Mother’s Day Translator Special
In light of the past and upcoming Mother’s Day celebrations across the world, we’ve interviewed the team mom, Soizic Cifuentes. She was first of the Cifuentes’ to get into the translation profession and inspired the rest of us to follow in her footsteps.
How did you get into translation?
I always knew that my profession would be linked to writing. When I was a child, I was always writing fictions. I have many unpublished short stories in my desk drawers. In my young adulthood, I wrote and produced playwrights in a few small theaters and community centers in Paris. Then I got married in my late twenties and moved to California with my new husband. In Southern California, I started a whole new life, a new adventure, as a wife and as the mother of 3 children. I had chosen to stay at home to raise them and homeschool them.
At the same time, I wanted to be productive. I still was managing to find time to write stories here and there, but I wanted to be more productive, financially speaking, and do something that I enjoy. I started teaching French to homeschooler groups and adults. There was no teaching material available to make the class fun. What was available did not fit my creative teaching technique, so I created my own. We were barely using books, but rather making things, building model villages to learn places and directions, cooking easy French recipes to learn measuring units, games to converse. I decided to use various French materials and translate them (part French, part English) to create a French curriculum that the kids could enjoy and that I could reproduce for other classes.
Even though I loved teaching French, I very soon understood that translation was more enjoyable for me. What would become my profession went through a very natural evolution. It was the perfect mix: I could stay at home and be with my children while using my writing skills to earn money. As my kids grew older, my skills and my business grew as well. By the time they were all grown up, I was working full time as a professional translator.
What made you choose homeschooling over public school?
I have never been a fan of a strict schedule for adults, but even less for children. A 9 to 5 job always seemed dreadful to me, not to mention being a creativity killer. A long time ago, I had written a novel called L’animal divin. It is a story forgotten somewhere in one of my drawers. The divine animal represented the huge potential that sleeps deep within each one of us. I think in each child, the “divine animal” is not asleep. It is well alive and strong. There is this wild creativity. They draw, they paint, they sing, they play music with whatever they find, they perform plays, they invent words and stories with strange creatures, they make a beautiful mess where their sense of imagination and curiosity has no limit.
We see mess and they see magic. But as they grow older, they lose track of this divine potential. They barely remember those magic times because we adults get busy putting limits around their sense of imagination, as if we were afraid of it. It has no space to grow and little by little, it shrinks, it gets buried under meaningless and irrelevant tasks and schedule of school activities. By the time we have become adults, we have learned to create our own clean obstacles.
I did not want to bury the obvious divinity in each one of my children. I did not want to be the killer of wonder. I wanted them to follow their interests, to allow them to breathe at their own pace, to let them finish dreaming in the morning, without rushing their childhood. That is the main reason I did not choose public school. Homeschooling has been a very rewarding experience with its difficulties and doubts, and I would do it all over again.
What’s it like to work with your family?
To me, it was a natural evolution: from learning together to working together. We know each other, our limits, and our strengths. Although we live in different continents, our profession keeps us close. When we discuss terminology on Skype, I am not the mother, wife or teacher anymore. I am a professional having a conversation with another professional over a term for a specific context. Even though I have a longer experience than my daughter, I have learned a great deal from her. I used to see my profession like a virtual activity where translators and clients were perfectly invisible and it did not matter. Sometimes, I know them only by their writing or their voice. Maéva has a very different approach. She reaches out. She shares an office with other professionals. She goes to many translation and business conferences. She organizes informal meetings between translators. As a colleague, she brings a new vision, a new perspective.
What’s your favorite kind of translation, and why?
When I started, I thought I would find my way into the literary field, but I did not even try. I immediately plunged into the translation projects I was assigned. I soon got busy with humanitarian projects. They are my favorite for various reasons: they involve several other domains such as legal, medical, healthcare, education, and agriculture, and I love having a diversity of subjects in a single field. I also like the idea that I can support humanitarian work through my translations, contributing to the improvement of the most vulnerable populations’ welfare. It is true that the content of some reports can be dry sometimes. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes there is space for a bit more flexibility.
And what I like the most is that these projects often provide the opportunity to work in teams. They tend to be large and relatively urgent and therefore need sometimes 2 or 3 translators. This gives us the chance to interact online to discuss terminology and get a perfect result. For me, it is a privilege to work in a team, to choose the right term to help increase the access to information that will be provided to people at risk.