English has always my favourite subject at school, but after graduating from high school, I was not really sure where it would take me… I started studying lawatthe University of Rouen (France), but I realized my mistake within a couple of months and switched back to studying English. I really started liking translation in my second year. I spent my third year in the University ofSouthampton (UK) as an Erasmus student in 2000-2001. During the time I was in Southampton, I had classes in urban politics and my father, who was in France, happened to be studying urban sociology for a postgraduate programme. He saw one of my textbooks during my Christmas break and asked if, by any chance, it had been translated. I replied that I didn’t think so as it was an academic work: it seemedunlikely. I didn’t translate this book, but his question gave me the idea to translate a chapter of it for my thesis the next year. I then graduated with a specialization in translation, but I still couldn’t picture myself working as a translator. I had no idea how the industry worked, what fields I wanted to work in, how to find clients and more importantly, I didn’t really have any role models of non-literary translators.
So I just decided to do something else. I had been working night and weekend shifts in an admin job at a hospital for a year and I kept doing this job for two more years after graduating. Then I had the opportunity to become a civil servant and worked as a financial officer in another hospital for about a year and a half. In 2006, I managed to combine two sectors I liked – health and languages – and became an international project assistant in a school of public health. This allowed me to finally use languages at work and I naturally started doing some translation and interpreting work in this job. At some point, I was forced to realize that this was my favourite part of the job, so I asked for a paid leave to go back to university and attended the same postgraduate course than Louise in Brest, from which I graduated in 2010. My initial idea was to gain new skills, obtain a fully official masters degree (i.e. 5 years of study), and maybe do some small translation jobs “on the side” of my day job. However, during the course of the degree, something just “clicked” and I realized this was what I wanted to do when I grow up – even if I was already 29 at the time!
The deal was that I had to go back to work with my employer full-time after graduating, and it was still a bit reassuring for me: I had gained confidence in my translation skills, but I still felt insecure about freelancing full-time. I started my freelance activity by working on evenings and weekendsfor the agency where I had done my internship, then I found other clients and I also started being active on social media, which I think was quite positive for my business.
I quit my day job for good in May 2012 and I have not regretted my decision for a second since then. I like working freelance, the responsibility it involves, and the fact that, through the diversity of translation projects, you are learning new things every single day. I am lucky enough to have a steady flow of work and income, as well as an incredible network of colleagues both locally and internationally. Now, most of my work comes through colleagues or colleagues’ recommendations. I am also a member of two professional associations (SFT and ITI).
I have been asked to present webinars as well as communications during conferences and I am very honoured to be offered the opportunity to give back to the translation community.
Nelia Fahloun studied English-speaking Literature and Culture in Rouen (France) and graduated in 2002. After an administrative career in the health sector, she spent a year studying translation at Brest University (France) and graduated in 2010. She started her freelance translation business first on a part-time basis and since May 2012, she has been translating full time, specializing in marketing, PR and legal translation. She also co-hosts local translator networking events and is a SFT and Associate ITI member.