Gujarati Grammar: Postpositions

Although I have spoken Gujarati since childhood, I only learnt the alphabet in 2015. I then had to take a break from studying Gujarati for a while as I just couldn’t find the time for it.

Recently I’ve been trying to set aside a couple of hours every week to continue working though Colloquial Gujarati: The Complete Course for Beginners, by Jagdish Dave. I won’t tell you when I started the course…

It’s not as easy to find resources for Gujarati as it is for French or Spanish. So I thought it would be useful to post my own resources here on my blog. They won’t be in any particular order – I’ll be posting as I learn, and hopefully coming back and adding information as my knowledge grows.

The last topic I covered was postpositions so that is the focus of this post.

If you’d like to find out more about my experiences of learning Gujarati, click here.


In English, prepositions normally indicate location, direction or time. They are placed before the word they govern, e.g. ‘under the table’, ‘on the platform’, ‘after dinner’.

In Gujarati, they are called postpositions because they are placed after they word they govern. Postpositions follow or a noun or pronoun and show its relationship with another word in the sentence.

These postpositions are broadly classified according to meaning in the table below.





Place and direction

in an-dar અંદર
out ba-hār બહાર
near pā-se પાસે
above ū-par ઉપર
under nĩ-che નીચે
between vach-che વચ્ચે


before pa-he-lā̃ પહેલા
before āgaḷ આગળ
after pa-chhi પછી


by va-ḍe વડે
through mār-phat મારફત


except vi-nā વિના
without va-gar વગર
without si-vāy સિવાય


compared to kar-tā̃ કરતાં
equal to ba-rā-bar બરાબર
like mā-phak માફક


for mā-ṭe માટે
for khā-tar ખાતર



Adapted from Colloquial Gujarati: The Complete Course for Beginners, by Jagdish Dave


ka [kə]



Best laid plans

This year has not been going the way I planned.

In January, I had a clear vision about how I wanted the year to pan out. I would continue to grow my business and work on those endless (and seemingly useless) agency applications.

I had moved past the wide-eyed, optimistic stage. I had realised how hard freelancing really is, but I was determined to keep going and excited about what would happen.

When I ended up teaching French for the first half of the year, I was less than enthusiastic about being diverted away from these plans. The French teacher in a local school suddenly left after the Christmas holidays and the school asked me to fill in. I reluctantly agreed.

But I have to admit I learnt a lot from the experience. Patience, mostly. I realised every experience is what you make it.

Planning and marking are the two things teachers dislike the most. But once I knew my students, I enjoyed planning for them and thinking of ways to help them progress. Marking was still boring but I got faster and found ways to make it bearable.

I seriously considered changing professions and teaching full-time. What put me off is that teachers, in this country at least, are overworked and struggle to find a work-life balance. Their holidays are often spent planning and stressing, and they are constantly subject to new policies and schemes.

I knew I would no longer have time for the things I enjoy, the things that fulfil me and keep me going: language learning, writing, and translation.

I am very grateful for the lessons I learned as a teacher and for the people I met. As a freelancer, it’s useful to have several strings to your bow. I know that door is open for me should I wish to change paths.

Beautiful leaving flowers from the school

Since completing my teaching spell, I have renewed energy and enthusiasm for my freelance activities. Juggling teaching, translation and other activities was exhausting. I initially loved the variety in my week but quickly got tired of it. I craved stability and routine.

Now I’m back to freelancing for a content marketing company and I’ve been doing more copywriting than translation; this was another unexpected development – not that I’m complaining. This position allows me to set aside time for Spanish lessons and for developing my Gujarati. And I hope to finally set a date for my driving test some time soon!

In a recent blog post, Lucinda Brooks of eCPD Webinars talked about the unexpected turns in her life that brought her to where she is today. She traces back her experiences to her grandmother’s love for swimming in the sea – a love that took the family to Tarragona in Spain.

She asked other translators to recount how chance events created new openings in their lives. She notes that, a knowledge of other languages was the key to those new openings. And for me, that is the most important thing.


‘The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.’ – Eleanor Roosevelt

A recent day out in Bournemouth

An update: teaching and a trip to Jerusalem

It’s been a while since my last blog post – I’ve been a on a hiatus from the translation world and working as a French teacher in a local secondary school. It’s a temporary position but it is nonetheless time-consuming, especially combined with my other commitments.

I was initially reluctant to take on the role as it is outside of my comfort zone, but then I decided to embrace it as a new experience and use it to expand my skill-set. After all, freelancing (and life in general!) is unpredictable and constantly offers fresh challenges. Teaching is simply a different way to apply my linguistic skills.

It is also an opportunity to persuade young people that learning languages has many uses. Many of the young women I’m teaching seem to think that learning French is pointless – ‘Miss, when am I ever going to need French?’. Picture my horrified face. Any suggestions on how I can persuade them otherwise are most welcome. In the meantime, I’ll be catching up on endless marking (Reasons not to become a teacher #1).

'I presume you're the substitute teacher?'
‘I presume you’re the substitute teacher?’


I just got back from an Easter break to Jerusalem and Saudi Arabia. Jerusalem, and the cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, are home to the three holiest sites in Islam. Travelling always teaches us about another language and culture, but making a pilgrimage to places of worship is an entirely unique encounter with different ways of life. For a start, the British penchant for queuing becomes particularly pronounced!

I found the people of Jerusalem to be friendly and warm. One morning, as we walked back from the dawn prayer at Al-Aqsa mosque (which was at 5 0’clock by the way), an elderly lady joined us, just to have some company as she walked back home. Foreign visitors are made to feel very welcome, and hospitality is clearly inherent to the local culture.

The Dome of the Rock
The Old City
Damascus Gate, one of the main entrances to the Old City

Coming back to London always feels like a shock after a visit to Mecca and Medina, as there are thousands of people gathered there at practically all times of year. During the Hajj season, which falls in September this year, there are roughly three million pilgrims. It can be overwhelming, especially if it is your first time.

The pilgrims have one obvious thing in common: their reason for visiting. The rites themselves and the prayers to be observed are the same for everyone. However, it is interesting to observe the subtle differences between groups of pilgrims. It can be the way they place their hands during prayer or the colours they wear. In my culture, it is considered highly disrespectful to place the Quran on the floor, while in others it is completely normal. The pilgrimage is a lesson in tolerance, patience and understanding.

After a truly beautiful and life-changing journey, I feel rejuvenated and ready  to get back to work (yes, really!) with fresh perspective and the best intentions.

The Grand Mosque of Mecca, known as the Masjid al-Haram, is currently undergoing a fourth expansion to accommodate two million more worshippers.
A model of the Grand Mosque, including the new extension
Masjid Al-Nabawi in Medina
This model shows how the original Masjid Al-Nabawi would have looked in 622, with a roof of palm leaves supported by palm trunks.


Keeping track of agency applications

When I first started out, I didn’t really have a strategy for applying to agencies. I pretty much applied to any agency that didn’t ask for 5 years of experience. After a while, I couldn’t remember which agencies I’d already applied to so I created an Excel document to keep track. I have an Excel file for nearly everything!

Like my project management system, this method of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is not particularly sophisticated but it does the job effectively.

In my Excel document, I have two tabs labelled ‘CRM’ and ‘Organisations’.

Screenshot 2016-01-06 16.28.31


Let’s start with the Organisations sheet. This sheet is my personal database: a list of all of the agencies, professional bodies, freelance platforms, volunteer organisations and potential recruiters that I’ve come across in my research.

These are the columns I use to organise the sheet.

Screenshot 2016-01-07 11.36.00

The first column is labelled Tr/In.


So for a translation agency, I would fill in Tr, for an interpreting agency, In, and for agencies that provide both, Tr/In. I know agencies offer many other services so you can adapt this column for yourself. You don’t want it to get too complicated though.

The next column is for the Organisation Name. Type refers to the type of organisation, i.e. agency, professional body, freelance platform.

Screenshot 2016-01-06 16.37.42

In the fourth column, Contact, I insert the name and contact details of the person I liaised with, who may be a recruitment professional or project manager. If I don’t have a specific contact, I add in the generic contact details of the organisation.

Screenshot 2016-01-06 16.37.42

After Website, I fill in the location(s) of the organisation as this may sometimes be relevant. For instance, an agency I work for has offices in the US and France, and each office sends me work separately.

Screenshot 2016-01-06 16.37.42

Finally, I write any additional information in the Notes column. This information may be areas of specialisation, specific requirements or how to apply. When agencies need x years of experience, I make sure to note it down so that I can apply in the future.

Screenshot 2016-01-07 11.00.52

I also include dodgy organisations in my list, as well as low or late payers, and highlight them in red. I always check the list of scammers if an organisation looks suspicious. Translator forums such as the ITI London Regional Network can help to identify scammers too, as well as low or late payers. Whenever a forum member makes a negative comment about an agency, I note it down for future reference.


The CRM sheet is where I keep track of my applications, and organisations that have my details. It is separated into sections like so:

Screenshot 2016-01-06 17.44.39

I hope the sections are fairly self-explanatory.

I have included a section for volunteer organisations and freelance platforms so that I don’t forget where I have created a profile. It is important to keep profiles updated as your business develops, especially on platforms such as or TheOpenMic, which agencies and clients may use to learn more about you. Similarly as you gain experience and skills, you may be able to re-contact organisations with special requirements.

Every time I insert an organisation into my CRM sheet, I add the date I signed up or the date my application was approved, and other relevant information such as agreed rates. I also note the date I last sent an updated CV.

Screenshot 2016-01-07 11.41.59

An Excel document is a easy way to keep track of your applications when you’re starting out but you may eventually want to invest in a CRM tool. There are paid and free options out there which I have yet to try. For now, I’m happy to continue using Excel but I know I can improve my system. I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Dealing with stress

Sorry if the length of this post stresses you out. Apparently, when it comes to stress I have a lot to say.

Stress affects all freelancers, not just translators. Knowing that you alone are responsible for earning a living sometimes gets overwhelming. I feel as if I am always thinking about my business, even when I’m not working. I’m constantly thinking of new ideas and ways to develop and expand. This is because I am passionate about what I do but it is not necessarily healthy, as it can all get too much from time to time.

Becoming a freelance translator is not just about translating. Of course, your translation and interpreting skills are paramount, and you should set aside time to brush up on those skills. Then you need to make sure you continue to work on your languages too, which in my case are French, Spanish and Gujarati. It’s also a good idea to stay up to date with developments in the industry, by attending events and reading books and articles. And you absolutely have to stay on top of the administrative side of running a business. It’s a very long list of Things to Do.

The best way to deal with this is to be organised. I always have my diary open at my desk, and each day has two columns. One column is for jobs and appointments, and the second column is for things to do. (By the way, how great is this diary?) I try to keep my phone calendar updated too because I can access it wherever I am. I have a weekly schedule where I have allocated time slots for paid and unpaid work, so that I don’t fall behind on admin and professional development. For instance, on Mondays, I have allocated an hour for interpreting practice before starting work at 9. On Tuesdays, I would use this time to check my accounts.

The problem is that every week is different so it’s hard to get into a routine. I feel stressed when I can’t keep to my schedule but I have accepted that it won’t always be possible. For instance, if an interpreting job comes up at the last minute, I have to make this a priority. I have to be flexible and adjust to circumstances.


As freelancers, we are very ambitious and we want to achieve so much. My schedule is a reflection of this. I have played around with it to make it more achievable although I’m not sure I’ve succeeded yet. It’s hard not to look at other freelancers and think, wow, he/she seems to be doing so many things, I need to be doing more. That is a treacherous path to tread and I’ve realised that I should focus on what is achievable for me. I can benefit from the advice of experienced professionals without necessarily comparing myself to them.

Surroundings impact stress levels as well. I need a tidy space to work in. If my space is cluttered, my brain feels cluttered. It doesn’t help that my office space is also my bedroom. I am very fortunate to have a big loft all to myself, but it is difficult to escape from work when I am always surrounded by it. One of my solutions is to have a bare desk, with only my computer screens, a diary and a lamp. That way, I feel like I have a dedicated work space.

It is important to be able to find a balance between your personal and professional life. Technology makes it so easy to be switched on at all times. It may be past 5 but you can still check emails, tweet or read blogs. It’s not necessarily work but you’re still thinking about work in your personal time. It’s one of the reasons why I love my weekly yoga class. I walk into the room and I know I’m there for one thing only, so I can switch off.

As a freelancer, you’re always worried you’ll miss out. 5 minutes away from your phone or laptop could mean you lose a job. It’s why I’m not a fan of job platforms. You have to watch them constantly and respond straight away. I can see the value of these platforms but it seems exhausting and stressful in the long term. Ideally, if you can build a relationship with a client, you’ll be the only one they want. So I’d rather focus on making myself stand out, even if I’m not making enough in the meantime. But of course, earning so little is another trigger of stress.


I am lucky to have friends in the industry who understand the challenges I face, and they always offer a sympathetic ear when I am stressed. To be honest, I feel guilty complaining to them when I have so many positive things in my life! However, everyone needs an outlet to deal with stress and I prefer to talk about it (had you noticed?).

The key is to stay positive (sorry, I know it’s cliché). We are often too hard on ourselves. When I really think about it, I’ve done plenty of great things this year. Starting this blog for one thing. So I will leave you with some advice. First, write down your reasons for doing what you do. Why did you decide to become a translator? Why did you choose to go freelance instead of working in-house? Or vice-versa. Second, keep a log of your achievements, big or small. Sometimes it’s the smallest things which give me a buzz.

When you get stressed, go back and look at these two lists. It will remind you why you’re on this path and that you’re good at what you do.


Finding ways to reduce stress and therefore, cortisol levels is beneficial to your long-term health -

When your native language feels like a foreign language

Although my working languages are French and English, my native language is actually Gujarati. Gujarati was my first language and it was all I spoke as a child. Once I started school, Gujarati was replaced by English, making brief appearances every time I visited my grandparents or went to community events.

Gujarati is native to the Indian state of Gujarat and it is spoken by over 50 million people worldwide.

I fell in love with French at school and it became an important part of my professional and personal life. But when I finished my studies, I realised that adding Gujarati to my working languages would make me stand out. Considering that it is my native language, you’d be forgiven for thinking that working with Gujarati is straightforward for me.

However, until earlier this year, I didn’t know how to read and write Gujarati. Initially, it seemed like a momentous task but once I got stuck in, with the help of a friend’s mum, I got through the letters fairly quickly. The difficult part is learning to read at a normal pace. Luckily, Gujarati is a phonetic language so everything is written as it is pronounced. My knowledge of French phonetics was indispensable as I knew how to use IPA symbols to distinguish between similar sounds.

Once you have mastered one language, learning subsequent languages becomes easier. This is true even when two languages are as different as French and Gujarati. Since I have studied French intensively for a long time, I have learnt about different aspects of language which I can now apply to Gujarati. In particular, I find it easier to grasp grammatical concepts like the difference between tenses.

An area that I struggle with is learning vocabulary. The language I use with my family is specific to our region of Gujarat so standard Gujarati, meaning Gujarati used in school or in the media, sounds very different to me. Even within my own community, I have found variation in everyday words like ‘kitchen’. This means that new vocabulary is often unfamiliar, whereas in my Spanish classes, I regularly spot similarities between French and Spanish words.

As I have always spoken Gujarati informally, it makes sense that I feel more confident in French. I know that I can speak French correctly and adapt to different contexts, both formal and informal. As I don’t yet feel this level of competence in Gujarati, I would rather work on my skills before adding Gujarati to my working languages. I hope I will then be able to offer the same high quality of translation and interpreting as I currently offer in French.

Other than the clear professional benefits of mastering Gujarati, it brings me personal satisfaction to reawaken a connection with my country of origin, le pays natal. I can now decipher my grandmother’s writing, mostly on labels in her kitchen. Instead of using Gujarati words, she often labels her jars in English but using Gujarati script. I was amused to discover that she had spelled ‘sugar’ as she pronounces it: soogar.


My family’s home town: Tadkeshwar, Gujarat

From MDGs to SDGs: the new development objectives (EN & FR)

Scroll down to read a French translation of this post by Adèle Hoarau.

On Friday 25 September 2015, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) gave way to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the UN Sustainable Development Summit.

The MDGs were the outcome of the Millennium Summit in 2000 –  eight goals focusing on poverty eradication, with a deadline of 2015. They were SMART goals on a global scale: specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and time-bound. Most of these goals have been met, helping to lift more than one billion people out of extreme poverty.

The full 2015 UN report on the MDGs is available here.

The Post-2015 agenda started at the Rio+20 conference in June 2012, where member states agreed to develop sustainable development goals. A 30-member Open Working Group then came up with a draft agenda, presented to the UN General Assembly in September 2014. A new system meant that most of the seats in the Working Group were shared by several countries so 70 countries were represented overall.

For the first time, the UN set up consultations to talk to people across the world about development. This included 83 national dialogues, 11 thematic dialogues, and an online global survey, MY World, allowing individuals to express which issues mattered the most to them. These findings were then relayed back to the Working Group and the final goals were ready in August this year.

This time, the goals are even more ambitious but less SMART. With 17 goals and 169 ‘sub-targets’, the SDGs are no longer as concise as the original goals.

We decided to go with 17 goals and 169 targets...I know many of you wanted less and some of you wanted more...So we decided to go right in the middle, that way nobody is happy.

Goal 1, which used to be Eradicate extreme hunger and poverty, is now End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Goal 2, previously Achieve universal primary education, is now Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

And so on.

The word ‘all’ is used in 8 of the 17 goals, emphasising their broader, universal scope. It is also a reflection of the collaborative approach to developing the SDGs, as opposed to the first time round, described as an ‘unanticipated nucleic fusion‘ by Lord Mark Malloch-Brown. Lord Malloch-Brown was part of a small team that devised the Millenium Development Goals in a process of ‘relative casualness’.

Read David Hulme’s account of the MDG development process, ‘The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): A Short History of the World’s Biggest Promise’ here.

The result of the inclusive development process is that the SDGs cover more ground than their predecessors. They recognise the need for lasting solutions. Providing food to the hungry must go hand in hand with food security and sustainable agriculture. This in turn improves nutrition and prevents disease. Poverty is multifaceted and the SDGs seek to address that.

Including everyone in the process also means that both North and South have a stake in the SDGs. While poverty elimination is vital in the South, gender equality and environmental protection are issues that must be dealt with everywhere.

The MDGs were arguably made at a more optimistic time. This September, the Sustainable Development Goals quietly made their debut, overshadowed by the Syrian crisis. We can only hope the SDGs will help to create a world that looks more peaceful than it does today.


Des OMD aux ODD: les nouveaux objectifs de développement.

 Le vendredi 25 Septembre 2015, à l’occasion du sommet de l’ONU sur le développement durable, les Objectifs du millénaire pour le développement (OMD) ont cédé la place aux Objectifs de développement durable (ODD).

Les OMD étaient le résultat du Sommet du Millénaire en 2000 : 8 objectifs centrés sur l’éradication de la pauvreté, avec une échéance de 2015. Ces objectifs peuvent être qualifiés de SMART sur une échelle globale : Spécifiques, Mesurables, Acceptables, Réalistes et Temporellement définis. La plupart de ces objectifs ont été atteints, permettant à plus d’un milliard de personnes de sortir de la pauvreté extrême.

Le rapport complet de l’ONU sur les OMD est disponible ici.

L’agenda post-2015 a débuté lors de la conférence Rio+20 en juin 2012 durant laquelle les Etats Membres ont convenu d’élaborer des objectifs de développement durable. Un Groupe de travail ouvert de 10 membres a établi une ébauche de l’agenda, présentée à l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU en septembre 2014. Un nouveau système signifie que la plupart des sièges dans le Groupe de travail sont partagés par plusieurs pays afin que 70 états soient représentés.

Pour la première fois, l’ONU a mis en place des consultations afin de discuter du développement avec des personnes du monde entier. Ces consultations incluent 83 dialogues nationaux, 11 dialogues thématiques ainsi qu’un sondage en ligne mondial (MY World) permettant aux individus d’exprimer leurs opinions sur  les questions qu’ils considèrent les plus importantes. Ces résultats ont ensuite été transmis au Groupe de travail et les objectifs ont été finalisés en août cette année.

Cette fois, les objectifs sont plus ambitieux mais moins SMART. Avec 17 objectifs et 169 ”sous-objectifs”, les ODD ne sont plus aussi concis que les objectifs d’origine.

We decided to go with 17 goals and 169 targets...I know many of you wanted less and some of you wanted more...So we decided to go right in the middle, that way nobody is happy.
Nous avons décidé d’élaborer 17 objectifs et 169 cibles. Je sais que beaucoup d’entre vous en vouliez moins et quelques-uns en voulaient plus. Donc nous avons décidé de couper la poire en deux pour que personne ne soit satisfait.

L’Objectif 1 était de Réduire l’extrême pauvreté et la faim, il est désormais d’Eliminer la pauvreté sous toutes ses formes et partout dans le monde.

L’Objectif 2, auparavant Assurer à tous l’éducation primaire est désormais la cible 4, Garantir une éducation de qualité et des possibilités d’apprentissage tout au long de la vie pour tous.

Et ainsi de suite.

Le mot ”tous” est utilisé dans 8 des 17 objectifs, insistant sur leur dimension générale et universelle. Il reflète également une réflexion de l’approche collective du développement des ODD, contrairement à la première approche, décrite par Lord Mark Malloch-Brown comme une ”fusion nucléique inattendue”. Lord Malloch-Brown faisait partie d’une équipe chargée de l’élaboration des Objectifs du millénaire pour le développement dans un processus de ”désinvolture relative”.

Vous trouverez ici un récit en anglais de David Hulme sur le processus de développement des OMD ”The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): A Short History of the World’s Biggest Promise”.

En raison du processus de développement ouvert, les ODD doivent aborder plus de domaines que leurs prédécesseurs. Ils reconnaissent le besoin de solutions à long terme. Fournir de la nourriture à ceux qui ont faim doit aller de paire avec la sécurité alimentaire et l’agriculture durable. Cela conduit à améliorer la nutrition et empêcher les maladies. La pauvreté est à plusieurs facettes et les ODD ont pour but de traiter cette question.

Inclure tout le monde dans le processus signifie aussi que le Nord et le Sud ont un intérêt à défendre dans les ODD. Alors que l’élimination de la pauvreté est une priorité dans le Sud, l’égalité hommes-femmes et la protection de l’environnement sont des questions qui doivent être traitées partout.

Les OMD ont probablement été élaborés dans une période plus optimiste. En septembre, les Objectifs de développement durables ont doucement fait leurs débuts, éclipsés par la crise en Syrie. Il ne reste plus qu’à espérer que les ODD contribueront à créer un monde plus paisible qu’il ne l’est aujourd’hui.


Adèle Hoarau is an English > French translator and interpreter. Now based in London, she is originally from Reunion Island (where incidentally I spent my year abroad). She’s now freelancing after a year working as a translator for a luxury goods company. 

Adèle Hoarau est une interprète et une traductrice Anglais > Français. Désormais basée à Londres, elle est originaire de l’île de la Réunion (où j’ai accessoirement passée mon année à l’étranger). Elle travaille maintenant à son compte après une année passée dans une entreprise spécialisée dans les produits de luxe. 

What’s the point of doing a Masters in translation?

This is a big debate in the translation community and I’m going to add my two cents.

First of all, I did my MA in Translation and Interpreting at the University of Westminster. It’s a practical course introducing you to the main areas of translation and interpreting. The course is taught and run by passionate translators and interpreters, many of whom still work in the industry themselves.

The course teaches you about different types of translation. You learn that you can’t approach a contract in the same way as a newspaper article. You might realise that you prefer translating the article, and definitely don’t want to look at a contract ever again. You learn how to research terms and look for credible sources. You learn the importance of proofreading. You don’t finish your homework and hope you don’t get picked on in class to share your shoddy translation, regretting it later. You learn from your peers and admire they way they manage to grasp nuances that completely elude you.

In interpreting classes, you learn that there are three types of interpreting: public service, consecutive and simultaneous. You learn how to prepare for any of these and how to make glossaries. You figure out what to do when you hear a term you don’t know. You get used to embarrassing yourself in front of your peers during practice. You are totally intimidated in your first lesson of simultaneous interpreting and quake in your boots every time you get into the booth. Your teacher bluntly points out the tics in your speech so that you become a better public speaker (mine was ‘umm’).  You leave every lesson completely exhilarated and raring to do it again.

You also make wonderful friends that stick around once the masters is done.

Yes I know, my shoes are awesome.
Yes I know, my shoes are awesome.

Do I recommend it? Yes, absolutely! (If you can afford it of course.)

The course gave me a solid grounding in translation and interpreting as disciplines, while also providing me with tools and resources I needed to set up a translation business. I did an optional module called Developing Professionalism where we covered the practical aspects of working in the industry, such as writing CVs and managing finances. We also had guest speakers every now and then, including Marta Stelmaszak, who had us enthralled with her interpreting experiences, and Helen Oclee-Brown, who introduced us to a whole load of IT tools we’d never heard of! We also had workshops every Friday which were open to all translation/interpreting students, and covered general knowledge topics like the English legal system or the etymology of medical terms. Throughout the year, there were additional events, such as Meet the Client organised at Westminster with the ITI London Regional Network, bringing together agencies and translators.

To answer the question What’s the point of doing a Masters in translation?, I think it is a sound starting point for your career. For me, it was indispensable. I didn’t know much about the profession beforehand so everything was new to me. During my degree, I took to my language studies quite easily but the MA taught me that having excellent language skills is not enough to succeed as a translator. It was a challenge that I relished but it also taught me humility. I felt a sense of achievement when I completed the course and the MA qualification makes me feel like a credible professional. When I have moments of doubt over my abilities, it’s one of the things that reminds me that I can do this job. You have to remember though, that a Masters is only the beginning. It is only through experience that you can improve your skills as an academic and professional.


Reunion Island – the beginning of my translation journey

I know it seems like I’m taking advantage of Reunion being in the news but it was always going to feature on this blog. It’s just that now everyone knows where it is! I spent my third year of university in Reunion studying on the Erasmus programme. Fortunately for me, my university had just set up a partnership with theirs, and since I have family there, it was an ideal choice for my year abroad.


Before I left, I hadn’t done much translation at all. It seems strange to me now but my university course didn’t actually include any translation modules until final year, so my first proper introduction to translation was in Reunion. We had a class for translating into English (thème) and one for translation into French (version), so I didn’t realise then that professional translators only translate into their native language.

My thème classes stand out most in my memory. My teacher was all the way from Scotland; she’d been living in Reunion for many years and she had been one of the first (if not the first) English teachers on the island. I loved her classes because she was so passionate and I think some of her enthusiasm rubbed off on me. We mostly did literary translation – nothing like what I do now – such as excerpts from crime fiction by Fred Vargas or Georges Simenon.

In those days, I didn’t even know that translation software existed. I did all my homework by hand on that special ruled paper they use in France, and with a fountain pen no less. I’d find it hard to do a handwritten translation if I tried now, and I definitely wouldn’t have the time. What a luxury it was to have a whole week for a 250-word text. It makes me unbearably nostalgic thinking of those lessons, hot sun shining down outside and an ocean view not far off. A world away from my current work space!

Will I ever pick up a pen again?
Will I ever pick up a pen again?

I learnt in Reunion that translation skills are to some extent, innate. Speaking two languages is not enough to be a good translator; I am conscious of this more and more every day. Back then, I did very well in my translation exams and I could see I had a knack for it. More importantly, I absolutely loved translating. Of course, when I did my Masters two years afterwards, I met a whole bunch of other people with exceptional language and translation skills so I knew I still had so much to learn.

My Erasmus experience taught me a lot and it has marked my life in several ways. Even then, I instinctively knew I wanted to become a translator (and interpreter!) but I could never have imagined being where I am today. My experience even inspired my MA dissertation project, which was about translating from French into Creole, but that’s a topic for another day..

Arts & Humanities Building
Arts & Humanities Building
The ocean was never far away..
The ocean was never far away..

So you got a job offer – what next?

Before you start working as a translator, there are little practical details you won’t have even thought about yet. Project management is one of those things. At the beginning, you won’t be getting much work (unless you’re really lucky) so it won’t be hard to keep track of your jobs. As you start to get more work, it’s a good idea to have some sort of system in place, starting from the moment you get a job offer. Here’s my step-by-step guide:

1. Can you do this job? Check the deadline, the number of words, software requirements and the documents to be translated. You might not be able to read the text in full but have a skim to make sure you have the knowledge or at least the resources to tackle the topic. I’ve realised recently I should open the document with my CAT tool too in case there are any technical issues.

2. Accept the job offer. Do you have any questions for the Project Manager? Ask them now.

3. Save the document(s) to be translated. You will  figure out the best way to organise your folders. Mine are organised by client, then project.

Do you have a backup system in place to make sure you don’t lose your work?

4. Enter the job details into your project management tool.  I use Microsoft Excel to log my jobs and this is what it looks like:


At the beginning, you won’t know how much you can manage in a day or what your work rhythm is. This is why I added the Estimated Time and Average Output columns. The Estimated Time is the number of hours/days you plan to spend translating and proofreading. The Average Output is the word count divided by the number of hours/days you actually spend. Once you’ve finished a job, you can compare your expectations with reality.

Remember it’s not all about word count – a short technical piece might take the same time as a 2,000 word news article.

Once you know your own speed, it’ll be easier to decide whether to accept future job offers. Unfortunately that comes with experience and you will inevitably accept a job without realising how long it’ll take you. Your average output will also help to calculate how much you’re earning per hour so you can determine whether certain jobs are worth your time. The great thing about Excel is that it’s easy to make calculations and this will be useful when you’re invoicing too.

5. Make your intentions. This is a step I’ve thought about recently and I’d like to start implementing it. Most of us don’t translate just to earn money (although that is of course important), we do it because we love it. We have an overall goal or maybe we’re still thinking about what that goal is. Thinking about this before starting a translation can make the job more fulfilling. What do you hope to achieve by doing this translation? How will it help you to achieve your overall goals? Will this translation help another person? The great thing is, a translation will nearly always help someone else, if not many people.

6Start translating.

This is very basic project management but it’s a start. There are plenty of  apps available now to help you manage your projects but I haven’t tried any yet. I will at some point and let you know what I think.

Have you got any ideas to improve my system? Your comments are welcome!