Interview with Christopher Knibbs, native English translator

16 Nov 2009 | Translator Interviews

Today we’re interviewing Christopher Knibbs, a freelance translator from French to English, who has been working with Trad Online, and other agencies, for several years.

Tradonline : Hi Chris, can you please tell us a little bit about yourself: your background & professional experiences, etc.?

Christopher : Yes, I came to France in 1992 and firstly worked as an English teacher in a language school. I then began teaching in companies in and around Paris, before being hired by Tradutech, a major translation agency. I worked for Tradutech for 4 years and then moved to Outdoor Attitude – a start-up company on the web specializing in outdoor pursuits. I was responsible for writing articles on sport and nature – especially birds – and for translating the website from French into English. Unfortunately, this was during the boom and the company went out of business after about a year. As I suddenly found myself out of work, I decided to set up as a freelance translator and this enabled my wife and I to move away from Paris. We have now been living in the Gironde (south west France) for 7 years.
Tradonline : You’ve been working as a freelance translator for some years now, what are the advantages and disadvantages of such work?

Christopher : The main advantage is flexibility. I can work more or less when I like, provided I meet deadlines for the return of my work. This means I can spend more time with my children (two boys, 10 and 8 years old) than I probably could if I worked in a regular 9 to 5 job. Secondly, as I work from home I don’t have to contend with any transport problems. This obviously represents an enormous saving in terms of time, money & stress (in Paris I had 3 hours of transport per day).

To answer the second point, the main disadvantage of my work is its irregular nature. As I work alone, I have to contend with large fluctuations in amounts of work. Sometimes work is very slow, at other times I am absolutely snowed under! Another problem is the amount of time spent on the computer, although I take regular breaks and never spend more than 2 hours at a stretch at my workstation.

Tradonline : What is your involvement in the international arena? Do you work with customers based outside of France?

Christopher : Due to the nature of my work (translating from French to English), most of my customers are based in France. However, I do have customers based in Denmark and Senegal, and some of the CVs I translate are from French people working overseas…

Tradonline : How do you see the future of the translation industry?

Christopher : I think that with globalisation there will be more and more work for translators. In my case, I believe that there always seems to be plenty of work – but perhaps this is because I work with English – and this is the key language for business around the world. The industry is also becoming increasingly specialized and technical – with a range of new software to assist translators.

Tradonline : Do you find that the industry has been hit by the downturn at all?

Christopher : Yes, I did experience a slowdown in my work at the beginning of the financial crisis, although things have since improved and I am now back to the same levels as beforehand.

Tradonline : We’ve had the chance of working on CV translations with you since 2005. Do you enjoy translating CVs? If so, what is fun about it?

Christopher : Yes, I enjoy translating CVs as the work is varied and interesting. It also gives me insight into different careers and the steps people are taking to find employment. I also like the fact that I am helping people to find new careers all over the world.

Tradonline : Any “dos and don’ts” for someone who wants to write the perfect British CV?

Christopher : Yes, don’t make the CV too long (a maximum of 1 page). Be precise and to the point. It is also very important to be as truthful as possible. Don’t go into details which have no bearing on the vacant position.

Tradonline : And any differences for the American market CV?

Christopher : Not really although care should be taken to ensure that any spellings / vocabulary is Americanised.

Tradonline : Now a few questions about another point of interest: blogging. I think you’re currently a “non-blogger”, are you interested in setting up a blog one day (to talk about a personal interest, or about your job)?
If so, what will the blog be about and any idea when you’ll start blogging? If not, what are the current drawbacks or reasons for your lack of interest in blogging?

Christopher : As I said before, I already spend large amounts of time on the computer and so I’m not really interested in setting up a blog. In fact, I prefer to spend my free time outdoors – bird watching, playing golf, hiking and travelling. Having said this, I am an active member of “Obs Aquitaine.” This is a forum for bird watchers for posting interesting observations of fauna and flora in the Aquitaine area. For example, when I go out birding I make a list of all the species seen, which I then post on the site.

Tradonline : And to finish, an open question: anything you’d like to share with our readers? You have “carte blanche” as the French expression goes.

Christopher : Yes, living and working in a foreign country is an interesting experience which I would certainly encourage… If you are really serious about working abroad, it is important to have an impeccable translation of your CV and cover letter, otherwise you won’t even get over the first hurdle of being called for an interview… I definitely don’t regret my move to France, although I sometimes miss my home country of England…

Thanks Chris for talking to us today and all the best to you!

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