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Meet our graduates: Bruce Thomson

Having recently completed an MA (Hons) degree in Scandinavian Studies, Bruce has gone on to win an Emerging Translator Mentorship funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy.

Bruce Thomson
Bruce Thomson

Bruce Thomson graduated from the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) in July 2017 and is now based in the small town of Wells-Next-The-Sea in Norfolk.

A freelance literary translator, translating texts from Norwegian into English, he was recently announced as an Emerging Translator Mentorship winner as part of an annual programme run by the Writers’ Centre Norwich.

The highly prestigious programme was established by writer, editor and translator, Daniel Hahn, to develop successive new cohorts of literary translators into English, particularly for languages whose literature is currently under-represented in English translation.

As Bruce explains “The end goal is for emerging translators to establish themselves and make their voices heard within the profession. Funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy, I will be working one-on-one with the great Don Bartlett, who has translated works by (among other authors) Jo Nesbo, Gunnar Staalesen, Roy Jacobsen and Karl Ove Knausgaard." 

Hooked on the world of Scandinavia in a small, friendly department

Bruce originally intended to study linguistics at Edinburgh, and thought it would be nice to combine his degree with a language.

Telling us how he ended up doing a degree in Scandinavian Studies, he says “I attended a languages fair and was told of the wacky world of Scandinavia, where trolls, brown cheese and social welfare ran rampant. I was hooked!”

“Funnily enough, I loved how the department was so small. This not only meant that we all knew one another and developed friendships whilst we studied, but it also felt like all the different subjects of Scandinavian Studies were at our fingertips - jumping from literature to Vikings to contemporary Norwegian affairs was all in a day’s work!"

“Edinburgh is only ever a stone’s throw from green hills or roaring bodies of water. As someone who loves spending time in the great outdoors, these natural features were essential to enjoying my time there."

Inspiring a passion for translation

It was a tutor at LLC who recommended that, as an emerging translator, Bruce should “simply start sending emails to Norwegian literary agencies, asking whether they had any samples or catalogue texts needing to be translated."

“I did so, and subsequently received a great deal of positive feedback. Before I knew it, I was a translator."

“On a practical level, studying translation theory during every year of my degree has turned out to be very useful, while my time at LLC has also put me in contact with professional translators such as Kari Dickson, Guy Puzey, Ian Giles and others. They have inspired my passion for translation, as well as given me indispensable advice for getting started in the industry”.

“At the end of the day, translators are only ever as good as the work they produce. But to translate well, you need to ask yourself how willing you are to compromise speaking for listening. It’s essential to heed the advice of experienced translators, publishers and editors, just as it is impossible to translate without really hearing what the author is trying to say. Yet at the same time, translation is a form of self-expression."

Are you interested in Scandinavian Studies at LLC?

Edinburgh is the only university in Scotland, and one of only two in the UK, to offer Honours undergraduate degree programmes in Scandinavian languages and culture.

Find out more

Related links

Writers' Centre Norwich | Emerging Translator Mentorship programme