Great xl8 Communities is an interview series about peer-led communities, groups, and initiatives for translators and interpreters. Peer networks bring together professionals with different backgrounds but similar needs, fears and problems. Some are about providing advice, support and learning opportunities. Others serve as cosy oases for networking and fun.

My guest today is Delphine Guérou – medical translator and project manager. Delphine is one of the moderators from Translators Helping Translators (or THT), a Facebook group dedicated to providing terminology advice and support to their members.


Every new initiative is based on the person who starts the ball rolling. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and why you do what you do?

Well, actually we were four when the group was started (Giselle Chaumien, Siegfried Armbruster, Anne Diamantidis and myself) – so the group really isn’t based only on me!

To answer your question, though, I’m an English and German to French medical translator. I moved to Germany towards the end of my studies, almost four years ago (that long already! Seems like yesterday!): I used to work as an in-house translator in a medical LSP, and I took part in the Alexandria Library project, namely a platform offering CPD and terminology resources to translators and interpreters. Sadly this project had to be put to an end last year, at which point I searched for another job and became a project manager in another, much bigger medical LSP: mt-g medical translation. More specifically, I work in the very challenging field of global regulatory affairs and marketing authorisation procedures of medicinal products.

delphine guerou


What is Translators Helping Translators? What is the focus of your group?

Translators Helping Translators was created when we realised that there didn’t seem to be any Facebook group focusing on terminology-related enquiries.

Of course, translators were free to publish their questions in other groups, but there was no place dedicated, which could make it harder to know where to ask, above all in case of highly technical terms, expressions or sentences. As a result, we decided to create a new group with one clear focus, like Find a Translator with translation jobs, CPD for Translators and Interpreters with CPD events and so on.

Our group focuses on terminology questions, even though some other issues, technology-related for example, are accepted as well. Translators are welcome to ask any question or to share any kind of linguistic or terminology resource, like some translators have done since the group was created.


What do people who join the group look for? What do they find?

People who join our group are normally looking for… well, help with terminology issues! I say normally, because like many groups we unfortunately get our share of spammers! In THT, translators find a group in which terminology-related enquiries are not lost among many other kinds of enquiries, advertisements, job offers, CPD events etc. It makes it easier to notice new posts and to answer them, whereas the same posts might go completely unnoticed in more general groups.

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Can you tell us about a challenging question that got answered in Translators Helping Translators?

Huh, that’s a good question! It’s difficult to answer this one since what one finds challenging may not be for others – depending on specialty fields. For example, every time I see a question dealing with any kind of machinery or technical device, I want to flee!

The medical field isn’t always much easier, though. A few years ago, the following question was asked: in the sentence “The nerve damage varies from mild tingling and altered sensation to irreversible disabling damage in the most severe cases.”, what does “disabling damage” exactly imply?

I think that marketing or transcreation-related questions can be quite tricky since, as we well know, they don’t call for a simple answer, i.e. [word/expression in language A] = [word/expression in language B]. You have to take into account the cultural aspect and so on.

Similarly, law-related enquiries are not always easy to answer as each country has its own legal system. Depending on how different it is in the source and target language countries, you can’t always find a translation or even an equivalence. Some languages are also much more precise than others: for example, how would you translate “Geschäftsführender Gesellschafter” into English? What exact role does that person have in a company?

And of course, sometimes we need help with words that end up being typos from our clients: “viella” for “viyella”, “Nachtrichter” for “Nachrichten” and so on. Luckily, translators whose mother tongue is our source language can notice right away where the problem lies!

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Finally, how people can get the most out of the group? Could you share any hints and tips for new members?

The first thing you have to remember is that translators answer questions on a voluntary basis and can obviously only answer if they know what you are talking about. Some questions unfortunately stay without answer, which can be due to the fact that no one is specialised enough in your area of expertise for example. But sometimes, the reason is much more down-to-earth: when you see an enquiry which you’re not sure you understand, you might be less likely to take the time and first answer “what do you mean?” You might even think that you simply don’t know the answer.

In other words, questions should be asked in an understandable way: state the specialty field and the language pair, give as much context as you can and so on. As we all know, translating a word without any context can prove very hard and may well lead to mistranslations! Why not also indicate what kind of research you have been doing so far, and offer suggestions if at all possible.

Something else: it’s probably (hopefully!) a given, but I think that being polite can only help: when you need something, you don’t ask for it without saying hi, please and thank you. It’s rare, but sometimes people do publish questions in a way that can be perceived as a little too direct!

Want to join Translators Helping Translators? Visit the group on Facebook, and follow the instructions in the description – requests are subject to authorisation, and members need to demonstrate their professional status.