I am Charles Katsidonis, a natural-born translator & linguist, a serial language-learner and a profoundly intellectually-curious human being.
Born and raised in Brussels, capital of the European Union and a cosmopolitan and deeply multilingual city, I learned French and Modern Greek from day one (because it so happens that my parents are Greek).
At school, where I was taught in French, I successively learned Dutch, English and Spanish among other things (as a complement to the core scientific subjects I elected to study) before studying for a BA in Translation Studies at the Institut Supérieur de Traducteurs et Interprètes (ISTI, Brussels) where I added the Italian language to my linguistic toolkit.
Concomitantly to my translation studies, I also enrolled at the Rand Afrikaans University in South Africa in the Modern Greek Language and Culture program and followed several evening language courses as well (German, Russian, Japanese, Portuguese, etc.) developing my passion for languages and linguistics.
In February 2004, I moved to Singapore and created my translation company. In Singapore, I learned enormously about the local, Chinese, Malay and Indian cultures and languages, studied Mandarin Chinese at the National University of Singapore and picked up some Malay on my own. At the end of 2006, I moved to Hong Kong, where the company has been settled ever since.
As of 2019, while working full-time, I am also studying for a Master's Degree in Information and Communication Science & Technologies at the ULB in Brussels.
Through the years, while running the company, I have never stopped refining my language skills as well as studying other fields for both my personal and professional enlightenment and enjoyment such as Musicology, Sciences, Business, Web & Software Development, Film Direction, Visual Effects and Character Animation.
How do you translate a list of country names like the one below into French?
Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Spain
Seems simple enough, right? You just translate each word and boom, you’re done.
Well, yes and no. If you did just that, you would then get the following list:
Belgique, Allemagne, Pays-Bas, Espagne
This list is perfectly fine but notice how the original one was ordered alphabetically. That order has changed now because the countries’ names’ start with different letters when translated: “Spain” becomes “Espagne” and “Germany” becomes “Allemagne”. The countries move in the alphabetical order.
That’s precisely the kind of little details that I love sneaking into my translations. Whenever possible (i.e. when technically feasible), when I encounter these types of lists, I’ll always rebuild the original alphabetical order. So my list would be as follows.
Allemagne, Belgique, Espagne, Pays-Bas
Not a substantial change but the thing is much more readable to a French speaker. Now, imagine if the list is some kind of an index: people would have an easier time finding what they are searching for. That’s a detail, but a powerful one.
Steve and I we go a long way back… No, not really. We don’t share all that much actually except for one particular obsession. Steve Jobs is well known for many things but one aspect of his excruciating attention to detail that gets sometimes lost is that he would often push Steve Wozniak, the engineer behind Apple’s early successes, to design the computers’ circuit boards (the innards) so as to be as beautiful and aesthetically pleasing as possible.
Jobs insisted that the innards of the computer should look as good as the exterior, which was kind of unprecedented.
So, like Steve Jobs, I too am obsessed with the hidden details.The translations I deliver to my clients are always done to the highest standard of quality but I also personally make sure that all the hidden stuff is beautiful as well. That means taking care of the typography, i.e. making sure that all the appropriate types of spaces, hyphens, quotes and specials characters are used for all contexts and languages.
That means using the correct punctuation in Spanish (¡Hola!), using the correct diacritics in English (façade, déjà vu) or the correct typography rules in French. For instance, by making sure that the space between the currency and its symbol is a non-breaking space* (100 €), as per the accepted rules of French typography.
A non-breaking space is special character that prevents an automatic line break at its position. This is an important detail given that French, contrarily to English, doesn’t glue the currency symbol to the given amount. So, in English: 100€ or €100 becomes 100 € in French.
In French, the same is true for colons, semi-colons, exclamation or interrogation points, and many other symbols as they are separated from the word that comes before them (e.g.: Bonjour !, Comment allez-vous ?).