Home » Blog » Podcast interview with Clémentine Terrell

Welcome to The Bicultural Podcast.

I’m delighted to be joined by Clémentine Terrell, founder of Clémentine Terrell Translation.

Table of contents

Janina Neumann (00:34):
Hi Clem, how are you?

Clémentine Terrell (00:36):
Hi Janina, I’m really good thank you. How are you?

Janina Neumann (00:41):
Really well thank you. So pleased to have you on my podcast today.

Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?

Clémentine Terrell (00:48):
Sure. Sure. Yeah, thank you very much for having me on your podcast today. So my name is Clementine or Clem for short. I’m a native French speaker. I live in the UK, in Dorset, on the south coast. So I grew up in France in the Burgundy region of France, and was raised there, went to school there, went to uni there, and came to the UK in 2004. So I have been here for 17 years. So half of my life in France and half of my life has been spent in the UK.

Clémentine Terrell (01:27):
I have a degree in English Language, Literature, and Civilisation from a French university. And my whole career has been based on languages. So I was a French teacher in the UK for 10 years. And then for the last seven years, I have been working as a translator from English to French.

Janina Neumann (01:58):
That sounds great.

So tell us a little bit more about how you got into languages, for example, why you decided to study English Language and Civilisation.

Clémentine Terrell (02:10):
Sure. Well, English was always my favourite subject at school. I started when I was 11 at secondary school and right from the first lesson, it was just love at first sight. I just absolutely adored it, favourite lesson. And I discovered that I just liked languages in general. So in France, you do your first language and then you pick up a second language usually about two years later.

Clémentine Terrell (02:36):
So I started learning German. I also did a couple of years of Latin, which I really enjoyed as well. And then a couple of years later I did Italian as well as a third foreign language. So I did my baccalaureate in France. It was a Literature Baccalaureate Languages with all my languages, but English was always my favourite. So I decided to carry that on at university focusing on English as a mentor subject. My degree was brilliant. It was very kind of wide. So I studied British and American English Language, Linguistics, Civilisation, Literature. Had to do a lot of translation from English to French and French to English. And yeah, it was great.

Janina Neumann (03:40):
Oh, wow. That’s really interesting. And also it must have been interesting to kind of view almost history as well …

Clémentine Terrell (03:49):
Yes.

Janina Neumann (03:49):
…and with a different perspective on.

Tell us a little bit more about that, how you found that.

Clémentine Terrell (03:56):
I mean every kind of subject in the part of the degree was really, really interesting. My favourite bits were the kind of the pure language bit, so learning about the grammar and the translation side of things as well, the linguistics. But that doesn’t kind of, it doesn’t exist by itself. You also need to be learning about the culture at the same time to understand, they kind of feed into each other. So what I decided to do, because it was all very kind of theoretical. So we learned about things, but within my degree, the three-year degree, there wasn’t actually a year abroad that was planned at the time. It was quite a long time ago. So what I decided to do is in the summer, after each year of my degree, I came over to the UK to work as an Au Pair because I wanted to experience the culture and the country that I’ve been learning at uni. And I wanted to, you know, put everything into action and actually use the language that I’ve been learning about. So I did three summers as an Au Pair and that complemented my degree in all sorts of way, it helped me so much.

Janina Neumann (05:22):
Oh, wow. That sounds really cool.

Clémentine Terrell (05:24):
Yes.

Janina Neumann (05:24):
And I can imagine that also that experience also helped you later on when you became a French teacher as well.

Clémentine Terrell (05:32):
Yes. Yeah, definitely. I think you have to immerse yourself in the culture, in the country, in order to understand it. You can’t just learn from it because the way you learn from it, you know, in your uni course, your degree, or at school, is great, but it’s just not the real thing. I think you do have to go into the country and experience it for your sense.

Janina Neumann (05:57):
That’s really cool.

Clémentine Terrell (05:58):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (05:58):
And also, especially for those students to understand, you know, the applications of learning French, must’ve been really good for you to have that experience as well, how you can actually apply it to your life.

Clémentine Terrell (06:12):
Yes. Yeah, definitely. And I could see as well the progression. So after my degree, I came over. I stayed in the UK after my summers as an Au Pair and I worked with the British Council as a French Language Assistant in a private schooling in Birmingham, a private school for girls. It was such an amazing school. I got there the first time and I honestly thought it was like Hogwarts of Harry Potter. It was an amazing building and, you know, perfect people with perfect uniforms, like a private school. And I had a great year, and yes, it was definitely a bit of a culture shock for me at the beginning. But then the more I learned about the culture, the more I could relate to my pupils that I was teaching French to. And the more I could relate to them, the more they could relate to me back as well if that makes sense.

Janina Neumann (07:26):
Yeah, it does.

So tell us a little bit more about the things that you did to kind of find out more about British culture, but also, you know, maintaining that French identity as well and later becoming bicultural. Tell us a little bit more about that journey.

Clémentine Terrell (07:42):
Learning about the culture, I obviously I came to England and I lived here. I also met my then boyfriend, now husband, who taught me a lot. I was just completely immersed. So I was speaking English all the time. I was living like a Brit. I was, you know, going to the cinema, watching British TV, listening to the radio in English, making friends. It’s all the little bits, isn’t it, all the little things that you talk to people and you live in the country.

Janina Neumann (08:26):
Yeah, I can relate to that. But also I think it’s really important to also think about, you know when you’re so immersed in that culture that you don’t lose the other side. And I think I never lost my kind of German side because I had my parents here…

Clémentine Terrell (08:42):
Yeah. Yeah.

Janina Neumann (08:45):
…and that helped me to like, keep my German going, but also kind of…

Clémentine Terrell (08:49):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (08:49):
…different perspective on things like we’d watch German TV as well as English TV. And I think having that balance is also really important because I came here to the UK when I was quite young. So, you know, my teenage years were in the UK rather than in Germany.

Clémentine Terrell (09:08):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (09:08):
So you obviously have all those, you know, activities around you, which someone who might be coming here as an adult might not have because they might be at work, so they don’t really get that full experience as well.

Clémentine Terrell (09:21):
Yeah. That’s definitely something that I have to work at, you know, that kind of keeping the French identity as well. But my whole family is still in France. You know, my parents, my brother, my grandparents, my whole family is still in France. And I was quite lucky at the beginning because I was in education, I had all the school holidays. So pretty much every school holiday, I would go back to France and spend, you know, a couple of weeks or longer in the summer and then immersing myself back into the French culture. And it’s funny actually because when I would go back to France, my parents said that I spoke French with a little bit of an English accent for the first couple of days, which I couldn’t tell, but they were like, “Yeah. Yeah. You do”. And then it would take me a day of two to kind of settle back into things. And then I would go back to England and my husband would say, “Your French accent is definitely back, stronger now for the first couple of days”. And then I would kind of start losing it a little bit. So it’s quite funny in that sense. Yeah. But it’s really important definitely to keep the link between the two, especially now that I’ve got children and it’s so important for me that they have that link with France because we live in the UK. Yeah.

Janina Neumann (10:48):
Yeah, I can definitely relate to, you know, having an accent. It’s like, you have an accent in the UK and you have a slight accent in German and then people always focus on the accent rather than who you are.

Clémentine Terrell (11:02):
Yes.

Janina Neumann (11:02):
If you followed what they said, you basically belong to no one.

Clémentine Terrell (11:10):
Oh, that’s exactly how I feel. When I’m here, I’m the French girl. And then when we go back to France to visit my family, we’re the British cousins, that’s what we’re known as, even me. So yeah, it feels like I belong to both, but then I also belong to neither, you know, it’s better for the in-between situation, but I quite like it.

Janina Neumann (11:35):
Yeah, I think there’s some real value in that. And also you bring both sides as well to like different situations. Like, for example, if you have discussions you can bring in actually, “You know, have you considered this point of view?”

Clémentine Terrell (11:51):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (11:51):
…and I think that’s how you’re kind of shaped as a person as well and your personality, and I think that’s really important as well.

Clémentine Terrell (12:03):
We’ve had so many interesting discussions, you know, with between the two families, me and my husband and my French family and his family over the years just comparing, you know, how we do things and how we say things. It’s always good fun.

Janina Neumann (12:20):
Yeah. Yeah. I also enjoy those kind of discussions.

Is there anything in particular that you would like to share about like the differences that you might’ve discussed?

Clémentine Terrell (12:32):
I mean, there’s so many of them. Yes. But, I think one of the kind of main events where it was kind of evident the cultural difference was when we got married. We got married in France and my husband’s family came over from England and we had a bilingual, bicultural wedding, which tried to incorporate as much as possible of those two of the two cultures. And it was just hilarious to see my husband’s family kind of experiencing a French wedding. It’s just so different. Because it was so far away, they stayed for a few days, it wasn’t just one day. And you know, it was everything from the wedding ceremony, you know, in France, we have two different ceremonies. You have to get married at the registry office, and then at the church, if you want to.

Clémentine Terrell (13:29):
So we had two and they are straight one after the other. So that baffled everybody. Then we had drinks and then we had a very, very long meal, as French meals are. The wedding finished at like maybe 6:00 AM. We had, you know, unlimited champagne. And it was just really good fun, especially I think for the British guests to see how we celebrated a French wedding. So that’s a particularly good memory for me.

Janina Neumann (14:10):
Oh, that sounds wonderful. And you know, it just reminds me, it’s a real skill to actually bring, you know, you’re almost bringing these two communities together…

Clémentine Terrell (14:19):
Yep.

Janina Neumann (14:19):
…and I think that’s a real skill, which you learn from like being bicultural.

Clémentine Terrell (14:24):
Yep.

Janina Neumann (14:24):
You understand the values of both cultures and, you know, introduce your family to that culture as well. And I think that comes from having an openness and also an acceptance, you know, of the other culture, which creates like these feelings of curiosity. And I think it’s really great if you take people…

Clémentine Terrell (14:53):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (14:53):
…on that journey rather than if people experience a different culture, perhaps not in a family setting, but if we met a different culture through like meeting someone on the street or on a video conference call. Sometimes that we have that, you know, fear, sometimes we might be fearful or suspicious of like the way people act.

Clémentine Terrell (15:22):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (15:22):
And I think a really good trait for bicultural people to almost be like, show that you can accept a different culture and not lose your own culture and I think that’s a really good trait to have.

Clémentine Terrell (15:39):
Definitely. It definitely enriches you. You know, it’s a positive thing.

Janina Neumann (15:44):
Definitely. Yes.

Clémentine Terrell (15:45):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (15:46):

So tell us a little bit more about how you came to create your business.

Clémentine Terrell (15:52):
I do have to mention my previous curious, I was a French teacher in the UK for 10 years. And as much as I enjoyed it, at the end, it just wasn’t for me anymore. And actually when you teach a language, when I taught French, I wasn’t using my French to a very high standard, I was teaching up to GCSE. And I felt frustrated. I wanted to use my languages in a deeper way, kind of, you know, not just talking about or teaching children about talking about holidays or whatever. So in 2014, I decided to leave teaching and try to get into the translation industry, it’s always been what I wanted to do. I just fell into teaching somehow. But it was time. So I went freelance self-employed, and that was really lucky to find some really, really good clients pretty quickly.

Clémentine Terrell (16:57):
And there were in a kind of marketing and e-commerce sectors and I just absolutely loved it. And seven years later, I’m still doing it. So I started freelance and I worked with my clients for about two and a half years. And then I got an in-house translation job for a distribution company working with Amazon mostly, and I was there for about three and a half years. And then over the last year, I’ve been back working freelance and that’s when I set up my current business, Clementine Terrell Translation. And the experience that I gained at my previous job is what made me decide to really go for it this time and to specialise in e-commerce marketing and Amazon translation, which is what I currently do.

Janina Neumann (18:01):
Sounds fantastic. So tell us a little bit more about what excites you about working in the e-commerce space.

Clémentine Terrell (18:09):
So the marketing and e-commerce space, I think it’s the randomness of the topics that you get to work with, you know, all the things that get sold on the internet. So one day I’ll be translating an Amazon listing about headphones or speakers. And then the next day it would be a luxury fashion website and at the moment I do a lot of work for a line of luxury hotels as well. So I think it’s the variety that I really enjoy, and also the creative side. We don’t just translate the language, we also have to adapt the content and the message to the French culture to make sure that they really engage with the content and they really understand it and it is geared towards their culture. So it’s all very creative and it’s all really, really interesting.

Janina Neumann (19:21):
That sounds brilliant.

For those listening, who might not be familiar with that process of transcreation, would you like to tell them a little bit more about that or perhaps also use an example?

Clémentine Terrell (19:35):
Sure. Okay. So, it’s localisation and transcreation, kind of two different things. So localisation is where you would look at a text, it could be a product description or something on a website, and just make sure that it is geared towards the target markets that is going to read it. So we’re looking at lots of different things. So for example, making sure cultural references in a text would make sense for the French audience. So for example, the other day I was translating a product description and it mentioned something about getting a pint in the Red Lion, which obviously because I know, I live in the UK, I know it’s a pub and I know it’s something people do. But if I translated this word for word, it was just be completely lost on the French audience because we don’t meet at the pub. We don’t really have a pint. It’s just not a French thing.

Clémentine Terrell (20:39):
So if I were to translate word for word, it just would fall flat in France. They just would be like, “Well, what are you talking about? I don’t understand”. So I translated it with just, “Prendre un verre en amis”. So just having a drink with friends, it would just connect more with the French audience. If that makes sense? So it’s looking at all these little cultural references, and just making sure that they are changed and adapted for the French audience. And there’s lots and lots of other different things. So, I always need to look at inclusivity and gender-neutral language. So using feminine and masculine. The register is a really big thing in from English to French translation. So obviously in English, we only got the ‘you’ when we addressing an audience, but in France, we have to make sure we use the right ‘tu’ or ‘vous’, depending on the kind of the tone of voice that the brand wants to go for. We need to look at numbers, currencies, measurements, times to make sure that they are the way that we do in France. There’s so many different aspects of things that we need to consider if that makes sense.

Janina Neumann (22:14):
Yeah, it does make sense.

Clémentine Terrell (22:14):
Yeah.

Janina Neumann (22:14):

Tell us little bit more about that tone of voice, because in German you have similar huddle almost to understand whether you want to use ‘du’ or ‘Sie’ when addressing someone. Tell us a little bit more about the kind of conversations you have with your clients about making that decision.

Clémentine Terrell (22:38):
So I think it’s, it’s about really understanding what the brand message is about. I mean, most of the time in e-commerce, we would use the ‘vous’ form when addressing a customer. But there are instances where, you know, it might be a brand that is aimed at children, for example, so that wouldn’t be appropriate. You wouldn’t use the ‘vous’ if the message is directed directly at children, and you would use ‘tu’ instead for example. But I think that’s something that, yeah, I definitely have discussions with the brands or the agencies that I work with it, just to make sure that that’s their intention, you know, is carried through.

Janina Neumann (23:28):
That sounds great.

So tell us a little bit more about, you know, some of the signs for businesses to see when they could consider the French market. When are they ready to really consider having their website or their e-commerce platform translated?

Clémentine Terrell (23:48):
Yes, sure. I think business usually they’re doing great in the UK, in their own country. They’ve sorted out their brand message. They know what it’s doing. They’re confident with the way they’re marketing their business, you know, they’ve spent maybe a year or two, really working out their brand message and their brand voice. And if their product is doing well on the UK market, then France is kind of, I mean, there are other countries, Germany as well, or Spain or Italy. But France is kind of a natural country and market to go into. The e-commerce market in France is really big. Amazon France, which is a platform that I work a lot with, is growing really, really, really quickly.

Clémentine Terrell (24:58):
So I think especially Amazon actually, it’s a really good way to get into the French market because it’s already got, you know, a custom base ready-made for you. People go on Amazon anyway. So it makes your life a little bit easier, I think, as a brand.

Janina Neumann (25:23):
Brilliant.

So if people love listening to you and would also perhaps work with you, how would they best get in touch with you?

Clémentine Terrell (25:33):
So I’ve got a website it’s www.clementineterrelltranslation.com, where I’ll explain a little bit more about what I do. There’s a portfolio of previous work, if people want to see what work I have done and how to contact me on that as well. I’m also quite active on LinkedIn. So just look me up on LinkedIn at Clementine Terrell and I’d be happy to connect with people on there as well.

Janina Neumann (26:06):
Oh, that’s fantastic. It’s been such a pleasure talking to you Clem, and thank you for sharing all your insights. It’s been so interesting. Thank you very much.

Clémentine Terrell (26:16):
Thank you very much for having me. It’s been really, really interesting. Thank you.

Janina Neumann (26:21):
It’s been my pleasure. Thank you.

Janina Neumann (26:24):
Hi there, this is Janina. I’m so pleased that you are here and listening to the podcast. For me, the podcast has been a great opportunity to learn and meet new people. I would like to bring together my community of like-minded people and so I am delighted to invite you to our first meet up. The meet up will be taking place online on Thursday, 15th July from 2pm to 3pm British Summer Time. The meet up will give you the opportunity to connect and meet some of the podcast guests and listeners. There will be a breakout room session for networking and a panel session for Q&A. You can book your free place at meetup.biculturalpodcast.com or click on the link within the show notes. I really hope to see you there and I can’t wait to meet you.

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