So, graduation! A Translator? And then, what? Herman’s story!

It was 1991 when I had to decide what languages I would study to become a fully-fledged translator. The school I was to attend only had four languages to offer: English, French, German, and Spanish. Every student was to pick two. Only later, when I had already graduated, other languages were added, such as Russian, Italian, and Japanese.

Anyway, English was an obvious choice. I also chose Spanish because it was the language used by many local South American shortwave stations that I could pick up on my shortwave receiver at night and I wanted to understand what they said. I remember getting many frowns, even from South American teachers in our school who had no clue of what I was talking about.

Before I graduated, I had already started sending out letters of applications to companies. To my big surprise I got a one-year contract in the newsroom of a national commercial television station. A very big plus for my CV!

Then I worked for 15 years as a project manager in several Belgian translation agencies. I learnt an awful lot, especially on how translation companies regard freelance translators, next to working with lots and lots of different software programs.

I noticed that apart from the last translation agency I worked in, the agencies had no real vision. They either only had eyes for profit or their own personal income. Investment was a very dirty word, never to be used, much less expected.

This all changed in the last agency I worked at. There, the general manager has a vision while the company produces its own excellent software, attends international conferences, etc.

And yet, after fifteen years of project management, I decided the time had come to finally do what I had always wanted to do in life: to translate full-time.

So a little over 2 years ago I settled as a freelance translator. So far it has been a wonderful experience. The benefits greatly outweigh the disadvantages.

I especially translate technical manuals and marketing brochures, but I do other texts too of course.

Earlier this year, I joined a newly founded local group of translators, Gent Vertaalt (Ghent translates). It is a wonderful group of people I much enjoy being with. It never ceases to amaze me how people with so many different backgrounds so easily can understand each other, simply by having the same profession.
I also joined the very interesting International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters (AIPTI).

I do other things besides my business as a translator. In the past 4 years I have published three non-fictional books, the most recent one selling wonderfully.

I am also a Board member of the Belgian sceptic society, Secretary to a British DX Club, and I enjoy playing badminton.


Herman Boel is an English/French/Spanish into Dutch translator. Herman has a Master’s Degree in translation and mainly translates technical and marketing texts. You can contact him and you can follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

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