Zingterview with a translator: Fabrice M’Vondo

This week, we’re interviewing Fabrice M’Vondo. Fabrice is an English to French (France) translator who studies biomedical nanotechnology and lives in Spain and France. For medical translations, you can get in touch with him on LinkedIn.

Zingword helps translators get quality translation jobs and focuses on professional translators with a track record of success, as well as promising translators in development.

Zing: Let’s begin at the beginning. How did you become a translator?

Fabrice: Localization used to be a job on the side while studying, like Forex trading, but it became bigger than that: when at one point you are able to earn a good living, you start to think that maybe you are actually getting pretty good at it… Most importantly, since I specialize in medical projects, I am basically able to have an “eagle eye view” on upcoming medicines/treatments, clinical trials and their route to market from different places all over the world, which benefits my academic studies in molecular biology and biomedical nanotechnology. I am working on research papers and actually getting paid to localize them. Also, with research on artificial intelligence at full speed nowadays, there is actually a great correlation between the linguistics and trading approaches.

The bigger the company, the more often PM management issues happen.

Zing: How did you learn your second language?

Fabrice: I grew up in Europe (Belgium, France) then studied in Canada. I have been learning and speaking English since I was 12.

Zing: How and/or why did you become a translator? (and do you suck the life out of words for immortality purposes or to pay the rent?)

Fabrice: I consider myself more as a localization specialist than just a translator. I started translating content for a video game website, then I specialized in various fields like sports, medical science, mobile apps.

Zing: What do people ask you after you say that you’re a translator?

Fabrice: First, I say that I localize content, which leads to “What is that?”. Then I just explain that I am like the bridge between two different markets and cultures, trying to spread the message of one to the people of the other according to their linguistic characteristics.

Zing: How much of a coincidence is it that you ended up on this path? How much of a choice?

Fabrice: Not much of a coincidence since I have been blogging/designing websites for fun, both in French and English, when I was younger. I started to find it really interesting, noticed that it could help many people from different fields of work, so I figured out why not try to make a few bucks with my skills.

Zing: What advice would you offer to translators who, like yourself, have sort of “discovered” the field and want to get started right away?

Fabrice: I would suggest they start by focusing on implementing good and efficient working environment and routine: translation is one thing but you have marketing + learning curve for tools + accounting that also take a lot of time. If they do have a smooth process in place, it will make their life easier when they will start getting a lot of jobs. Getting started quickly is easy with small jobs from different platforms that can easily be found through a Google search. To expand, Proz and TranslatorsCafe are a good place…

Zing: Is life everything you thought it would be, and more? What did you think it would be?

Fabrice: Like Google found out, it’s 42 mixed with a few issues thrown here and there along the way 😉

Zing: What is it you love about your lifestyle as a translator?

Fabrice: The diversity of subjects and the amount of knowledge I get working on projects.

Zing: What was your darkest moment as a translator?

Fabrice: No dark moment, just annoying situations when collaborating with incompetent people. Inefficiency within a team is what I hate the most.

Zing: What kinds of inefficiencies?

To PMs around the world, I would suggest them not to just blindly forward projects to translators, but to also consider the feasibility of the projects as far as deadline and technicality are concerned.

Fabrice: Well, most inefficiencies – when you deal with agencies – come from the fact that some PM just send you the project without verifying if everything is in order (all files are available + TM – if available – is working properly + instructions are clear) and expect an insane turnaround time, while replying to questions only when the deadline is really close or not replying at all before the deadline. So, always make sure instructions are thoroughly clear and only accept a project when both parties are on the same page. In term of billing, some companies just make mistakes when sending you payments: it’s already long enough to wait close to 45 days to get paid, so if you have to go through old invoices and prove everything when there are mistakes, plus wait another billing cycle to get everything settled, that’s a lot of trouble for nothing. In such instance, you can just continue working with that company and accept the fact they won’t change much or you can decide to explain them why you won’t continue working for them.

Zing: On what percentage of projects do you suspect that the PM is simply sending you the files without adding value to the job?

Fabrice: I would not really say that’s entirely the PMs fault: most of the time, the company is just too big and several PMs take turn managing a project, so if there is bad communication between the PMs in charge then it leads to such issues. And sometimes, new PMs just lack the necessary experience to properly manage tasks. The bigger the company, the more often PM management issues happen. I have been working for companies with no issues at all, and other with recurrent issues, so it really depends on the company, not the amount of projects I can process. If I really needed to put a number on it, I would say 10 %.

Zing: What advice would you offer to PMs around the world?

Fabrice: To PMs around the world, I would suggest them not to just blindly forward projects to translators, but to also consider the feasibility of the projects as far as deadline and technicality are concerned – with high responsiveness if the deadline is really tight. And of course, they should make sure that their instructions are clear enough along with a complete package file.

Zing: If you had a magic wand and a pointy hat that actually worked, what would you change about the translation industry or your working lifestyle?

Fabrice: Real 24/7 collaboration within the industry.

Zing: What do you mean by real 24/7 collaboration?

Fabrice: By “24/7 collaboration in translation”, I mean having a team able to answer questions in a timely manner, no matter what time it is. When you’re not in the same timezone, it’s always frustrating when you have to wait the next business day for an answer to a question: that’s a lot of time lost and other missed projects, sometime deadlines not being met.

Zing: If you listen to music while working, what’s on your speakers lately? Spotify links or youtube links are much appreciated 😉


Zing: What are you doing at home or in the office to be more productive?

Fabrice: No phone calls, no emails while working on a project.

Zing: Tell us about the weirdest thing you ever translated.

Fabrice: Too weird to talk about it.

Zing: What’s the best question that we didn’t think to ask?

Fabrice: How many countries have you been working from as a translator?