Spotlight on our freelancers – today: Katherine Q.-F.

Katherine grew up with a number of different languages: her parents used Hindi as a “secret code”, and in response she simply invented her own language. Today she tells up about her professional dreams and whether she was able to realise them.

Middle-aged woman at work

Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Who are you? Where did you grow up? Why did you want to become a translator?

I was born in Kolkata, India, into a British family who had lived in India for over 100 years. We emigrated to England when I was young. Languages have always fascinated me – my parents spoke Hindi to each other when they were talking about things they didn’t want us children to know about. In protest I decided to speak my own, made-up language and called it “French”. But at the age of six I started to learn real French, and then German at twelve.
I actually wanted to become a writer or journalist. I also found history fascinating. So I studied languages, business, history and politics. But after uni I worked as an administrative assistant in the technical industry: for the time being my journalism dream was put on hold.

Shortly after I moved to Germany and started working as a freelance translator – it just happened like that. There was no Internet then – I had to save up to buy technical dictionaries for every subject. They cost a fortune. But I got a PC very early on and therefore always had the latest technology. I didn’t work as a translator for very long then, but returned to translation as and when required. Thanks to my experience I worked as a technical author and training consultant for many years. I had my own company and a lot of assignments – including numerous multilingual translation projects which I coordinated and undertook with freelance translators. It was an unbelievably exciting, but incredibly intensive period.
But then I again felt the desire to follow my original dreams. Personal reasons also played a role and so I began to work as a journalist and historian. Today I write for various newspapers and also give history talks. When it comes to working with Apostroph I’m able to be very flexible in the way I manage my time, and this suits my flair for organising perfectly. I’m very happy with the way things are at the moment and am a lot less stressed in my work than previously.

What are your working languages and areas of specialisation? What kind of texts do you translate for Apostroph?

I work for armasuisse, translate websites, contracts, technical texts, software specifications and marketing material. I’m also very experienced in the financial sector, including the translation of annual reports. I primarily translate from German to English; I’ll also sometimes translate short French-German texts.

How long have you been working for Apostroph as a freelancer?

Since early 2013, with the exception of mid-2015 and the end of 2018, when I was very busy working on history exhibitions.

What do you enjoy about working with Apostroph?

I like working in an organised manner and am delighted that the whole process runs so smoothly. In addition, it’s fascinating translating for armasuisse. This relates to the military and national defence – two topics which also interest me as a historian. I find it exciting to be up to speed and also thus to understand the developments of the last 80 or 100 years.

What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of Apostroph? Why this word?

The first? Organised. Apostroph is super organised, from the structured way of working with myFREELANCE to punctual payment. That’s very important to me because I like to work like that myself. That’s why we can work together so well.
And the second is: fair. Apostroph sets achievable deadlines and pays fairly. If something has taken longer or was more difficult than expected, there is always room for negotiation. That is something I really appreciate.

Would you like to tell us about something cool or funny that happened to you in your translating career?

There’s nothing I can think of off the top of my head. Translating, and above all writing and working in different languages, has become second nature to me. I couldn’t imagine my life without it now.

What does your typical working day as a translator look like?

I combine my work as a translator, journalist and historian. I usually start between 8.30 and 9 am and work until around 12 noon. I always try to deliver translations before the deadline. That makes things less stressful for both sides. I usually schedule newspaper interviews or research in archives and libraries for the afternoons. I don’t like to waste time. If, for example, I have a doctor’s appointment, then I continue working on my laptop in the waiting room.

I take a break of up to an hour in total each day. Then I go for a walk, have a coffee or read a magazine. This allows me to consciously switch off. I also take a half-hour break at lunchtime. I then spend the afternoon doing research and interviews and writing articles. Or I continue to work on translations, depending on what needs to be done. And now and then I meet friends for a coffee. To make up for this I just work longer in the evening – but rarely past 8 pm.

Would you take the same professional path if you could start over again?

Start over again? Then I would do a doctorate in history. But then my life today would be completely different. And I’m happy with my current life.

Do you have a couple of tips for prospective linguists and freelancers who translate for us?

I think it’s very important to gain not only linguistic but also industry experience. It’s incredibly useful to work for a while in one or two sectors and understand the business processes. Then when translating I really understand what is being talked about and can translate more “freely”.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Katherine!

Do you want to know more about other freelancers on our books? Do you have a similar path to translation as Katherine’s or a completely different one?

Send us an email to

And stay tuned for more Freelancer Interviews in the coming months.

Achieving goals together

  • A reliable partner

    It’s very easy to process jobs in our portal myFREELANCE and you can look forward to punctual, monthly payments.
  • Your link to Apostroph

    With Apostroph, you will have personal contact with our project management employees. They will answer your questions and help you process your orders.
  • The Apostroph community

    A lively exchange, exciting and entertaining contributions in the Language Lounge and continuing education opportunities are what make our community what it is.