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Face to Face with Achille Yaya

Imagine speaking one language at home, another while shopping in town, and yet another every time you come across someone who greets you in a third. That was a daily reality for the young Achille (pron: a-SHEEL) Yaya growing up in the central region of Benin in West Africa, tucked between Togo to the West and massive Nigeria to the East.

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Face to Face with Caroline Durant

Some translators end up feeling like fish out of water in their own families, where they are the only one with a penchant for languages, as if their gift sprang out of nowhere. Others are lucky enough to have parents who carefully foster and encourage a love of languages. Such was the case of Caroline Durant (stress the first syllable of the surname), whose mother was herself an aficionado of all things linguistic, and carefully nurtured her daughter’s interest. 

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Face to Face with Islam Younis

To some it might seem like a dream childhood. Based in glittering Dubai, but travelling the world with your parents, as your Egyptian father does a hush-hush job in military intelligence, working throughout the Middle East. Spending two-to-three months at a time in countries as diverse as Turkey, Iraq, Greece. Lebanon, Israel, Cyprus, Syria, Algeria and Morocco. But alas, the attractions of nomadism were lost on the young Islam Younis, who felt quite bitter about it at the time. Just imagine – the moment you make friends, you move on. You’re rootless, endlessly on the road, and your whole life lacks a sense of being settled.

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Face to Face with Martina Russo

Sometimes when we look at translators who have achieved a notable level of success, we imagine that it must have been plain sailing, or that they just “got lucky” somewhere along the way. We forget the years of hard work, the risks taken, sacrifices made, the wrong choices and the lessons learned. The story of Martina Russo’s career is a case in point. She may well be CEO of a company today, with a finance officer and an entire admin team, but she’s worked hard to get there, and done several other challenging jobs as part of that journey.

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Face to Face with Stephen Rifkind

Many a translator ends up living in a different culture, far from home. That’s often part of the deal. But few are those, it could be argued, who don’t feel at home until they reach and settle in that second country. It’s as if they were simply born in the wrong place, and had to pack their bags and journey across borders or even continents to find the right one…

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Face to Face with Anne Rametsi

For many translators, a love of the magic of foreign tongues is the springboard in to the profession. But of course that’s not the only gateway… For Anne Rametsi, for example, it was a passion for human rights discovered early in life that eventually led her to a life as a professional translator and university lecturer designing and delivering courses on translation. 

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Face to Face with Christian Nielsen-Palacios

Christian Nielsen-Palacios is a man who has learned the meaning of the word “enough”. At 65, with two grown-up sons, a steady stream of texts from his favourite agencies, his house in upstate New York paid for, and all his essential bills covered, he’s reached a place of satisfaction that will no doubt be the envy of many. But it’s been a long and winding journey, which began far from where he is now, with several serendipitous events as milestones along the way...

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Face to Face with Leda Costea

Generations of kids have been transfixed by the cartoons of Loony Tunes, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck into global celebrities. Cartoons are said to increase creativity, language development, promote laughter and relieve stress, while giving toddlers a window on another world. Detractors say they encourage violence and lack of empathy. Whatever the pros and cons, they played a significant role in the living room of a family home in Moinești in Eastern Romania, where the young Leda Costea was fascinated by the characters and the strange sounds that came out of their mouths. 

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Face to Face with Aktan Aydoğmus

Aktan Aydoğmus is firing on all cylinders – a man at the top of his game. When not interpreting at international conferences for the UN or NGOs, he’ll be at the Ministry of Family, or of Justice, or Health or Fisheries, in his home city of Ankara, attending high-level talks on the pandemic, the ongoing war, fish stocks in the Mediterranean or other weighty political matters. Given that Turkey occupies a very strategic geopolitical position, there’s always plenty to say. And seeing as these talks often spill over into dinners, the working day can be long. But Aktan has all the energy required for the job, and plenty more to spare…

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Face to Face with Bella Nazaire

What chance do you have when your grandmother steals into your bedroom and whispers “Bonne nuit, good night, Gute Nacht and buona notte” – along with your native Martinican into your ear every night as she tucks you into bed? None, basically – you’re hooked on the incantatory magic of foreign languages from your most formative years. Languages come intimately bundled up with feelings of warmth, security and love – and you’re won over for the rest of your days.

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Face to Face with Daniel Coria

Whatever route our journey towards freelance translation or interpreting has taken, the chances are that along the way, there have been a few key figures who’ve helped us, and pointed us in a certain direction. A parent, perhaps, a boss, or a mentor within the profession. In the case of Daniel Coria in his late teens in Buenos Aires, that role was played by an inspirational English teacher, who not only spotted his classwork but actively encouraged him towards a career in translation, putting him in touch with contacts of hers in the local industry. And the rest, as they say, is his story.

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Face to Face with Ana Laila Hagen

Back in our schooldays, our teachers would tut-tut if we ever used the expression “very unique”. “Unique” is an absolute, they’d say, with no degrees of relativity. Well, having spent an hour in the delightful company of Ana Laila Hagen, I beg to differ. “Very unique” is the perfect way to describe her…

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Face to Face with Bart Roelands

In our younger years, our dreams of what we’ll do when we grow up can vary wildly. Firefighter? Astronaut? Sports star? Or perhaps increasingly these days, the most common aspiration is merely to be famous…

 

Now picture a young Bart Roelands growing up in the southern region of the Netherlands, not far from Eindhoven, feasting on TV series featuring famous lawyers such as Perry Mason or Matlock, and planning to follow in their footsteps, valiantly convincing judges with the sheer force of their arguments. Or alternatively reading One Hercule Poirot novel after another (in English, if you please), being transfixed by David Suchet’s definitive onscreen performances, and harbouring hopes of one day being a great detective.

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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.

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Face to Face with Simon Barnes

For some of us it’s the first magical encounter with an exotic culture on a childhood holiday, or an (imaginary) love affair with a faraway star singing in a foreign language, but for the young Simon Barnes, it was the quiet presence at home of his father’s French and German books that provided the first gateway to a new world. There can’t have been many shelves lined with such books in the small Leicestershire town of Market Bosworth (the scene of a defining battle in a civil war that marked England’s history), but then again his father had started out as a French and German teacher, before leaving to work for Rolls Royce.

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