This month, Ben Karl answered the guest article’s questions, for our greater pleasure.
NAME: Ben Karl
WORKING LANGUAGES: French > English , Chinese > English
PLACE OF RESIDENCE AND WORK: Reno, Nevada, USA
What kind of translation work do you do and what type of clients do you work with?
My fields of expertise are financial, marketing, and corporate communications. I recently completed my Master of Business Administration, which has really helped me perfect my translation abilities in these fields and added a nice credential to my resumé. I work with a mix of direct and agency clients around the world and my goal for the next 12 months is to start shifting my focus more to direct clients now that I am no longer working full time and going to school part time.
Can you provide a brief description of a typical work day?
I am located nine hours behind many of the agencies and clients I collaborate with that are located in Europe. So, the first thing I do around 6:30 in the morning is fire up my computer to check whether any of my clients have a project they need urgent feedback on or a quote they would like before their end of day, usually with a cup of black tea. After that, I check and read Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media profiles and check the news headlines before I get to work. I like to keep active, so in the late morning after a few hours of work, I take a break to go to the gym and run any necessary errands, like going to the post office or the bank. When I get back home, I continue working until around 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening.
What aspects of your profession do you enjoy most?
I love learning something new every single day. I love challenging my brain to work through a complex linguistic problem and arriving at a solution. I have an immense feeling of satisfaction when I reread my work and am proud of what I’ve written. I also really enjoy the community of language professionals, both real and virtual. It’s a great community to be a part of and I value the interactions I get to have with its members every day.
Which aspects do you least enjoy?
Translators don’t typically set out on their own because they want to run a business; they do it for the love of the profession and the love of translation. So, like most freelance business owners, I tend not to enjoy invoicing or chasing after late payments, and I really need to set aside more time for marketing and prospecting, which is a big goal for the next 12 months now that I have my degree in hand (I finished my coursework in July).
How long have you been working as a translator?
I started working as a project manager at a large translation firm in 2011 and transitioned to freelance translation in 2013, so I have been working in the industry for six years and working as a freelancer for four.
Does this work fit with your initial studies? Did you in fact study to become a translator?
I actually did study to be a translator, which is not that common in the United States. I have a Bachelor’s degree in French translation (Lettres et traduction françaises) and East Asian Studies from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and an advanced Chinese certificate from Beijing Language and Culture University in Beijing, China. As I mentioned, I also just finished my MBA, which has been a fulfilling journey. I would say that what I do now is an excellent fit for my academic background.
What is your career path? Why did you make the decision to work as a translator?
Even when I was quite young, I dreamt about being a translator and an interpreter. I gravitated towards languages very early. My first grade teacher taught us some American Sign Language, my second grade teacher taught us some Spanish, and in fourth grade I started learning French. Needless to say, I was hooked. I was a Rotary Youth Exchange student to France while I was in high school and decided to pursue my undergraduate studies in a francophone environment in Canada to perfect my French language skills. I am doing exactly what I have wanted to do for a long time, and I am very privileged to be doing it.
Is translation your sole professional work?
Translation and other writing-related services are currently the only work that I do. I may have the opportunity to do some part-time lecturing in translation in the future and I’m eager to explore the potential of other professional opportunities. The most successful language pros that I know are ones who wear many hats and someday I’d like to have a nice hat collection myself.
English and Spanish > French translator
French and Spanish teacher (face-to-face/Skype)