NAME: Gary Smith
WORK LANGUAGES: Spanish and Catalan to English
PLACE OF RESIDENCE AND WORK: Valencia
What kind of translation work do you do and what type of clients do you work with?
I work a lot with universities, so a lot of academic and research papers, but I also have a lot of experience with business law and contracts, as well as a couple of other very specific specialisations.
Can you provide a brief description of a typical work day?
I’ll usually go for a jog by the beach where I live when I get up. Then after a shower and breakfast I check my mail and my ‘To do’ list, then I start work. I try to keep up a British timetable as I find I work better that way, but it’s not always possible since my clients are often Spanish (lunch at 3 o’clock, very late dinner etc.)
What aspects of your profession do you enjoy most?
I have always loved languages, reading and constantly learning, so translation is obviously something I enjoy. The international community of translators is also impressive, with our mixture of cultures, local climates and timetables. I’ve just had a Skype call with a colleague who has flu at the start of winter, while I’m sweating in the summer’s heat. Such contact always helps remind us that our colleagues and clients may be facing very different situations.
Which aspects do you least enjoy?
The bureaucracy of being self-employed, perhaps. But now I have a great, trustworthy accountant it doesn’t bother me much. There are also a few clients who can be a pain, but they’re a minority and I take it with humour, realising that our monolingual, monocultural clients simply need to learn what translation involves. You just have to be patient and explain things to them. And in the small minority of cases where a client may be intransigent and rude, another great thing about being a translator is that we can “fire” our clients. (They are not our bosses.)
How long have you been working as a translator / interpreter?
For decades, though not always full-time in the beginning. I only interpret rarely when I know what a specific client needs (e.g. company lawyers discussing contracts I’ve been translating).
Does this work fit with your initial studies? Did you in fact study to become a translator?
No; I was originally an engineer, though I hardly worked in that. In fact, my first and only engineering job in a research centre largely involved translating texts into English! All translators need specialisations, whether they’ve studied them officially or through work experience, so my degree came in handy, although over the years I’ve been doing less and less translation related to engineering topics.
What is your career path? Why did you make the decision to work as a translator?
I intend to continue as I’ve been doing until now, since I seem to be quite successful at it, or at least my clients are generally happy, which is what matters. In fact, I took the decision to be a full-time translator precisely because I had so much work from satisfied customers!
Is translation your sole professional work?
Yes, but I think it’s important for translators to be constantly aware of the latest developments in their specialist fields. I’ve given a lot of talks at translation congresses, but nearly always because I’ve been asked to do so. I don’t see myself as a trainer at all, though I’ve put all of my advice into a book to help newbie translators and those who wish to advance to a better client base, which is doing quite well.
English and Spanish > French translator
French and Spanish teacher (face-to-face/Skype)