“The Galapagos of translation blogs”

I was both touched and flattered by colleague Luke Spear‘s glowing recommendation of this blog in the latest issue of The Linguist, the professional journal of the UK’s Chartered Institute of Linguists. Here’s what he had to say:
As channels for online publishing proliferate, certain blogs continue to offer the depth and breadth professionals seek. Over the years, one person has regularly offers up general interest and industry posts. Through an award-winning blog and social media combination, Catharine Cellier-Smart authors a valuable and continually updated resource for language lovers and professionals alike.
Published from the remote Reunion Island, some distance off the east coast of Africa, this blog is a reliable broadcast service to the rest of the world. It is the Galapagos of translation blogs, having evolved uniquely and likely out of necessity. It is not unimaginable to think that we might all feel a little remote at times regardless of where we live. A Smart Translator’s Reunion stands as an example to us all, should we wish to introduce new clients to businesses through a common interest. As a curation of language-related topics, you are in very safe hands with Catharine’s blog.


You can find the current issue of The Linguist (issue 60/6 for December 2021 and January 2022) as well as archived issues online at https://xl8.link/ervjqv.

And don’t forget to check out the other blogs in the article if you don’t know them already:


The story behind my logo

After more than nine years running Smart Translate without a logo (I used a photo of myself when one was needed), this year I finally took the plunge and had one professionally created by a talented local designer. When you’re a translation company, it can be tempting to opt for a logo based on the country flags of the languages you work with, but I decided to choose something (almost) completely different. Here is my unique new logo and the story behind it.

It features a pictogram of a graceful white bird flying eastwards inside a red quadrilateral. Below is my company name in capital letters, and then my own name. The bird in question is called a white-tailed tropicbird in English, a paille-en-queue (“straw in the tail”) in French, and a payankë (“straw in the a***”) in Reunion Creole. Its Latin name is Phaethon lepturus, with Phaethon meaning “Shining one” while lepturus translates as “slender tail”. There are six subspecies of this fish-eating bird in various parts of the world: the Pacific Ocean, Christmas Island (where a yellow one features on the flag), the Caribbean (where they are Bermuda’s national bird), Ascension Island, Mozambique Channel, and the Indian Ocean. As I live in Reunion Island it’s the last one that is shown on my logo.

By Yooshau - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18333581

A flying white-tailed tropicbird

Why choose a tropicbird? Firstly, I like the general symbolism of birds as bringers of peace and freedom. Secondly, specifically concerning the tropicbird, I appreciate its elegance, ability to perform complex manoeuvres, and love of warm climates (this last point applies to me too, even if the first two don’t!). When you live in Reunion, you often look up and see them flying unobtrusively above, and it seems to me that this is symbolic of the translation profession: our work is present everywhere, but frequently goes unnoticed.

For the shape I could have gone for other straight-lined, four-sided figures such as a square or rectangle, but I decided that the quadrilateral – which reminds me of a kite – was dynamic while being clean and efficient. The font is sans serif, which is refined, modern, and minimal.

In terms of colour, I chose to go with an eye-catching shade of red, as it’s one of my favourite colours and evokes motivation, leadership, and energy. But for contrast I also paired it with white, which represents sophistication, clarity and efficiency, and there’s even a touch of blue (with “TRANSLATE”), as it inspires a sense of security and trust while showing reliability and professionalism. Together, the three colours red, white and blue are a nod to the British and French flags.

I also got my logo printed onto my phone case; here it is being inspected by a curious crab!

On a final note, I’d like to thank the members of Group Translator Chats for their help and advice during the logo selection process!

By the way, if you’re wondering about whether or not to get a logo, here’s a good article by David Miralles Perez about why professional translators need a professional logo.

Elsewhere on the blog:

10 questions for translators

Over at Cibliste, colleague Sadie Scapillato recently posted “Ten questions for translators” in effort to learn more about her fellow linguists. What a great idea! She also posted her answers to the questions. Here are the questions and my own answers:

1. Four-parter: Where do you live? What are your language pairs? How did you learn those languages? What types of documents do you translate? I’m originally British but I live in Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, and have done so for 19 of the past 23 years. My language pairs are French to English and occasionally Reunion Creole to English. I learnt French at school and university and then really became fluent after moving to Reunion. I picked up Reunion Creole while living here. I mainly translate general business documents, but I also specialise in shipping and logistics, and anything to do with Reunion and the SW Indian Ocean islands.

1852 Levasseur Map of the Reunion or the Ile. ...

1852 Map of Reunion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Do you do other language-related work? I sometimes do proofreading work, and I occasionally interpret.

3. What do you like most about translating? least? I enjoy knowing that my work helps people of different languages and cultures to communicate and understand each other. But I don’t always like the unreliable aspect of freelance work (not knowing where your next job will come from and whether you’ll get paid on time!).

4. What are your future dreams or goals, professionally speaking? I think the goal of producing good translations and having satisfied clients goes without saying. I want and need to continue learning (both in translation and business), and I’d also like to become a sworn translator within the next year or two. I’d like to see my name in print one day, but not necessarily as a literary translator.

5. What do you think: do all translators need to specialize? It helps, but it’s not always necessary for all translators. To take an example from another profession: some doctors are specialised, but we also need general practitioners too.

6. What is your #1 tip for new translators? Be confident about yourself and your abilities (but know how to accept criticism).

7. What is a translation-related lesson you’ve learned on the jobDon’t be afraid to say no.

8. What book(s) are you reading right now? Because I live in my source language country and already have a lot of exposure to French I try to make sure I read at least two books in English for every book I read in French. Right now I’m reading a collection of short stories by O. Henry. I like international literature, and recently I amused myself by compiling a list of books I’ve read from different countries around the world.

9. Do you have a blog or other online presence where we can learn more about you? Any favourite links or tips to share? My blog about language and translation is A Smart Translator’s Reunion and I’m also on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Tip: I would definitely encourage linguists to use social media. You may or may not find work that way, but as – generally isolated – freelancers it’s important to know what’s happening in the (translation) world.

10. What’s one non-work-related tidbit your virtual colleagues might like to know about you? I’m an avid traveller (57 countries visited; see my travel blog at http://travelssmart.blogspot.com) and passionate about scuba-diving (I’ve dived in 18 different countries)!

Scuba diving in Iceland - one hand on two tectonic plates (Eurasian and North American)

Scuba diving in Iceland – one hand each on the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates

For more answers to the questions see also:

  • English/French/Spanish into Dutch translator Herman Boel’s answers here;
  • English to French translator Patricia Barthélémy’s answers here (in French);
  • Brazilian translator and interpreter Marina Borges’s answers here;
  • French and Hungarian to English translator Carolyn Yohn answers are here.
  • For Dwain Richardson‘s answers see Sadie’s original post.
  • English/French to German and German/French to English translator Moira Johnson’s answers can be found here.

Feel free to leave your own answers to the questions in the comments below or at Sadie’s blog post.

The ‘blogosphere’

Both my blogs (this one and my other one) are mentioned in an article in the current edition of Reunion Multimedia, a local bimonthly magazine about Information and communications technology (ICT).

 The article says:


Smart Travels & A Smart Translator’s Reunion: two local blogs in English.

Originally from London, Catharine has lived in Reunion for 17 years [sic]. Realising that there was little information about Reunion island for non-French speakers, the freelance French to English translator started blogging. With the same idea in mind she also tweets at @NewsFromReunion. Her first blog, Smart Travels (http://travelssmart.blogspot.com) recounts her travels (mainly in Asia, where she live and travelled for three years) but also – especially – her walks and hikes in La Réunion. There’s also a lot of practical information for all those who want to visit or learn more about the island. Her second blog is called A Smart Translator’s Reunion (http:// asmarttranslatorsreunion.wordpress.com). As its name indicates, it is “Another language & translation blog (but probably the only one from Réunion Island).” On this blog she publishes her thoughts on this theme, her chosen field of expertise, but also writes articles about our island, especially Reunion Creole, and literature in English referring to Réunion.

A great way to publicize and promote the culture of Réunion to our fellow English speakers”.