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Frieda Ruppaner-Lind

Being exposed to other languages and cultures early on certainly contributed to my decision to become a translator: I grew up in the southernmost part of Germany, on Lake Constance, right on the Swiss border. From there it was only a relatively short drive to the French and Italian speaking parts of Switzerland or to France, and learning foreign languages such as French, English and Latin was part of my school experience beginning at the age of ten.

My passion for languages was only rivaled by my love for horses and everything equestrian. After spending several years training and showing horses, it was time to get serious about a degree, so I enrolled at the University of Heidelberg’s Institute for Applied Linguistics in English, Spanish, and Economics and finished with the equivalent of an MA in translation. After graduating and working for about a year, I met my future husband and a year later we moved to the U.S. where we have lived now for three decades.

My freelance career began after a relatively short in-house experience in the PR department of a major machinery manufacturer in the Midwest, right around the time when PCs came on the market and were affordable. After contacting a couple of agencies, I started to receive steady work from one of them in a variety of fields but mostly I translated technical manuals, including medical technology, into German. This more generalist approach became narrower over the years and I now focus more on technology and occasionally legal projects. As far as medical technology is concerned, having studied Latin greatly helped with terminology – it is a fascinating field, especially with the advances in treatments and new technologies being developed.

Having worked in solitude in my home office for several years, my next step was to join ATA and become certified from English to German; being listed in the ATA directory resulted in more inquiries and I was able to broaden my client base and the scope of projects. A few years later I started to attend ATA conferences and was finally able to connect personally with colleagues I only knew through email and phone calls. I also realized the benefits of continuing education, which helps us stay current and deepen our knowledge in the areas we work, and I have attended every ATA conference since 1997.

After we moved to the Kansas City area in 1999, I joined the local ATA chapter. Since most chapters are always happy to get an infusion of new blood, it didn’t take long to get roped in, and I willingly obliged. This led to more involvement in ATA over the years both on the regional and national level as chapter president, division administrator, committee chair, and ATA board member. In November 2014 I became co-moderator of the Business Practices List and Chair of the Business Practices Education Committee. Being involved is not only my way of giving back to the profession; I also enjoy the interaction with so many dedicated and interesting people who are part of our profession!

One of the first things I embraced as a translator was technology: I never felt threatened by it and have always tried to use to it make my work easier and better. This started with the first translation management tools such as XL8, IBM Translation Manager, and the early, DOS-based versions of Trados. Today I am using a couple of tools, depending on the preferences of my agency clients, but I prefer to work in Studio 2014.

But I also see the challenges for our profession that have resulted from technology: Price and deadline pressure, ever-faster turnaround, poor quality translation memories we are supposed to adhere to, machine translation and post-editing requirements. And not to forget: Convincing people that Google Translate is not the solution. However, rather than reject technology, we have to become familiar with it so we can use it to our advantage. We also have to reach a better understanding of what is involved so we can be knowledgeable partners in this discussion.

When it comes to advice for colleagues or newcomers to our profession, I always stress that they should focus on getting the best education possible. This also includes being proficient in your mother tongue, developing good writing skills, staying grounded in your culture, spending time in foreign countries before embarking on a career as a translator or interpreter, taking advantage of opportunities for continuing education, and narrowing down your focus over time. In addition, see yourself as a business person and hone your business skills!

And most importantly, love what you are doing and never lose your curiosity to learn new things. This also includes the technology required to perform our work.

Approaching three decades of working as a freelance translator, I still love what I am doing and get excited about learning of new developments and acquiring knowledge in many fields. And I still love the challenge of coming up with the best possible translation.