About me

I live on a dairy farm in the French Alps, in a tiny little village halfway between Annecy (France) and Geneva (Switzerland). If I go for a walk on our quiet country road, I can see Mont Blanc, and when I open the shutters in the morning, there are mountains everywhere. At night, the only sounds we can hear are cowbells and the occasional screech owl.

Sounds idyllic? My friends from the UK certainly think so, but then they’ve never tried getting up every day at 5:15… my husband Henri does – every single day of the year. I crawl out of bed a little later (an hour and a half later, if all be told) and join him for the final stages of milking. Farming is very hard work and our 27 dairy cows and 11 heifers need constant TLC, which is what they get on a daily basis from one very hard-working farmer, with a little help from the farmer’s wife! Henri takes his milk to the creamery twice a day, where it is immediately made into Reblochon (beautiful soft creamy cheese only produced in the Savoie region in France). I feed the calves and wash the milking machine and get called upon for emergencies.

But don’t worry, I still have plenty of time for translation – I’m back at my desk before the hens have finished laying their eggs!

Farming sort of happened to me along the way, but I fell into the world of words when I was very little. My love for the written word began before I could actually read. I used to pester my parents, picking out words in the newspaper and asking what they were. They must have been relieved when I could read for myself! And read I did…

Grandpa Thomas' Ink by Luigi Crespo

Photo by Luigi Crespo

I began by reading all the Enid Blytons I could get my hands on. Okay, it’s not exactly literature! But it was an introduction to the world of words. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that letters on a page can transport you elsewhere. When I was small, I had measles and had to stay off school. One day my mother heard me crying in bed and came rushing in to see what was wrong. I was reading a book called Jessica’s Last Prayer and it was so sad, I was crying my way through the pages. I looked up and said, “Go away! I’m enjoying myself!” My mother still laughs about it. At primary school, the only time I ever remember being punished was when my teacher discovered me reading a book about Greek mythology during sewing classes! Well, I can just about sew, but I don’t regret reading that book. I still remember those stories! This passion for books led me naturally to study literature at school and later at university, only by this time I had discovered French words, German words and even Latin words. What a wonderful world! At university I studied French literature… a long time ago now! However, once a bookworm, always a bookworm…

Why translation? Aspiring translators often say, “I love languages”. I don’t love languages – I love words. It so happens that I have access to words in two languages and it is a wonderful challenge to try and make the two languages say the same thing. Every translator knows that you can’t just substitute a word in one language for a word in another. Language is about communication and communication depends on perception, experience and surrounding influences. The thing that really made me want to translate full-time was my encounter with bad translations. The first one I remember was an Agatha Christie novel (again, not exactly literature, but she was one of the few authors whose books are to be found in English at our local library, and when I had no more left to read in English I had to tackle the French translations…). It felt as if I was reading English backwards – it was horrible!

Our house

Map courtesy of Mapquest www.mapquest.com