We have the great fortune to start the year with Robin Joensuu, who answered the guest article’s questions.
NAME: Robin Joensuu
PROFESSION: Independent translator
WORK LANGUAGES: English>Swedish
PLACE OF RESIDENCE AND WORK: Berlin, Germany
What kind of translation work do you do and what type of clients do you work with?
My main areas are IT, marketing, and engineering with an increasing part in marketing. Sometimes I work mostly with direct clients, sometimes mostly with agencies. The largest projects during 2016 were a continuous travel marketing project (10-20 hours per week throughout the year) and a job where I localized the computer system for a metro signalling system with accompanying user manuals and educational material for the operators.
Can you provide a brief description of your typical work day?
I start my computer at around 9 and spend some time browsing Spotify for music that works with my mood for the day (today it is PJ Harvey) and then I teeth into my email inbox. What I do after that depends on the day, but I mostly translate/revise until around noon, walk my dog, eat some lunch, and then work for a couple of more hours until I am done for the day. Since I work a lot for American clients and agencies at the moment, I often reply to emails in the evenings and I guess that would apply as a part of my work day as well.
What aspects of your profession do you enjoy most?
The creative part, without doubt. I have written for as long as I have known how to and I love moving words around, reading them out loud, rephrasing, moving a few more words… It doesn’t matter what the text is about as long as I am allowed to be creative. The second most favourite aspect is probably the ‘free’ part of the freelance life. I have tried working in-house but I am terrible at all of those hierarchies and behavioural norms. What is the purpose of fixed working hours in a modern office anyway?
Which aspects do you least enjoy?
That it is sometimes hard to keep a sound and healthy work-life balance.
How long have you been working as a translator?
6 years in June.
Did you in fact study to become a translator? If not, what did you study originally?
Yes and no. I have no formal education in translation but I have a master’s degree in Literature, culture, and media and I have studied numerous other things, ranging from languages and teaching Swedish to foreigners to journalism and creative writing. I say yes because I think that what is required for us to become really good at your jobs, apart from the obvious, i.e. knowing two languages very well, is that we know our native language like the inside of our own pocket and that we are very good writers.
What is your career path? Why did you make the decision to work as a translator?
I thought about translation a few times but I ended up studying something else and did not think that it was within reach. When I eventually graduated I had recently left Sweden for Berlin to be with my girlfriend who I had just met on a holiday there. I had no idea what to do since a degree with a strong focus on Scandinavian literature hardly is a sought-after qualification on the German labour market. I was just about to start cleaning hostels, like my girlfriend did at the time, or look for bar jobs, when a friend of mine told me that he saw an ad from an agency that was looking for English>Swedish translators. I applied and got accepted. I practiced, I read, did the old fashioned trial-and-error, and worked my ass off and eventually realized that I was becoming pretty good at it. A few years later, I am still around.
English and Spanish > French translator
French and Spanish teacher (face-to-face/Skype)