We have the great fortune this month to meet Else Gellinek, a bilingual native speaker of American English and German, who now lives in Germany.
NAME: Else Gellinek
PROFESSION: Translator and editor
WORK LANGUAGES: German into English
PLACE OF RESIDENCE AND WORK: Germany
What kind of translation work do you do and what type of clients do you work with?
I specialize in marketing and corporate communications and work almost exclusively with direct clients based in Germany, usually SMEs. I also help clients with non-native English writing—academic and otherwise.
Can you provide a brief description of your typical work day?
Mornings are when I do my best work. I am at my desk at the crack of dawn and get started on the more demanding tasks of the day: terminology research, final read-throughs and a few shorter translations that trickle in at the same time every week. With that out of the way, I follow up with leads and clients and take care of phone calls. On some days, this can take until lunch. After a long walk with my dog, I spend the rest of the afternoon drafting translations or discussing client feedback with my favorite editor.
Work tends to bleed into my evenings and weekends. That’s the price for spending time with my children when they come home and one I am happy to pay.
What aspects of your profession do you enjoy most?
I really enjoy the research stage of translations when I’m collecting my thoughts and working through difficult phrases or concepts. I also genuinely like talking with clients and getting to know them and their needs.
Which aspects do you least enjoy?
Being a freelancer is great but sometimes the feeling that you’re never really done with your work can be draining. I’m still working on mentally closing the office door when I finish working for the day.
How long have you been working as a translator?
Six years and counting!
Did you in fact study to become a translator? If not, what did you study originally?
I have a degree in theoretical linguistics and English. Translating was part of the degree, albeit a minor one. My focus was actually on bilingual and foreign language acquisition. After a short time at a translation agency after university, I struck out on my own and got certified as a German-English translator at a German Chamber of Commerce.
What is your career path? Why did you make the decision to work as a translator?
Entering the world of translation was more of a happy coincidence for me. While I was growing up, I split my time between the US and Germany—moving between English and German has always been part of my life. Nevertheless, working as a translator was not on my radar when I was younger. I went back to university with the plan to enter the world of publishing and build on my background in the book industry. Instead, I stumbled into a job at a translation agency. Only then did I realize what a varied field of work had been right in front of me the entire time.
Is translation your sole professional occupation? If not, in what other fields are you involved?
I also provide editing and consulting services because I like being able to switch between different types of work. It keeps my brain nimble. Variety is definitely the spice of my working life.
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