Modern Work is a podcast where people around the world talk about the work they do & how they got there.

Interview topics include careers, childhood hobbies, education, entrepreneurship, office culture, work-life balance, remote work, digital nomads, apps, tools, processes, workflow, strategy, and more. 

The host, Katherine Conaway, is a consultant, writer & traveler.

Katy Fowler, Freelance Translator

Katy Fowler, Freelance Translator

Listen to this episode via the audio file below, or on one of these platforms:

Katy Fowler

Katy Fowler is a freelance translator working from German and Italian into English. The texts she translates cover a wide variety of subject areas ranging from telecommunications to art history. She has previously worked as a waitress, a tour guide, an interpreter at the European Union, and a Christmas elf.

She studied at Durham University (BA Hons in Modern European Languages) and the University of Bath (MA in Interpreting and Translation).

Websites + Social Media Links

Episode: Katy Fowler, Freelance Translator

Show Notes & Summary Points



  • Katy Fowler
  • Freelance translator working from German and Italian into English
  • From Hampshire, England, United Kingdom
  • Remote Year 2 Battuta participant
  • Recorded in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


  • Family of linguists
  • Growing up, studied German in school 
  • Studied Modern European Languages (German, Italian, Spanish) at the University of Durham
  • Master’s in Interpreting & Translation at University of Bath
  • Internship after Master’s degree at translation companies in Italy and then in Germany
  • Work now focuses solely on written translation (interpreting is spoken)


  • After undergraduate study, traveled, and worked as a waitress and then in office administration in London commuting from her hometown in Hampshire
  • Worked in a bird park for two years - even got to feed penguins, bottle-fed orphan lambs, was an elf in the Christmas grotto
  • Tour guide for 5 summer seasons around Western Europe doing 6-7 countries in 8-28 day tours - used language skills, worked primarily with Italian coach drivers - all done pre international SIM cards and primarily used (still uses!) guide books
  • After becoming a summer tour guide, went to get Master’s in Interpreting & Translation at University of Bath during the school year - likes that translation & interpretation involve the practical application of language
  • Interpreting: simultaneous uses the booths & headphones to interpret while someone’s speaking (like at the UN); consecutive means taking notes during a speech (like shorthand) and then give back the speech in full afterwards
  • For translation, also took courses on law and other subjects because translation is used for international business
  • Wanted to work in the European Union, have to pass an exam to be a freelance English interpreter at the institutions in Brussels and Luxembourg - passed in 2009 & then moved to Brussels
  • Transitioned from interpretation to translation as more countries admitted to the EU spoke English, there was less interpreting work, and side freelance translation was going well 
  • Focuses on translation - gets clients via several agencies that distribute freelance translation work
  • Value of knowing what you do and don’t like to do & how you work, and finding a career path that optimizes for those things
  • Translates a variety of things, not specialized, primarily German to English - including internal business communications for major companies, websites, CVs, cover letters, marketing materials, as well as art and architecture materials for museums & galleries
  • Translation tools: Microsoft Office & the WordFast translation memory software
  • Translator has many possible choices for translation that can significantly impact what it means to the person reading it - not just a direct and obvious word for word translation but ensuring that the meaning, tone, and voice are accurately conveyed; requires a nuanced understanding of both the source and target languages 
  • Translators often paid by the word, and going from German to English means the original word count would be lower than the result; direct clients pay more than agencies 
  • Working as a freelancer means you don’t have all the benefits or consistency of a salaried job, so hourly rates are usually much higher to yield a corresponding annual income


  • Trips to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Belarus among many others
  • Fast vs. slow travel
  • Everywhere is interesting (& having a bad memory helps!)
  • Joined Remote Year because she had a remote job already but wanted someone else to organize the travel, housing, workspace, and other logistics
  • The digital nomad lifestyle on your own vs. with a company like Remote Year - and it’s all about expectations
  • The benefits of a good coworking space with a variety of spaces and food & drinks available - for example, K10 Cowork in Prague, Sinergia in Montevideo
  • Train journey home from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to London, England: month-long trip up Vietnam to Beijing to then take the Trans-Siberian Express to Moscow (with a few stops during the trip) to Paris and then London
  • Bobby the horse - a bit incompatible with traveling, but has been riding horses since age 7 & bought Bobby a few years ago to do dressage (basically ballet with horses), and even went riding several times while traveling on Remote Year
Thank you for listening!
Arestia Rosenberg, Director + Executive Producer + Writer

Arestia Rosenberg, Director + Executive Producer + Writer

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