27 Jun 2019

ITI Profile: Victoria Fletcher Affiliate

Victoria Fletcher was recognised as one of the Best in Class students at the conclusion of the latest SUFT programme. Here we talk to her about SUFT, her work and her hopes for the future.

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

I’ve wanted to work in languages ever since I was at secondary school and regretted not studying a language at A-Level. All of my friends were studying French and engrossed in Le Petit Prince and I was jealous. I started to look into other options. When I discovered that I could study Japanese at Cardiff University from scratch I was hooked on the idea of such a complex language. I remember looking at all of the kanji symbols (which are actually adopted from Chinese) and thinking, “What have I got myself into!” I’ll never forget my first lecture when a lovely Japanese tutor informed the class that there are three writing scripts in Japanese and could we all please learn the first two by the following week. My idea of relaxing in the student bar fast became a fantasy. During my degree I spent a year studying in Japan. It was the first country I’d ever visited that felt like a completely different way of life. And I loved it.

And why translation?

That’s an easy one. I love languages and I love writing. I also really enjoy learning about different things and translation allows me to do that. I love picking apart a long Japanese sentence and turning it into something great in English. I entered the ITI Japanese Network (J-Net) translation competition in 2016 and won the newcomer category – this was the catalyst I needed to turn my attention back to translation as a career. I’ve also got a natural ability to concentrate and create for long periods, which I think is a key skill in translation. I’m not easily distracted by things and the days fly by when I’m translating. I get transported to a different world. It certainly beats my university Christmas job where I was stood in the menswear department of Debenhams thinking that I would die from boredom if I had to fold yet another cable-neck sweater.

What do you think is most challenging about starting a freelance translation business?

Believing in yourself and finding clients. It would be easy to give up when you hit the first big hurdle because working from home can be isolating. You don’t have colleagues immediately on hand to offer support or advice when the little seed of doubt plants itself in your head. There is a LOT to learn. Far more than I ever thought possible. The learning curve is steep. Fortunately now, unlike when I first started studying Japanese, the Internet means that you can find the answer to most of your problems quickly. Nothing seems insurmountable compared to a paper dictionary of 47,000 Japanese character compounds and counting the number of strokes in a symbol to look up a single kanji. Thank goodness for online dictionaries. My greatest challenge with starting a freelance translation business is spinning all of the plates and trying to ensure some kind of work-life balance.

Do you have any specialisations?

My specialisations are business, finance, marketing and advertising. I also have a personal interest in tourism and politics. My degree covered aspects such as business Japanese, accounting, economics, international business, Japanese management systems and human resource management so I am comfortable translating these subject matters. I’ve also worked as an account manager at a leading UK advertising agency so I understand marketing and advertising concepts well. I know the processes behind localising and I’ve proofread a lot of technical and creative text. I’ve witnessed the tumbleweed moment when a document gets sent to print, on a large print run of several thousand copies, with an undiscovered mistake in the text. This is why proofreading is so important. I’ve been a literacy coordinator and a senior teacher tasked with helping students develop their creative writing skills and knowledge of grammar. All of these transferable skills help me translate quality texts tailored to the target audience.

Why did you decide to do the SUFT course?

Where to start? The course was amazing. I am so glad that I decided to do it. It’s been worth every penny. Pretty much all of the questions I needed answering have been answered. The tasks are practical tasks that you would need to do anyway when setting up your own business – so I feel like I’ve got a head start on things that would have taken me a lot longer to figure out without such guidance. The workload and pace were just right. Tutors gave individual feedback every week which was invaluable. I gleaned golden nuggets of advice from every tutor. Light bulb moments were aplenty.

Ann Brooks, Professional Development Officer for the ITI, ensured that all of the webinar and discussion sessions ran smoothly. It was nice to share the experience with other translators from a multitude of backgrounds and language pairs. It was useful to learn that regardless of the language pair translators grapple with the same problems. I’ve designed my own logo and my new website is now up and running. All thanks to the advice I received on the SUFT course.

You were recognised as SUFT Best in Class – how did that feel?

Astonished! It’s a real honour to receive recognition by such experienced, expert tutors. They were all incredibly helpful and deserve their own award for tolerating my one thousand questions. Thank you!

Where would you like to be in your translation career in five years’ time?

There are so many things on my long-term plan for Fletcher Translations. Thank you to Heidi Kerschl (Chair of NWTN and ITI SUFT course tutor) for the business plan task because I use my plan daily. It serves as a great motivator to get things done. I would like to gain MITI status. I’d like to write other articles for the ITI Bulletin and complete a MOOC course on translation localisation to further deepen my knowledge. I’d also like to dip my toe into subtitling work. Follow me on Twitter (@fletcher_trans) or LinkedIn.

What would be your perfect holiday?

An autumn tour of Japan staying in traditional ryokans, bathing in natural hot springs and eating copious amounts of sushi. Going to bed every night with the feel of tatami under my bare feet. Waking every morning to visit a Japanese temple. Reading a book in the tranquillity of a Zen garden. Alternatively, a yoga retreat in India. I practice yoga daily but have never been to India. It’s definitely high on my bucket list.