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MATI Member Spotlight: Sarah Puchner

11/14/2013 10:36 AM | Meghan McCallum (Administrator)
MATI Member Spotlight: Sarah Puchner

Sarah Puchner is a French > English translator and has been a MATI member since 2010. She holds a BA in modern languages and a graduate certificate in translation from UW–Milwaukee.

Where do you live and/or work?

I live in the Milwaukee suburb of Elm Grove and I work from home for ITC Global Translations, an agency based in Florida.

How did you acquire your B language(s)?

Growing up in the south of England, I had plenty of opportunities to visit France: school exchange visits, family vacations, even day trips on the ferry. I grew to love the language and culture, and went on to study French, Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Salford near Manchester. For my year abroad, I chose to go to Dakar, Senegal, instead of France so I was able to experience life in French-speaking Africa.

How long have you worked in your field? How did you get started in the field of translation and/or interpretation?

After earning my degree, I worked for the British Diplomatic Service for two years. My postings included Bangkok and New York which, while very exciting places to live, did not give me the opportunity to use my language skills. Fate intervened when I met my husband during the posting to New York. He was from a place I had never heard of before: Milwaukee.

Fast forward several years: with four school-aged children, I decided that working from home as a translator would allow me to be available for my family while using my skills professionally. I researched the translation market and soon realized that in order to get started I would need either a new qualification or experience. That’s when I got in touch with the Translation Dept. at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), enrolling in their Graduate Certificate in Translation in 2009. I had worked as a part-time translator in Portugal in the early 1990s and as you can imagine the translation profession today is very different! As well as improving my language skills, I learned about the business aspects of freelancing and how to use CAT tools. Being a student at UWM meant I was–and still am–connected to a strong network of other students, translators and instructors. In fact, I applied for my current in-house position after reading about it in an email sent from the Translation Dept. to alumni.


An extremely valuable part of the course was my internship. I worked as a quality reviewer for Iverson Language Associates here in Milwaukee. This experience taught me how an agency operates. Also, I used Wordfast on a daily basis so my fear of CAT tools gradually subsided.

Describe an especially memorable or fulfilling professional experience.

My proudest moment as a translator came when I found out I had won the ATA Student Translation Award in 2010. My entry was a translation of a Haitian short story that I had worked on as part of the Literary Translation course at UWM. As I was just starting out at the time and didn’t have much to show in terms of professional experience, winning the award made my résumé more credible and boosted my confidence!

Do you have any tips for those starting out in the field?

Beginners are faced with the vicious circle of not being able to get work without experience, and not being able to get experience without work. I highly recommend a translation degree or certificate course at an ATA-approved school. This will help you make useful contacts in the field, especially if an internship is required. It also means you will be eligible to sit the ATA certification exam. Being ATA certified can compensate for a lack of professional experience.

Also, use the resources available to you from MATI and the ATA. Go to as many conferences and events as you possibly can (I landed my first freelancing job as a direct result of attending the ATA conference in 2011). You are likely to meet other translators with whom you have plenty in common and who will be happy to give you advice.

ATA members can also sign up to join the Business Practices listserv – here you can ask questions about getting started and learn from posts by others. Many successful translators are active on this list and their advice is priceless (, scroll down towards the bottom of the page for info. about how to join the list). The ATA has also recently launched a newcomers blog that can be found here:

I also recommend using social media to track trends in the industry, for example, by following translation companies and freelancers on Twitter. It only takes a few minutes a couple of times a day to catch up on what other translators are doing and thinking. For me, reading tweets about translation is the equivalent of stepping out to the bubbler in a real office–a welcome break to catch up with co-workers.


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