French to English: Interpreter Spotlight of the Week with Emily Schaffer

Emily Schaffer French Translator

Emily is a French and Portuguese translator based in Chicago, USA.

Damla: Hi Emily, thanks so much for joining us today. It’s going to be great to finally share your story with our community. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Emily: Absolutely. I have loved languages for as long as I can remember. In high school, while most students complained about the 3-year foreign language requirement, I asked to take both French and Spanish. Then I studied linguistics at Stanford University and spent two terms abroad in Paris. After graduation, I lived in Paris, London, and Madrid before returning to the United States to attend Harvard Law School. I have since worked as a lawyer in the United States, Costa Rica, and Brazil. My husband is Brazilian, and our household is a symphony of English, Portuguese, and French!

Damla: You seem like the perfect example of globalization, and it is incredible to have a lawyer doing translation work. I bet it allows you to work with legal translations with a lot of background. So how did you end up where you are now?

Emily: I decided to take a break from globe-trotting when my first child was born. Now I work in a downtown office, and while I love my job, I miss interacting with people whose backgrounds and experiences are worlds apart (literally!) from mine. One of the reasons I enjoy interpreting is that it gives me a glimpse of what other people are experiencing elsewhere in the world.

Damla: How did you end up interested in interpreting in the first place?

Emily: When I was little, I made up a game called “magic carpet” where I would sit on a rug on my bedroom floor and pretend to travel the world, speaking made-up languages to imaginary people. Later, I began to travel the real world and speak real languages–English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese–to real people in the United States, France, England, Spain, Costa Rica, and Brazil.

“One of the reasons I enjoy interpreting is that it gives me a glimpse of what other people are experiencing elsewhere in the world.”

Damla: It’s lovely to hear how your story evolved from dreams of traveling, to working as an interpreter. Do you have a favorite anecdote from your work?

Emily: I was once asked to interpret a human rights trial in Brazil from Portuguese to French for a visiting French judge, and I ended up on national TV!

Damla: That’s incredible and quite impressive. Do you get to do much outside of being a full time lawyer and interpreter?

Emily: When I am at home, I love to experiment in the kitchen to come up with new vegan recipes for my family. Otherwise, you’ll find me at the park, the pool, the museum, or anywhere else my kids and I can run around and have fun.

Damla: How lovely! It seems like we have a trend of aspiring chefs in our interpreter community. Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down and share your story Emily, you’re an incredible example of an interpreter with legal expertise.

Emily: My pleasure, talk to you soon Damla!

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