Face to Face with Anne Masur

Some translators are born into cosmopolitan, international households. Others have linguistic aptitude in their genes because of a long family history of learning and speaking foreign tongues, along with copious amounts of travel and exposure throughout their childhood and adolescence… and still others appear out of nowhere, landing like alien beings in a family with neither an interest in nor a history of languages, inexplicably showing up with the language gene. And not only that, but going on to make a living out of it.


Such was the case of translator Anne Masur. Family lore tells of distant origins in Poland across the generations. But Anne’s grandfather died before she was born and she never really got to explore that heritage. The origins of her curiosity and ability in other languages must therefore remain shrouded in mystery…


Members of’s Facebook community will of course be familiar with Anne, whose excellent and informative series of posts on literary translation have been a delight to read, but she has plenty of surprises in store all the same. Despite speaking with uncontestable authority on her subject, she is only 29. More intriguing still is the fact that she only fully launched her freelance career in 2020.


Having studied English, French and Latin in school, the stage was set perhaps. But after failing one of her English classes (the German exam system is pretty demanding!), she set her heart on studying event management and entertainment at university instead. However, although the course included further language studies, giving her valuable exposure to Spanish and Chinese, it was unsatisfactory, and Anne decided to switch to training for two years as a foreign language correspondence clerk. That in turn led to an internship at a company, processing orders in French at Germany’s second biggest kitchen manufacturer, where she ultimately spent two and a half years before handing in her notice. Why the sudden departure? Because the phone constantly ringing off the hook and the sheer stress of the office environment threatened to lead to burnout, and Anne found herself taking 2-3 days off a month just to be able to cope with the working environment.


But on the last day at that job, Anne had an immense stroke of good fortune. There will always be those that argue that you make your own luck – and with reason much of the time. All the same, sometimes you just have to admit that you hit the lucky jackpot. And so it was on her last working day in the place she couldn’t wait to get away from, that an email arrived in her inbox offering her a book translation, just like that. Of course it didn’t come completely out of the blue – Anne had in fact replied to an advert on ProZ some 5-6 weeks earlier, and had a short conversation with the editor. However, the gap between initial chat and response was so long that she’d pretty much forgotten about it.


To this day Anne can’t really put her finger on why she was chosen, or indeed how she plucked up the courage to apply, given the warnings she read everywhere about the difficulty of getting such jobs. She’d long been an avid reader, and certainly dreamed of becoming a fully-fledged literary translator one day. All the same, looking back, she freely admits that going for the opportunity was a mixture of fearlessness and recklessness, given her lack of experience at that point. As to why the client responded positively, she can only guess. Maybe they saw a spark of potential in that first conversation. Maybe the price was right. It’s another enigma.


What is no longer a mystery, however, is that a very promising career has grown out of that lucky break. It all began with that first book – a fantasy about vampires. It turns out – in another undeniable stroke of luck – that another translator had started on the work, but was scared off by a number of erotic scenes. Anne had no such misgivings and plunged right into it, and indeed a couple of years later has carved out a sub-niche in erotic fiction within the already specialist niche of literary translation. Having said that, she has experience of thrillers and mysteries too, and is open to all kinds of literary texts, including what would be her first opportunities in translating from French.


Since that early vampiric adventure, Anne has gone on from strength to strength, and now has no fewer than 18 completed books under her belt, from a 120-page novella to a 900-page blockbuster, sent off just last week. After the whoosh of the email whisking away the final translation, Anne allows herself a meagre day off before starting on the next massive opus. Just as well, as she’s currently facing a veritable traffic jam in her computer: no fewer than five texts queuing up to be translated, and easily enough work to see her through to 2023!

That’s an enviable position for any translator to be in, let alone one who’s barely got started. It’s obviously a testament to Anne’s ability both as a wordsmith and as a businesswoman to be able to keep those clients – who include an agency but mostly consist of publishing houses and self-publishing authors – in a happy frame of mind. Add to that a drop or three of passion, plenty of research into previous books, and an openness to collaborating with other translators who’ve worked on a series, and you clearly have a winning formula.


Anne is grateful to the community for the ability to stay in touch with colleagues, follow inspiring examples and learn from others’ mistakes, and it’s perhaps in that spirit that she has put together her series – due to comprise around 15 posts in all – structuring and laying out her experience and insights in remarkably concise and helpful posts. She enjoys the positive responses she gets, and is always happy to answer readers’ questions…


There may be those still sceptical about the existence of good luck. But here in the group, there can be no doubt we’re truly fortunate to have Anne with us.


Face to Face is a feature series highlighting active voices in the Facebook community.

To contact Anne, go to: Profile

Topics: translator, interpreter, facebook, interpreting, face to face

Andrew Morris

Written by Andrew Morris

French to English translator, Translation Mastermind founder, staff.

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