Translation and Language Interview

Buenos dias from Barcelona!

Today’s blog post is an interview with the lovely Constanze Arnold of Language Muscle fame. Her blog combines her main passions of translating and fitness, with plenty of tips on how to stay healthy as a freelancer.

So, without further ado, here are my questions for her and her answers! Don’t forget to check out her blog if you’re a fan of translation or languages (which I hope you are, since you are reading my site!) and of staying healthy while you do so.

1 – If you could wake up fluent in any language which would you choose and why?

Probably Arabic – specifically Algerian Arabic. My husband is Algerian, and he and his friends are so loud and animated when they talk! Sometimes I watch them and I wish I could join in with their conversation, because it looks so interesting. I know a fair few words in Algerian, but nowhere near enough to hold a conversation with. It would also be lovely as it would mean I could get to know my family in law a bit better! My other answer would be British Sign Language, as I think it’s beautiful.

2 – Do you prefer freelancing or working 9-5 and why?
At the moment I’m both employed and self-employed, and I like the balance of the two – for financial reasons, amongst others. I also really appreciate my job, and that my employer allows me the flexibility to do everything I want to do. But I’ve seen how the quality of my life has improved since I started freelancing (I’m happier, more confident, and more positive in general), and for that reason alone I lean slightly more towards freelancing.

3 – What would your absolute dream job situation be?

I’m working towards it! As well as translating, my other, big passion is fitness. I’m actually training to become a fitness instructor at the moment. I would love to be able to create a perfectly balanced, freelance lifestyle consisting of translating, and teaching fitness classes. Someone once told me that it’s a ‘pipe dream’ to make a living actually doing the things you love. I’m going to prove them wrong.


4 – If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

I would tell myself not to listen to other people so much. When I was younger, I listened too much to negative comments. Each time I expressed an interest in something, or a desire to be something, somebody would pipe up and point out all of the flaws in it. The thing is I listened to them. Consequently, I never did anything. I gave up on all of my ideas and my ambitions. And now I’ve learnt that no matter what you do, someone, somewhere, will have something bad to say about it, so you should just do whatever you want to do. I wish I’d have known then that other people don’t govern my life; I do.

5 – What advice would you give to newbies who want to break into translation?

Assuming you have the necessary skills or qualifications to be able to do it, I’d say start out by doing regular searches on job sites for translation jobs in your language pair. This requires patience, but it’s worth it in the end. Also, think outside the box a little bit – I found my first job on Gumtree, and since then I’ve made numerous contacts and found work through Twitter, so anything is possible! What you could also do is join an organisation such as Translations for Progress, where you can do translation work on a voluntary basis (you don’t need any qualifications or experience to do this). This will give you the experience and confidence you need to apply for jobs. I also recommend reading books on translation for tips and hints, such as Corrine McKay’s ‘How To Succeed As A Freelance Translator’ and ‘Becoming A Translator’ by Douglas Robinson. Both of these books helped me a lot!


6 – What techniques do you use to keep improving language skills?
I have a job writing for a German language & culture blog, so writing and researching for that keeps me up to date with all things German, while the writing itself keeps my English skills in check! I also read both English and German books, listen to German radio and podcasts, and last year I wrote my entire diary in German as a challenge to myself. I also indulge all of my friends, colleagues and acquaintances when they ask me “How do you say … in German?”  (I absolutely love that!) I also follow lots of language professionals on Twitter, so I often bookmark any interesting articles or bits of information concerning language that I find on there. I think the key is to expose yourself to language as much as possible, and in the most ‘natural’ ways possible!

7 – Where in the world do you most want to visit?
Mexico. I want to go to Frida Kahlo’s house. I’m a little bit in love with her.

8 – What don’t you like about your job?
I don’t like all of the sitting down. It makes me fidgety, and I don’t like how bad it is for you to sit down for long periods of time. Before I started translating I’d never had a desk job, and it was a bit of a shock to the system. When I first started out, sitting down hurt my back and shoulders so much I was unsure if I actually wanted to be a translator at all! Now I’ve learnt how to manage my time so I can do my job without hurting myself (but I still don’t like sitting down!).

9 – How do you deal with a boring or lonely day of freelancing?
I usually equip myself with various things to keep my spirits up, such as coffee (lots of coffee!), a massive breakfast, and some good music or the radio, to combat the feelings of loneliness. Sometimes I take my work to a cafe, so I don’t feel so isolated at home. I also usually incorporate exercise into my day, so I either do a workout before I start, or go to the gym in the evenings when I’m finished. This is great motivation for me to get things done, and it actually makes me work more efficiently!

10 – Do you have a role model and who is it?

I don’t have a role model as such, but my husband’s work ethic, confidence and determination really inspires me to be the best that I can be. He has done really well for himself, and he is never negative or self-deprecating, even when things are tough. I am trying to adopt his attitude. He hates it when I say ‘I can’t do it’. Slowly but surely, I am trying to cut this phrase out of my vocabulary.

Thanks Conni for answering my questions! I hope you guys enjoy reading them as much as I did and that you can put some of her tips into practice. I for one will certainly be ordering a couple of translation books and trying to spend some more time working out.

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