So, it seemed the right step for me to choose to study a degree in Modern Languages, German and French – and most importantly – with a course which included no literature at all, but rather a study of the languages themselves, their linguistics and development and the application of mutli-lingualism including modules in translation and interpretation. I loved the challenge of being given a piece of text in an unknown language (it turned out to be Romanian) and being asked to translate it. Obviously I had no understanding of what it meant, but with careful decoding, you could pull out patterns of short repeated words, similar endings and longer words so that the structure of likely subjects, verbs and adjectives become clearer. My degree included two international placements and so I spent six months helping in a busy Import/Export department in the C&A headquarters in Duesseldorf (Germany) followed by six months teaching English to management staff of Alcatel in Saintes (France). My confidence to express myself in German and French flourished in this time and on my return to my final year I loved the fact that I could attain good marks in modules by just talking nonstop. What a great way to achieve!
Having initially thought I would look at jobs in translation or TEFL teaching once I graduated, I spotted an ad in the local paper (I was living in Bath by then) which was for an International Sales Assistant in a children’s publisher which required a German speaker who loved books and was willing to travel. I couldn’t believe my eyes that such a job existed, and was even happier when I was offered the role, and started work in the rights department.
International rights is a bit of a mystery to anyone outside of the publishing industry (and even to some within it) however I felt like I had entered a world that was made for me. There is daily contact with publishers in other countries, you are surrounded by children’s books, illustrations and texts all day, and you get to travel to major international book fairs (the main ones are Frankfurt, London and Bologna) as well as taking sales trips to specific territories that you manage. I’ve visited most European capitals as part of my work travels over the years, and you get to correspond with international people all day long. I’ve picked up the words for “publishing house”, “children’s books” and “a beer, please” in over 10 different languages and it’s a real joy to see a printed copy of a book in another language and know that you are part of making that happen. I don’t think I will ever tire of the “book fair buzz” with busy days spent constantly talking, in my case, in three different languages and even leaving bookfairs aside, on a day to day basis, I spend most of my day writing emails (or in more recent times, speaking on Zoom), and I love the fact that it’s in German, French and English, and I am still learning new words and phrases each day.
Rachel studied French & German as a BA (Hons) in Modern Languages at Bradford University. With over twenty years experience in the publishing rights industry, she is now Co-Director of a rights agency called The Rights Solution, and lives in St Albans with her husband, two daughters and a menagerie of pets!
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