Translator’s portrait

Mariné is a freelance Spanish translator based in NYC. She started with a bachelor in biology in Puerto Rico. She then studied general psychology and media communication. She never studied translation but helped editing and translating a book for one of her teachers and got really into it. She moved to New York to work as a Spanish project manager in the translation industry before becoming a freelancer.

Do you think that not having a formal translation degree is sometimes missing?

Definitely. When I decided to go on my own as a translator, I looked into certifying myself and I am now a certified member of the ATA (American Translators Association). It is important because it gives clients a sense of security when they look at your resume. Some clients only ask for certified members so it is better to have one.

When I came to NYC I learnt everything about the translation industry and it helped me understand how it worked: CAT tools (Computer-Assisted translation), guidelines, localization meaning not only translating but really paying attention to which country and target you are translating for. So many details that I would have not take into much account before because I did not have proper training in translations.

It may be a remnant of my biology days but the translations I enjoyed the most are the medical ones. I translate a lot in this area: healthcare, research papers. I really enjoy it.

What is your translation routine?

I have to admit that only in very few instances I read the document entirely. I do a lot of research throughout the translation, I have a lot of technical dictionaries, digital copies of course otherwise it would be impossible to carry them around! The most expensive tool I have is this industrial mammoth I use for a client in Bangalore. It cost me $600 but I managed to do a lot of translations from that one time cost.

I also do a lot of glossaries (it is easy to do with Wordfast), especially for medical subjects in which everything has to be consistent from one translation to the other. I also check the TM (Translation Memory) to be sure that everything is up to date.

I use mainly Wordfast, SDLX and then Trados. I rarely use PO Edit, which is a freeware. It is an investment but because of the amount of work, they pay off and I can deduct them from my taxes as a working tool!

Do you think that you could translate books, literary documents?

I never had the opportunity, I think I could, I have friends in this industry, they told me that it is not arid materials, you still need to do researches obviously but there is more editing, you can choose your own verbiage, your own words. If I had the opportunity and the time, I would totally go for it.

Is there anything that you translated, that you feel really proud of? 

The job I had the most fun with was the translation of a video game called Section 8, a sci-fi video game released in the US, France, Spain and some other countries. I would translate it into Spanish for the US and someone would edit it into Spanish for Spain afterwards. Everything was so interesting. It took us 5 months and I was sick of it at some point, it was really a fulltime job but it was really fulfilling, I got to play the demo for testing purposes, How much fun could that be? Yeah, I am testing a video game; lets check this translation while I am killing that monster.  I think that’s the translation I am the most proud of.

How does that work to find jobs? Are you looking or do agencies contact you directly? Any active searching?

I am in a couple of forums (ProZ for example) where I pay annual fees; I am also a member of the ATA. I have clients who send me regular amounts of work, like in Spain or in India. NYC-based agencies send me a mix of DTP proof, testings, and proofreadings…  I do lot of different things which I like, it is nicely balanced. I don’t have time (and I said this as a good thing) to do a lot of searching on those forums.

How do you sensibilize the clients about the amount of work? Educate them?

Today, we really have to educate the client about what is translation and how it works. In my Project Manager days, we would get ridiculous requests of huge amount of words to translate in one day. They sometimes do not understand that even if it is small, if it is technical, you would need someone specialized in this area, you cannot translate technical stuff out of thin air, and you need a specialist! And of course, they sometimes want the translation for yesterday and they are trying to pay as less as possible. Or on the contrary, they say that they can pay you rush fees but you cannot do things magically, after all you only have one brain and one pair of arms!

I also sometimes have to explain the differences of language flavors. Each Spanish-speaking country would have a different one. There are 400 millions of Spanish-speaking people in the world and that is a lot of people! Companies are trying to get to everyone but a translation will always be geared towards one country depending on the translator. For example, if I translate for people in Puerto Rico, Spanish people/Spaniards will understand the bulk of it but not everything especially if it is colloquial. You have to make the client understand that you have to filtrate people and adjust according to the country. We are not outshining the others but you have to be realistic. If you think more Americans will go on your website, you ask for a US Spanish and not a Spanish for Spain.

For technical translation, it is a bit different as it is quite universal even though sometimes it can differ like Pneumonia or pulmonia… even medical terms can have differences depending if it is formal or not.

What do you like so much about translation?

I feel like I am helping to build bridges, to help communicating. I would have missed so many good books if they had not been translated into English and Spanish. There is really something beautiful about helping people communicate.

Today, a lot of what I do is for profit but I sometimes do things just for free, to help and it is extremely rewarding to have people thanking me and saying that thanks to my translation, they were able to understand what the topic was about.

People say that a job you love is a job that you are willing to do for free and that’s how I know that I am really in the right place doing what I love.

Thank you Mariné!


I may be passionate about translation; I never got into the theory. My school (ISIT) gives us a various amount of history of translation, traductology, etc but even if I am the curious kind I always found them extremely annoying. When someone gave me the book “Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything”, you can understand that I was not really thrilled.

I could not be more wrong! I could not put the book down until I was done reading it.

The author, David Bellos is a Comparative literature teacher at Princeton University and an experienced translator. He did the award-winning translation of George Pérec’s books. David Bellos does not pretend to “tell you how to translate or how I translate” contrary to most translations books trying to explain what is translation and how to learn it.

He takes a close interest to literary translation, automatic translation, the comic book series Asterix, interpretation or subtitles using entertaining and captivating anecdotes. What was the use of the first dictionaries? Why is Russian language lacking a word for blue? How to translate what a fig is in a language that has no idea what a fig is? Is English hegemony a treat to other languages? In a book bursting with examples, some are food for thoughts and make yourself ask questions that would not have crossed your mind in the first place.

Language lovers will of course love this book, translators as well but also any curious person keen to learn and understand more the world they live in. I am more into novels but I loved “Is That a Fish in Your Ear? Translation and the Meaning of Everything” and I hope you will love it as well!

Press review

We have selected some images, videos and recent articles that we liked and we’re sure you’ll be interested in!

About languages :

The Art of Mastering Many Languages

You think that learning one language is hard enough and lets not even mention two! Learn more about people that have mastered up to 90 different langues (and why you and I will never go this far).

(in English)



 Amazing Map of All of America’s Dialects

In one state, accents can be very different, what about the whole country? Thousands of different ways to pronounce a single word in just one map!

(in English)



Bilingual babies

Yup, babies have a brain and yes the earlier they can learn different languages the better! Learn more about babies that grow up in a bicultural environment and how the mechanism works.

(in English)



About intercultural issues:


What does it mean to be polite?

To understand where does the word “polite” come from and why everything that is “polite” or “rude” can be explained by our cultural history.

(in English)




Jean Dujardin’s “F” word at the Oscars

Why Jean Dujardin “f” word during the Oscar ceremony can shock the United States (and cost a great deal of money to American channels as well).

(in French)

How are French people perceived abroad?

Find out more about the main French stereotypes from French baguette to unshaved armpits and strikes. Somehow, they do not seem to agree.

(in French)


About automatic translation:



Instantaneous translation progress

True story: an app that would translate right away a phone conversation or two people talking in the same room!

(in French)



Tips for translators:

A great insight into today automatic translation: definition, origins, possibilities vs reality, differences between AT systems, profitability, obstacles, expectations…

(in Spanish)



and to end with a flourish, a funny video on different types of Spanish all over the world :


And an extra:

These last few years, exchange programs between universities across the world have become very popular. Every year, thousands of students choose to go studying or working as interns abroad. They often come home with amazing memories, new knowledge and priceless experiences.

Within the European Union, the Erasmus program is the most commonly known. Erasmus stands for European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students and makes a reference to humanist Desiderius Erasmus who was, in his time, a real pioneer in terms of studying abroad. The Erasmus program was created 25 years ago and aimed at promoting exchanges for students and professors. Since then, more than 2 million young Europeans have been granted scholarships to go study in partner universities for one or two semesters. During the academic year 2009-2010, the number of students participating in the Erasmus program broke a new record and reached 200,000. France, Germany and Spain welcome the greatest number of students every year (source: http://ec.europa.eu/education/lifelong-learning-programme/doc80_en.htm).

Nowadays, having some experience of living abroad is no longer considered as a strength: it is almost an obligation.

What are the main advantages of staying abroad?

First, a better education: the tutorial system is usually different and classes are not organized as in the students’ home countries. Thus, they have to broaden their minds and go into further detail to understand perfectly their classes. They learn to master other ways of working and to consider their subject of study from other points of view.

Moreover, they are usually immersed in new languages and cultures which is an amazing experience and a real strength on a résumé. By getting in contact with the locals, they can really get to know a new culture and get a better understanding of the habits, ways of thinking and of functioning of the country they are in.

From an individual point of view, living abroad is even more enriching. Students will have to learn to live on their own and to be independent. Should they have problems, they learn to solve them by themselves as there is often no one around to help them. Multicultural experiences help broaden the mind and are really useful in a professional environment. Students usually grow up while living abroad and learn to be open when meeting new people. Strong friendships often grow between exchange students coming from all over the world. They develop international networks, which can always be useful when looking for a job.

As a general basis, managers usually consider that students who lived abroad have more managerial skills, know how to adapt to new situations especially intercultural situations. And usually, they are not afraid to go working abroad.

Still not convinced that you need international experiences?

Stop hesitating, pack your bags and go have an amazing experience that you won’t forget to find out by yourself!

More information on the Erasmus program:


Few testimonies:





We all have stereotypes about certain cultures. Sometimes, they are based on our own experiences, sometimes they are not. We imagine Dutch people as greedy, with blond hair and pants too short, English as real gentlemen, stylish and drinking tea, Spanish people as Casanovas taking a nap, German as always on time or Russians as cold and big on vodka…

Stereotypes have always existed, no matter the culture, and they are usually reinforced by their existence in literature and the media. The discipline in charge of creating such image is known as imagology. Even if there is still little research done in this field, it is really interesting. Joep Leerssen, professor of Modern European Literature at the University of Amsterdam, is a real pioneer. He published a book entitled “Imagology, The cultural construction and literary representation of national characters”, in which he describes stereotypes of certain cultures and nationalities throughout History.

More recently, this approach is found in the works of Ferber & Davies. In their book “Pardon our French: French stereotypes in American Media”, they focus on the image that Americans have of French people. They are seen as romantic, handsome, unpleasant, arrogant, pedantic, bossy, quarrelsome, negative, selfish, immoral, food-loving and elegant. In addition, they smell bad, they don’t shave, they talk but can’t make decisions, they don’t obey rules and don’t comply with deadlines and procedures, they go on strike for anything and smoke all the time.

These stereotypes appear in Stephen Clarke’s books, such as “A year in the merde” and “Merde actually”. His novels describe in a humorous manner the integration into French society of his hero, Paul West. He focuses on the differences between the French and English cultures and on various aspects of life in France. Paul West comes to Paris with highly stereotyped opinions and once he gets there, tries to check if his clichés are true or completely made up.

To conclude, here are some funny sequences of “A year in the merde”, filled with French stereotypes:

· “This is a real Anglo-style meeting. Taking decisions.” Decisions? We can’t agree, so we decide to pay a consultant who’s going to be bribed into agreeing with the guy with the crappiest ideas. Didn’t seem very constructive to me”.

· “H.L.M.” She spelled it out in English. “It means habitation à loyer modéré or something like that. Low-cost apartments.” She giggled. “Although all the residents are lawyers, doctors etc. Or the sons and daughters and friends of politicians. Papa got me this apartment from a friend at the Hôtel de Ville”.

· “He explained that the waiter wanted to cash up now because, like all the other unionized waiters in Paris – that is, most of the blokes in black waistcoats, and they are, strangely enough, almost all male – he was going on strike as of now, “thirteen hours””.

· “At other tables, people were all taking part in the same deal but the waiter shouted at them or just ignored them”

Additional information:

Video about French stereotypes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERD2TnMNH98 (English version)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCIAyHEFTrQ&feature=relmfu (French version)

More information about Stephen Clarke and his novels:


Supermarket Wine Fairs

By Hélène Classine (5e MI)

A French success that would have great difficulties to impose itself in North America

The concept

Every year in France, at the end of September, just after the grape harvest, supermarkets organize wine fairs. For one week or two, they dedicate a large space to wine. Consumers can find a huge choice of wine, at all prices.

The biggest supermarkets also have employees working in that space to give advice to the consumers and to offer wine tasting.
This business concept is well-rooted in the French culture. Every year, supermarket wine fairs are very successful: around 20% of the total amount of wine sold annually in France is bought in supermarkets during that period.

Wine fairs were first launched by the supermarkets Leclerc and Auchan in the seventies. Later, other supermarkets as well as wine merchants and specialized liquor stores also implemented this concept.

Why is this concept such a success in France?

Wine and France
As beer is the first alcoholic beverage in other countries, wine is the major one in France.

First of all, it is a major aspect of French culture. France is well-known for its gastronomy, and French cuisine always has to come with the perfect wine to accompany it. It is much more than a sole alcoholic beverage: it is part of any proper meal – if not every day, at least on Sunday’s meals.
Traditionally, wine conveys a spirit of celebration, pleasure and sharing.

Many studies have also demonstrated the beneficial effects of red wine on the health when consumed in moderation (preventive effects against cardiovascular diseases, cancer and dementia).

It is also important to note that France is the world’s largest wine producer (before Italy and Spain) and the third exporter. There are 3,420 different wines produced in France.

Wine in supermarkets
Consumers can buy wine directly from the producer, through cooperatives or in liquor stores. Nevertheless, seven out of ten bottles are sold in supermarkets, where you usually find the cheapest wine. And it is also more accessible: when one is inviting friends or family over, he or she can choose the wine and buy the ingredients for the meal to prepare at the same time and place. It is a lot easier and faster for the consumer.

A commercial operation
This business concept is a success because supermarkets use a cultural tradition to highlight a product. This concept enables the expert consumers to buy good wines at interesting prices, helps the enlightened ones develop their knowledge about wine and discover new products, and teaches the basics of oenology to non-specialists.

Why wouldn’t this concept work in North America?

The concept would have to face great obstacles to impose itself in the United States or in Canada.

Legal Context
The first obstacle would be a legal one. In most states or provinces of both countries, selling alcohol is highly regulated. The 21st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution authorizes each State to regulate the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages.
It is generally forbidden to sell alcohol in supermarkets: you can only buy it in specialized liquor stores that own a specific license. Therefore, organizing wine fairs in supermarkets would simply be impossible.

Read more about US Wine Shipping Laws

Cultural context
Gastronomy and wine are not an integrated part of the North American culture as it is in France: even though the consumption is growing fast, drinking wine is not yet a well-rooted habit in North America.

In 2010, the average consumption per person amounted to 9.6 liters in the US, 13.4 liters in Canada… and almost 50 liters in France!

In France, most parents allow their children to taste wine long before they are legally authorized to do so. By doing so, they are teaching them an aspect of their culture and history. This behavior is really rare in North America, where wine is just an alcoholic beverage among others and is generally drunk outside mealtimes as it is not associated to gastronomy.

The cultural context also explains why American consumers can find many types of containers: plastic bottles, tetra-bricks, glass bottles with stoppers that unscrew easily, etc. Those now exist in France but are far less numerous than the classic glass bottle with cork stoppers and it took consumers a long time to accept and buy them.

Economic context
From an economic point of view, wine fairs in North America would struggle to be profitable, even if the law was to authorize them.

Wine in the US

The distribution system in the United States  is very complex. The great number of intermediaries increases the wine market prices and therefore makes wine less accessible to the general public.
Although the United States is the world’s first consumer of wine  (because of the great number of potential consumers) and the fourth producer, the share of wine represents less than 10% of their total consumption of alcoholic beverages.

And even though individual consumption of wine has doubled in forty years in the US and increased by 66% over the last ten years in Canada  (!), it remains marginal in North America


In a word, supermarkets wine fairs today would probably not be successful in North America… unless this business concept is adapted to the context, turning them for instance into supermarkets beer fairs?

Some other links of interest about wine consumption in the US:


An interview with Marie-Agnès Latourte, head of the Intercultural Communication and Translation (CIT) Master’s at ISIT. ISIT alumni, professor and translator.

CIT & Learn: What makes the CIT Master’s so special?

The CIT Master’s, like any other Master’s is constantly evolving – especially compared to other translation degrees. We introduced intercultural communication classes in 4th year to complete the translation skills that our students have (in both languages and technical writing). For six years, we carried out a market study and we realized that ISIT’s initial name (Higher Institute of Interpreting and Translation) was reductive and deadlocked so we changed it to Higher Institute of Intercultural Management and Communication. However, ISIT remains a translation and interpreting school, even if our classes are more diverse.

We pay particular attention to companies’ and graduates’ feedback. Between 30% and 50% of our students end up working in the field of translation. We wanted them to have other skills to be able to work in other sectors and to make them true project managers through the PRA and PRE projects. Sometimes, it is hard to see the point but they develop actual methods which are really useful in their business life. The PRE (Research project within a company), which is a peculiarity of the CIT Master’s, help students to fit in the company as they develop a project with their tutor or other colleagues in order to meet one of the company’s need. They become indispensible and are sometimes hire at the end of their internship.

CIT & Learn: Because of the current job crisis, schools must be particularly worried about their students’ employability. What makes CIT students desirable to recruiters?

ISIT students have specific and unique skills that they develop through internships and projects. They are versatile (they do not know only how to translate!) and easily understand the instructions they are given. Some of our students end up working in highly technical and complex working environments (Orange, Geodis, EDF, etc.). Recruiters usually like our students’ professional background: their internships and apprenticeship are much-valued. Lots of their soft skills are also appreciated: their behavior, curiosity, respect as well as intercultural skills (i.e. they know how to adapt to other cultures and people and know how to listen).

Cit & Learn: In addition to redefining classes, what is ISIT doing to help students find jobs?

First, we implemented an employability policy in which we try to involve students. We make students do internships in their 1st year, which is something new. Depending on the level of study, internships are longer or have to be done abroad. For five years, we have been working to have better relationships with the APEC (French Association for the Employment of Executives): members come to raise awareness among our students about professional careers and ways to find jobs. We also set up simulated job interviews for fourth and fifth year students with actual human resources managers who have a neutral and objective opinion on them.

We also highlight our apprenticeship programs, which is something entirely new for the Intercultural Management Master’s. Of course, there is a lot students do not see: relationships with companies (business breakfasts with potential tutors or alumni). We also encourage students to take a year off: more and more leave school to work for a year either in France or abroad. We also visit the companies our apprentices are working in: it is essential to develop a human contact between the school and their work environment.

When drawing up CVs, we realize that internships, apprenticeships and sometimes their translation thesis are essential: they are true professional skills which attract recruiters.

CIT & Learn: To you, what is the essential balance between “theoretical” and “practical” classes in order to help students find jobs?

It is an interesting question but as a linguist, the word “balance” does not seem really appropriate to me. Let’s look at a definition: “Equality of strengths between two opposing elements or the state of stability and harmony resulting” which seems more adapted. We are not looking for a power relationship: it is true that our programs are constantly evolving which is something usually unsettling for our students but, to quote Marie Mériaud-Brischoux, our headmaster, “If we do not go forward, we go backwards”. I would rather talk about complementarity. Theoretical and practical classes complete one another. Our apprentices quickly realize that: their work within their companies allow them to understand better technical classes such as XML or SQL.

CIT & Learn: What makes ISIT the perfect place to understand interculturality? What are its strengths? Do you precise examples to give us? Do you witness intercultural situations when you set up partnerships with foreign universities?

First, our professors are a perfect example of interculturality: they speak various languages, come from different cultures and as such, have different teaching methods. We also welcome lots of Erasmus and METS students. All of this makes us realize that there are different approaches to translate: languages truly reflect cultures and personalities. To quote Michel Boutaud: “a language is the beginning of a new life”. Another one his sentences, which I really like, is “learning a new language is getting a new soul”. We learn and discover a lot: it is essential to get closer to culture in its wider sense.

I went to London to set up a European partnership with the University of Westminster as part of a Long Live Term Program (two years) for the PIT program (Promoting Intercultural Competence in Translation) with Italians, Polish, English, Norwegians, etc. to introduce intercultural skills in the academic programs (which we are already doing at ISIT): we had an interesting conversation about the way we understand the word “framework”. English understand it as an open word, more like guidelines whereas Polish or Norwegians see it as something much more fixed and settled.

Frédérique de Graeve (head of the Intercultural Management Master’s): I can add an example: one of our former student used to work at  XXX and was in charge of setting up a transfer of competencies in HR to Romania: she had to go there on a regular basis to train people and facilitate the transfer. The problem was that Romanians (because of the Communist regime), did not recognize her authority: to them, there is only one chief and he had to go there himself so that they realize all the changes and training cessions to be set up.

Marie-Agnès Latourte: It is essential to understand the codes of the country we are working with in to efficient and carry out a project.

CIT & Learn: In the work environment, how it is a strength to have an intercultural expertise?

It brings a better understanding of the methods used to work in concrete projects. It helps to anticipate the reactions of the people we are working with (mails, negotiations, answers, etc. : Koreans for instance do not talk during a meeting and wait for the end to give their opinions and remarks).

Let’s take the example of an advertising campaign that Coca-Cola develop in the Persian Gulf: they did not focus enough on the countries’ communication habits. They chose the desert, which is something relevant to Arabic countries but forgot that in these countries, people read from right to left! The message was read completely backwards. As linguist, we always have to wonder how our message is going to be received.

Le message que voulait faire passer Coca Cola : boire du Coca redonne de l'énergie !
What Coca Cola wanted…

At the top, the message that Coca-Cola wanted to disseminate. At the bottom, the way it was received.

What Coca Cola got…

CIT & Learn: Throughout the years, ISIT and its programs changed to adapt to the modern world, which is faster and much more multicultural. What can you tell us about that?

If we look back to a couple years ago, we might want to talk about a revolution rather than an evolution, particularly for the CIT Master’s. We tried to adapt to companies’ and interculturality experts’ demands. There were less and less vacant positions for translators (less translation departments within companies, lower prices, etc.). We could not train 100 translators a year knowing that only 10 of them would find a job. Nowadays, this tendency is changing, particularly thanks to international organizations in which lots of translators are retiring. They are setting up huge recruiting campaigns. And let’s not forget that our Master’s went from 4 to 5 years.

In addition, we tried to develop networks with companies (apprenticeships for example) but also with schools and universities (FESIC, METS, SFT, CGE, FIT, CIUTI etc.): we open the school to the world by promoting exchanges. This year, we opened an international department headed by Marina Burke.


ISIT website