Faces of Gengo: Sarah

Sarah, our latest Face of Gengo, first dipped her toes into the translation world seven years ago when she started translating for friends after moving from her native England to Germany. Now a regular German to English translator and part-time English teacher, Sarah loves the diverse subject matter that translation brings. A traditionalist at heart, Sarah works almost exclusively with dictionaries instead of using “fancy” translation software.

What languages do you speak? How did you learn them?

I’m a native English speaker with a degree in English. I learned French at school and have been visiting family in France for many years, but can’t claim any degree of fluency! I learned German after moving to Germany in 2007, and use the language every day as very few people where I live speak English. I function in a foreign language, but I maintain contact with friends and family in England so I can’t forget my English!

How did you become a translator? Do you translate full-time?

My first translations were for friends, from English to German. My then other half, who is German, would check them. I then did a very large translation job for a local company that had taken over production of chocolate products from an English firm and needed their manuals translated into German. I really enjoyed the job, although I realized I would be much better at translating into my own language. Since then I have been doing translations here and there, while teaching English part-time to adults and children. I would like to concentrate more on translation work, which I prefer doing.

What has been your most enjoyable translation experience? Your most challenging?

A friend once asked me to translate a German song into English, which I enjoyed as it involved being creative. The most challenging work I’ve done were the manuals for the chocolate firm, mainly because it was into German rather than the other way around!


Describe your office setup or workspace. What is the view like? What kind of scenery do you look at every day?

My computer is in the corner of my living room. I am surrounded by dictionaries and essential stationery items. I overlook a garden attached to the local Schloss (castle), which is very picturesque. I share my living space with my dog, who is very laid back and rarely disturbs me while I am working.


Based on your cultural expertise, what are the best books or movies you would recommend?

Tricky question! I am an omnivorous reader and prefer reading books in their original language to get a better sense for the author’s original writing. I tend to read English-language books more than anything else, but have been reading some Scandinavian authors in German recently, particularly Jo Nesbo and Jussi Adler-Olsen. I also read books about the English language itself for education (as well as for enjoyment). I’m not a regular film watcher, and my television stays off most of the time. However, I am looking forward to the third Hobbit film when it eventually comes out.

What is your favorite snack for while you work?

Depends on my mood and the length of the translation! Short ones get done without a snack, while with longer ones, I sometimes eat chocolate, strawberries in summer or, if I’m working in the evening, some rather tasty garlic-flavored nibbles.

What’s your favorite productivity tool or service?

If dictionaries don’t have what I need, I refer to Linguee or sometimes Google. The latter is useful for obscure terminology as it often has articles in the source language that help to make the meaning clear.

What’s your favorite thing about being a translator?

The constant variety. Some translations are very short, while some are much longer. Subject matter covers pretty much anything; there’s no chance of getting bored.

What are the best ways to relax and stay sane as a translator? What is your top tip for those who are just starting out?

Take regular breaks if you are doing a long translation. If you come across some tricky text, read further—often you can make sense of the tricky bit once you understand the whole text. Although I have done it before, I really wouldn’t try translating into any language other than my own unless I were perfect in it.

It is very obvious when a translation is done by someone who is not a native speaker. If you are good in your own language and know your source language well enough, go for it. Translating can be hard work, but it can be great fun, too.

Want to become a Gengo translator?


Megan Waters

The author

Megan Waters

Megan manages all things translator-related as Gengo’s Community and Digital Content Manager. Born in South Africa but now based in Tokyo, she’s passionate about languages and people. Megan spends her free time exploring secondhand shops, camping in the mountains and hosting the occasional dinner party.

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