Written by:
Jun 14, 2019

An Interview with a Translator: How German Translator Christiane Hesse Works

This article is a part of a series where we interview the team behind Drops, sharing a bit about what they do, how they started working in the language field, and why they enjoy being involved in the world of languages.

Name: Christiane Hesse

Location: Germany

Languages: English and German

One word that best describes how you work: Two words—structured chaos

How a German Translator works

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are today.

I have an M. A. (Magistra Artium) in history and German philology. I also have a background in creative writing and proofreading for a publishing house. I also lived in the UK and had Irish and British partners (I’ll talk about this more below).

I first got into software localization as a localization project manager for a games publisher and distributor. I built up their localization department. After this, I worked as a Senior Software Localisation Project Manager and finally as the head of a translation department for an agency in the UK. The moment I moved back to Germany, some 14 years ago, marks the start of my career as a freelance linguist.

What made you first interested in translating?

I am an anglophile. I have a knack for writing. I am a gamer. Somehow it all fell together. It wasn't planned.

Take us through a standard workday for you--what are some of the things you do as a translator?

Work at a computer. At home, on my own for many, many hours.

What apps, tools, or resources could you not live without in your work?

I need to have very good, powerful hardware, a good CAT tool which usually means an offline tool, Microsoft Office, a fast and reliable internet connection, a very good speech recognition software, various tools for small technical tasks, some of them focusing on QA, and all the tools one needs for the entrepreneurial side of the business. Translating is only one part of the job. Freelancers are first and foremost entrepreneurs.

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What’s a “hack” or learning technique that you use to figure things out in a new language?

Fall in love with somebody that speaks your target language as his/her mother tongue. And who does NOT speak your mother tongue at all. Ever tried discussing crucial relationship matters in a foreign language?

How do you keep track of what you have to do?

"There's an app for that!" There are several software solutions to choose from.

What’s your least favorite thing to do and how do you tackle it?

Getting up in the morning. Setting the alarm helps.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

The best about freelancing is that I am free to make my own mistakes and don't have to rely on management to do them for me.

What are you currently reading or what would you recommend?

Professionally for a translator? Anything that helps to hone one's skill as an entrepreneur.

What’s the best advice related to languages that you’ve ever received?

I can't recall ever receiving any advice regarding learning languages, I am afraid. Maybe my mother insisting on me taking Latin in school instead of French was a good idea though. Latin really helps a lot with understanding how languages work.

How has knowing multiple languages impacted your life?

In so many ways that I can't mention them all. It gives you a completely different view on life. The moments you speak another language you become a different person. You remain yourself but a different version of yourself.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

For anybody wanting to become a translator—if you want to be worth your salt please realize that it is much harder than many people think. And first and foremost—you do not only need to know a different language (and culture!), you also need to be a really good writer in your own mother tongue. This job is about more than words--it’s also about ideas, concepts, creativity, precision, and last but not least helping people understand.

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