre au monde de la mode. L’apparence des êtres et des choses n’est pas trompeuse chez lui, mais elle ne se transforme pas non plus en cruauté…Avec discrétion et sans fracas, ses compositions fragiles qui ne tiennent souvent qu’à un fil, au sens propre comme au sens figuré, ont inscrit une écriture sensible qui tranche avec le vocabulaire photographique d’aujourd’hui. Des natures mortes de vêtements effeuillés comme les pages d’un livre, des mannequins ensevelis sous le rose d’un cyclo, des lacets de couleur noués aux branches d’un arbre, chacune de ses photographies distille les sentiments poétiques d’une décennie qui, à trop vouloir les chercher, les ignore parfois. A Deauville, il nous fera découvrir ou redécouvrir, les jeux de plage, cet espace immense face de la mer, où l’enfance se déroule au rythme des jeux, des jeux qu’il va récréer devant son objectif.
Translation - English The simplicity of his means and methods, like the shapes that emerge from the fundamental, ordered tones of his photographs, secured Grégoire Alexandre’s place in the world of fashion. The appearances of people and objects in his work do not deceive, yet neither do they show cruelty. Discreetly, and without fanfare, his fragile compositions that often seem held together by a thread, literally as much as metaphorically, are written in a sensitive hand that contrasts with today’s photographic vocabulary. Still lifes of clothes to be leafed through like the pages of a book, a model half-buried beneath a collapsing pink cyclorama, coloured laces knotted in the branches of a tree, each of his photographs distils the poetic sentiments of a decade that seeks them so intensely it sometimes misses them. In the company of Grégoire Alexandre, we will discover and rediscover playing on Deauville beach, as he recreates for us, through the lens of his camera, the playful rhythms of childhood games, here on this immense space facing the sea.
Bachelor's degree - Exeter University, UK
Years of translation experience: 6. Registered at ProZ.com: Jan 2013.
I found translation and translation found me by chance and force of circumstance. It was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I was giving in-company English lessons at the time and one of the companies I visited weekly asked if I would translate their Corporate, Social and Environmental Responsability Report. My teaching contract was due to end and the work had fallen into my lap, so I agreed to it, and shortly afterwards found myself happily immersed in my first piece of paid translation.
Since then, I haven’t looked back. I knew immediately that I had at last found a vocation that was a perfect fit with my skills and personality; the pleasure of this realisation is still with me today. I finished that first project and set out to find out more about the industry. I also began contacting agencies and outsourcers and doing tests, and within a relatively short space of time I’d had my first two big breaks. I didn't know then, but it was during these first few months that I made the initial contacts in what would become a solid network of clients and colleagues.
That was just the beginning. A year and half has passed since then and I can now say that I’m a successful freelance French to English translator. I get repeat business and positive feedback from the agencies, outsourcers and direct clients I work with, and have built up good relationships with them all, as well as with a other translators in my local area and online, who are an enriching source of information, advice and support.
Funnily enough, I haven’t translated another CSER since that first one. My ‘plume’, as one of my favourite agency contacts referred to it recently, has found its best expression in texts that involve a high proportion of paraphrasing, and even what is called ‘transcreation’ by some. Marketing material produced by the luxury goods sector, tourist brochures and websites, PR promotions for arts events and exhibitions are all examples of prose that blurs the boundaries between translation and copywriting. Literal translation is often impossible and inappropriate and it is rather a question of carefully crafting and re-crafting each sentence, remaining as faithful as possible to the source while creating a piece of writing in fluid, idiomatic English. The ultimate aim is for the reader not to suspect that the text was originally written in French. For me, this means retaining and absolutely respecting the context, message and meaning, but eradicating the phrasing, the rhythm, the syntax and the linguistic and cultural specificities of the French language.
Over three centuries ago, John Dryden (1630-1700) expressed it beautifully in his Preface to Ovid’s Epistles, 1680:
“When [words] appear (which is but seldom) literally graceful, it were an injury to the author that they should be changed. But since every language is so full of its own proprieties, that what is beautiful in one is often barbarous, nay sometimes nonsense, in another, it would be unreasonable to limit a translator to the narrow compass of his author's words: ’tis enough if he choose out some expression which does not vitiate the sense. […] By this means the spirit of an author may be transfused, and yet not lost […] There is, therefore, a liberty to be allowed for the expression; neither is it necessary that words and lines should be confined to the measure of their original. The sense of the author is to be sacred and inviolable. If the fancy of Ovid be luxuriant, ‘tis his character to be so; and if I retrench it, he is no longer Ovid. It will be replied that he receives advantage from this lopping of his superfluous branches; but I rejoin that a translator has no such right. When a painter copies from the life, I suppose he has no privilege to alter features and lineaments, under pretence that his picture will look better: perhaps the face that he has drawn would be more exact, if the eyes or nose were altered; but ‘tis his business to make it resemble the original.”
Although some people say that being a good translator is about much more than being good at translating (the implication being that you need to be good a running a business and promoting yourself) I only agree to a certain extent. While these aspects of a translator’s enterprise are obviously extremely important, my focus from the outset has been on producing the very best translations I’m capable of. I can’t operate in any other way. Such a philosophy may not bring me riches, but from my experience thus far I believe that my instinct to invest in quality above all else has been the right judgement call.
The following are some examples of projects I have completed in the last 6 months in my specialist areas of fine art, arts and crafts, tourism, luxury brands (watchmaking, fashion, cosmetics and leather goods, among others) marketing and business communications.
- The website content of an emerging, Paris-based cosmetics brand.
- Press releases for an established Swiss watch manufacturer in the lead up to Baselworld 2014.
- Press releases and presentations for the new collections of a luxury goods brand at the 2014 Milan Furniture Fair.
- Market research information for a leading French fashion house.
- Events programme for a prestigious book and music festival in northern France.
- Information about the anniversary events of a famous French jewellery brand’s not-for-profit foundation for the patronage and promoting of contemporary art.
So, what does the future hold?
• Learning more about translation theory and achieving a translation qualification to add to my BA (Hons) degree in French
• Deepening and broadening my knowledge and understanding of the French language. This is a passion and the work of a lifetime. At the moment, my particular focus is on my productive skills - my spoken and written French
• Creating a website
• Developing an online presence that is poised and insightful and makes a genuine contribution to useful debates
• Meeting all my clients in the flesh (an autumn Tour de France is in the pipeline!)
• Becoming a known and sought-after expert in my specialist subjects
• Investing in my business in terms of software, books, training, etc
It’s a challenging list, but because I’ve found my métier I feel time is on my side. I’ll always be a translator now and can only be a better one as the years goes by. As I once heard someone say “…if you go on doing something long enough, keep an open mind and keep at it you're bound to succeed.” The area I’ve chosen to succeed in is translation.
Ayant obtenu un BA Hons en français (langage et littérature) de l’Université d’Exeter en Grande Bretagne, j’ai passé une année comme lectrice de langue anglaise à l’Université Paris X Nanterre. Mon parcours professionnel m’a mené par la suite dans l’administration universitaire en Grande Bretagne pendant quelques années, avant un retour en France et à l’enseignement de l’anglais comme langue étrangère en 2011. Si l’enseignement m'a plu, il ne m'a toutefois pas donné le contact intime avec la langue française que je souhaitais trouver à ce stade. J’ai donc décidé de m’établir comme traductrice indépendante, de français en anglais, au début de 2013. Aujourd'hui, je travaille à plein temps, pour des agences de traduction ainsi que des clients directs et des donneurs d'ordre, dans des domaines très variés. Mes sujets de spécialisation comprennent les beaux-arts, l’artisanat, le tourisme, le marketing et les marques de luxe (horlogerie, haute couture et cosmétique entre autres).