Who are our Translators? Part 1: Interview with a German-English Translator


It’s very often that the people who carry out the translation work for our customers are hidden away and not given much of a voice, despite them doing a lot of the work! We have decided to try and give our customers insight into some of our translators and interpreters, so this is the first in a series of interviews with our translators.

Caroline Handschuh is a professional German – English translator with 13 years’ experience behind her in the industry. Her specialities include medical, legal (family law, real estate) and agrochemicals. She currently lives in Dublin with her family and has been working for DCU Language Services for probably close to 8 years now.

1.  How did you become a translator? 

I have an honours degree in German and French and am married to a German national.  I have always done ad hoc translation work and this developed into freelance work when I gave up full-time work after having my children.

2. What do you like about being a translator?

I find it very challenging, akin to completing a puzzle or a crossword, when the end product reads fluidly and all the pieces fall into place.  I enjoy and have an interest in all languages and creative writing, and translation contains both those aspects.

3. How do you prepare for a translation assignment/project?

If I have adequate time I read around the subject as much as possible so I have at least a basic knowledge of the topic.  I always read through the piece to be translated first rather than just “diving in” so that I can anticipate both the duration of the work and to assess the work for vocabulary which may be repeated. 

4. Do you work as a freelance translator, and if so approx. how many active clients do you work for?

Yes I am a freelance translator.  I work primarily for DCULS but also have occasional work for protected clients through various sources.  At present I have school-going children so this fulfils my requirements in terms of volume of work and I am able to allocate enough time to the work that I receive.  I have other work on an occasional basis but it is not in the translation field.

5. What could a client do to make sure that a translation project can be carried out as smoothly as possible?

Ensure that the copy is good quality and that the pages are in order and legible.  It is useful to know who the end reader / target group is and whether the translated piece is destined for in-house reading only or for wider distribution / publication. 

The client should also be realistic in relation to expectations where there is a time factor such as a tight deadline involved.

6. What is the most difficult or memorable project that you have worked on?

That is an easy question to answer: I worked on a long-term project in 2011-2012 for DCULS which concerned a legal case in Germany involving an alleged suicide / murder.  I found it very difficult not to become emotionally involved, especially as it was very specific in terms of autopsy findings, the emotional state of the protagonists and the fact that my father died during the course of my completing the project.

7. Is there anything you would advise someone considering becoming a translator?

It is a very fulfilling profession, especially if you have an interest in the written language both of the source and target texts, and a mind which enjoys solving puzzles and riddles!  It widens your general knowledge in all sorts of unexpected fields and makes your brain work, as long as you don’t mind waking up in the middle of the night and having a Eureka moment over an impossible phrase or word! 

Read and listen as much as possible in your source language and target language, keep abreast of linguistic developments and news in both countries and don’t always believe the first opinion you come across in an online dictionary forum.

8.  How do you think the translation industry has changed in the past few years, and have you got any opinion on how it will evolve over the next few years? 

I am convinced that despite the advances in technology that there is still a very valid need for the intuition, experience and personal input of a human translator.

We will be back with some more interviews with our Translation Team in upcoming blog posts! 

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