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ITI Profile: Fiona Gray

We speak to Fiona Gray MITI, who specialises in German to English translation, in the latest in our ITI Profile series.

Fiona Gray ITI ProfileWhen and why did you decide to work in languages?

If I’m completely honest, I don’t even remember deciding to work in languages – it was just a natural progression for me! I was obsessed with reading and learning from about the age of 5 and I remember borrowing a children’s book about learning German from the library whilst I was still at primary school. German and French were my favourite subjects at high school and I went on to study languages at university. I even added Spanish into the mix, picking it up from scratch during the first year of my studies and completing an intensive module that brought me up to A Level standard within the space of ten months.

What were your early work experiences as a translator?

During the year abroad component of my undergraduate degree, I worked at a small translation and interpreting company in the centre of Berlin for six months. This initial experience and insight into the translation industry was the confirmation I needed that a career in translation was the perfect future pathway for me. I started my first job as a proofreader at a large patent translation agency the month after I completed my MA dissertation and 18 months later I was hired as an in-house translator at another small agency. There I learnt from some incredibly talented translators and had the opportunity to work on a variety of text types across a range of subject areas as well as trying my hand at project management.

How has working in-house helped you in running your own business?

The experience I gained in-house has honestly been invaluable and I’m not sure I would have had the courage or skills needed to run a successful translation business of my own without it. I have been able to apply my thorough understanding of how a translation company works to my own business, particularly in terms of marketing and social media as well as the financial side of things. Best of all, being able to put myself in a project manager’s position has allowed me to build up strong relationships with clients.

Is there a recent project you are particularly proud of?

I’ve recently been translating some fashion blogs that are written in what seems to be the perfect style for me. I’ve loved getting creative and aiming the texts at a very specific English-speaking audience. After submitting one batch, I received some positive feedback from the project manager and reviewer who said that my translation had been a pleasure to proofread and clearly reflected how much I love translating the blog texts. It’s always nice to hear that you’re doing a good job and it’s even better when you had so much fun producing the translations in the first place.

What advice would you give to someone about to embark on a career in translation?

The best advice I could give would be to get networking and put yourself out there! Join the ITI, attend industry events and meet as many people as you can. I would also recommend getting as much exposure to translation work produced by more experienced translators as possible. In my proofreading roles, I picked up some fantastic tips, tricks, strategies and styles from talented colleagues. When I went on to become a translator myself, I could apply everything I had been soaking up to my own translation work. It’s also really important to get as much feedback as you can at the early stages (and onwards from there as there’s always more to learn). I was lucky enough to have my work revised in-house and I would also have meetings to go through the feedback in the form of track change reports and more general pointers. Another option could be to find a fellow translator working in the same language combination to partner up with so you could provide each other with feedback and suggestions.

What technology have you found particularly useful in running your business?

I enjoy trying out different CAT tools but the one I can’t live without is Trados Studio! I also run Verifika – a quality assurance tool – on every single project I deliver as a final step to ensure that all my translations meet the highest of quality standards. I’m also an avid user of social media and I post frequent updates on my company’s Twitter page (@GrayscaleTR). It’s a great way of keeping up with all the latest developments in the industry, connecting with fellow translators and even finding new clients.

What do you value about ITI membership?

I can’t really express just how amazing it has been to be a member of the ITI so far. I’m an active member of the London Regional Group and East Anglia Group, which has given me the opportunity to meet some inspiring professionals and make some friends as well as attending plenty of CPD events that have helped me progress as a translator and develop on a personal level. The ITI Conference in Cardiff in May last year was a truly incredible experience too (and I already can’t wait for the next one). Not to mention that I was put in touch with a client I am working with on an extended project of historical significance through the ITI German Network.

Any ambitions?

My professional goal for a long while had been to gain MITI status but I am proud to say that I passed the assessment last year! But I am still always working extremely hard to continually develop as a translator and business owner. At this stage, I’m really excited about the future of Grayscale Translations and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me and my company!

What would be your perfect holiday?

As much as I do enjoy an all-inclusive beach resort holiday, Berlin is my favourite place in the world! My husband and I spent six months in the city on our year abroad and we have been back many times since, usually returning at least once a year. We even got engaged under the Brandenburg Gate! We love going on long walks there, stopping off every so often for some traditional German food and drink to keep us going.

Do you have a favourite German author?

I’m a bit of a bookworm and you’ll usually find me with my head in a crime novel! So far, my favourite German authors writing in this genre are Nele Neuhaus and Sebastian Fitzek. There are so many German books I still want to read and I have been known to spend hours getting lost in one particular bookshop in Berlin!

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