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ITI Profile - Hannah Keet

We talk to Hannah Keet – German and French into English translator and member of the ITI Brexit Working Party – in the latest in our ITI Profile series.

When and why did you decide you wanted to work in languages?

Hannah KeetI’ve always enjoyed learning languages, and I was good at it in school. I had a good idea that I wanted to work in languages back in secondary school. So doing French and German for my GCSEs and A Levels and then studying languages and translation at university was a natural progression for me.


What have you found most challenging and rewarding about freelancing?

The most challenging thing was figuring out what I wanted to specialise in. I graduated from university and went straight into translation – like many translators my age, I didn’t have qualifications in any other fields and so I’ve had to do as much CPD as possible in my specialist areas of travel, tourism and marketing so that I can deliver accurate translations.

At the end of a project, when the client comes back and thanks me for my hard work – that’s the most rewarding thing about my job.


How did you come to specialise in tourism and marketing?

After I graduated, I landed an in-house translator position at Amazon. The job involved translating product descriptions for items intended for sale on the UK website. This is where my marketing specialism began. When I went freelance, I advertised marketing as one of my specialisms. I continued to develop my translation and writing style through CPD. Being able to write well is pretty important in marketing as this field is all about being able to carry a message across and make it stick.

As for tourism, I was asked to join an on-call team of translators working for an airline several years ago. When it came to evaluating my business and coming up with a business plan, I realised that travel and tourism – aviation in particular – had become a huge part of my work. So I started doing CPD in that field to broaden my knowledge. I’m now heading more towards wellness tourism, even though I am not the biggest fan of the word “wellness”!


Do you think you need to have copywriting skills to translate marketing materials?

It’s not mandatory, but it’s a definite advantage! In the field of marketing, making the message catchy is often more important than carrying every subtlety of meaning across. So if you are a skilled copywriter, it will certainly help.

But it also depends on what the client wants. They may want a translation that sticks closely to the original text. I often find this with German, as lots of my clients can speak excellent English and they then question why I’ve translated the text in a certain way, when they were expecting more of a word-for-word translation. Yet they may want something closer to transcreation than translation, which requires a different skill set altogether!


Do you travel a lot in the course of your work?

I don’t strictly have to travel for work as I usually work from home. But I attend one or two tourism trade fairs and at least one translation conference per year, so I do get to travel a fair amount. I’m considering venturing into the “digital nomad” lifestyle next year – picking out several destinations, taking the essentials from my office and heading off on a working adventure. But we’ll see how things pan out!


What sort of projects have you worked on for Translators without Borders?

It’s been quite a long time since I volunteered for Translators without Borders! I’m really keen to “donate words” to them, it’s just a matter of being available when assignments are being allocated. I mainly did subtitling jobs for an organisation, but I don’t remember too much about it. It was difficult because they only sent us the French subtitles, not the videos, and we had to stick to certain character and line limits, as is customary in subtitling.


Describe a project you found particularly rewarding.

The Translators without Borders projects are always rewarding. It’s nice knowing that my work is being used for a good cause.

I’ve also done a few translations for a not-for-profit organisation working with women who have experienced human trafficking and forced prostitution. Receiving an email at the end of the project telling me I’ve helped to make a real difference to these women’s lives was the best feeling ever!


How has ITI membership helped you?

ITI membership has enabled me to network with members in my local area. Before I joined ITI, I gained the impression I was the only translator in a 50 mile radius. I was wrong!

Membership has also made it easier for me to sign up with translation agencies. Many require two professional references, but I prefer not to disclose information about my clients, so I inform them that I had to provide a number of professional references when I joined ITI. This usually satisfies their requirements!


What are your favourite places to visit in France and Germany?

I absolutely love Berlin. I lived there for six months when I was a student. It’s a great city with a really edgy vibe. Every time I go back, I feel at home while also realising that it’s been almost ten years since I lived there! So much has changed in this time and there is always something new to see and do whenever I visit.

I haven’t actually seen much of France, which is crazy because it’s just a short ferry trip away from Plymouth. I’ve been to Paris, Nancy and I accidentally ended up in Montpellier back in 2010 when the ash cloud loomed over Europe and every flight on the continent was cancelled. I was in Barcelona at the time. Luckily my then boyfriend’s parents were holidaying near Montpellier, so they took us in for a few days!


What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about working as a translator since you started your career?

I guess the most important thing I’ve learned is that you never stop learning. If you think your training is done once you’ve graduated university (or whichever route leads you to translation), think again! I’m always working on my writing skills and on expanding my knowledge of my specialist fields. And that’s never going to stop.


Why did you decide to join the Brexit Working Party?

Like many of my colleagues, I was really unhappy with the referendum result. So when Sarah advertised the Brexit Working Party in the ITI Bulletin, I decided to channel my energy into something productive rather than just reading about the developments in the news and getting into heated debates about it with friends and family!


What sort of things have you worked on in the BWP so far?

We started by sending out a survey to members to find out what was most important to them. And now we are looking at ways to get our voices heard. This includes individuals writing to, or making appointments to see, their MP (more details are available on the ITI website here); attending meetings on Brexit in our local areas; and monitoring the latest developments and news. We are quite a small core team, so we are also investigating ways to work with other professional associations and groups to achieve our aims.

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