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ITI Profile: Françoise Vignon

We speak to Françoise Vignon, English – French translator and member of the ITI Assessment Committee.

 

How did you get into translation?

When I came to England as a language assistant, I sort of fell into teaching, but after 12 years, I felt dissatisfied that my love for languages was not fulfilled. I wanted a career where I could enjoy using my language skills. I had enjoyed translating at university and later working for a European agent for an American firm. So I prepared the diploma in translation before taking the plunge and setting myself up as a freelance translator.

 

What do you enjoy most about being a translator?

I love the creative side to our job. It’s like being a crafts(wo)man. Idioms are difficult to translate, but they make it fun, it’s great to have a challenge. I sometimes look at a sentence and although I know exactly what it means and what its intent is in the source language, I can’t think of an immediate translation for it. That’s when I start to play! I imagine myself wanting to say that in a situation where I am speaking French. I may have to leave it a while, but suddenly it comes to me. It may not be perfect at first, but I start to rework to achieve the right note. I find that truly rewarding. It feels like winning a race!

 

 Do you specialise in any sectors and types of work?

I translate mainly for businesses (corporate communications, marketing, contracts), the tourist industry and international development organisations. It is a nice combination, with a lot of variety. And as we live in a world forever changing and evolving, these specialisms mean that I must research things constantly to keep abreast of any changes taking place, which makes my work even more interesting. Every time I am in France, I try to find out what the new “in” words and expressions are. They come in really handy in my marketing translations.

 

 What do you value most about being an ITI member?

The ITI incarnates professionalism. It is an institute for professionals and, because the admission assessment is challenging, it gives credibility to its members. Also, coming from teaching, one of the things I found the most difficult was being suddenly alone most of the time. Having no-one to share my love and the pleasure I derive from translating. So when I joined the ITI, I felt once again part of a community, either through the forum, courses or the conference. It’s a real delight meeting other professionals who feel the same way as you, are just as passionate about their work. It is also a great way to learn from each other.

 

What does your role on the ITI Assessment Committee involve?

Under the leadership and guidance of Andrew Leigh and the ITI staff, we discussed how we could improve the assessment for admission to the ITI, so it would be a more systematic process, fair for all, whatever the language combination. We spent time working out what needed to be put in place to make it a really reliable method of gauging professionals’ skills and expertise. We also had in mind that it should to be a development tool, encouraging translators to pursue their training and have another go if they did not succeed at first. I failed one part of the diploma in translation at my first attempt, but I am really glad that I did not let it put me off. I enrolled in a preparation class and took it again the following year, successfully this time. By then I had improved and learned a lot along the way. So although it felt like a knock at first, it really did me a favour and made me a better translator in the long run.

 

What are the biggest changes you have seen in the translation sector over the last 10 years?

I work with many translation agencies and have had many battles with them in the last 10 years: they use translation memory software as a way to quote less to their customers in order to get a contract. I do use TM software, but in my mind, it is out of a desire to be consistent in my translations and achieve better results, not make it quicker or cheaper! I buy this software with quality in mind, not quantity and I find that agencies often do not see it the same way. Plus, why should I invest in the software and the training so the agency reaps the benefit? Unfortunately, this use of TMs means that a lot of unskilled translators have come onto the market, undercutting us and lowering the standards in our profession.

 

What would you say are the most important skills in your job, in addition to language skills?

I think that you need good communications skills, you need to be a good listener, so that you understand what your clients’ ultimate goals are and work with them to achieve them. It is also critical to be reliable but also truthful. You have to admit to yourself and your customers when you think a job is not for you or if you can’t achieve their deadline. As a young translator, eager to work, I took on a few jobs even though I did not feel particularly confident and comfortable with the subject matter. I ended up spending far too long on those jobs, having to research far too many things. I have now learned to say “no”, not always easy when you have bills to pay!

 

Tell us about a project you have worked on that are you proud of.

I am currently translating for a collective that fights for the rights and well-being of girls and young women all over the world. I find this work very interesting as this is a cause that is close to my heart. Even though things are far from perfect when it comes to gender equality in Europe, I still feel incredibly lucky to have been born in France and to live in Britain where I have been given the opportunity to study and be my own woman. There are so many girls and women who do not get this chance. So I am glad to be involved in some small way in this project.

 

What would be your perfect weekend?

It would have to be a nice sunny day, involve a motorbike ride or hike in the Peak District with my husband Nigel, then watching my son and his mates play rugby, followed by a relaxing and tasty meal at home with my sons and my lovely friends.

 

Who do you find inspiring?

I am regularly inspired by the colleagues I meet, be it on courses, the conference or more recently Translating in Cambridge. I do believe that I am a good professional translator, but I know I can (and must) keep learning more and improve further still. When I meet those colleagues, they give me that inspiration to avoid becoming complacent, to keep wanting to do better, to strive for perfection and keep feeling pride in the work I produce.

 

 

 

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