06 Jun Freek Lankhof: Our Favorite Bookseller!
If you’ve never met Freek Lankhof, you’re in for a real treat this week… a Dutch treat, as a matter of fact! Freek has long been a supporter of our interpreting and translation professions as our go-to guy for books. Whether it’s a mainstream title, a new release, or something totally off the wall, if it has something to do with language, Freek can tell us how to get it. Not only that; he offers competitive prices, deals on shipping, newsletters announcing new arrivals, and great personalized service! I interviewed Freek for this week’s blog so we can all get to know the man behind the fantastic resources we love to browse at conferences and on the net. Please take the time to comment and thank Freek for his eternal support, okay?
Jen: So let’s start with the basics. What languages do you speak, read, and write?
Freek: We grew up learning German, English and French. My German is very rusty; I can read but not speak it (unless you put me in Germany for two weeks). French I can read, but I need to be in France for two months and overcome the resistance of those who prefer not to converse with somebody that doesn’t speak the language to a T. I do speak Swedish, although it’s also very rusty; I still read it quite comfortably. I do not speak Danish but I can read it.
Jen: Wow! So many languages! How about the path that brought you to the US?
Freek: I was born in the Netherlands, where I started off as a proofreader/editor for most of the major Dutch publishing houses. I later moved on to become a literary translator. I immigrated to the United States in 1983 and worked as a library assistant at Columbia University before becoming a bookseller.
Jen: What got you into translating?
Freek: I was working as a copy editor for literary publishing houses in the Netherlands and one day I was assigned to a project that brought Scandinavian literature to the Dutch reader. I had never edited a translation from Swedish to Dutch. It interested me so much that I went back to school and studied Swedish. I ultimately asked for a test translation and was deemed good enough to do the project.
Jen: Do you still translate?
Freek: No, since coming here I have not done any translation work.
Jen: Still, I bet you’re quite the reader. Do you have a favorite literary genre?
Freek: My favorite is Nordic literature, but I enjoy basically anything that keeps my fantasy alive. I’m an avid reader but did not become one until I was 18 or 19 years old. I was working for a magazine distributor, and there began my deep affection for the world of books.
Jen: What made you get into bookselling in the first place?
Freek: I was hired by the Dutch Company E. J. Brill., a scholarly press, to set up their sales office in the US. They had purchased a dying import bookstore and one of my tasks was to blow some new life into that part of the business. I managed their office until 1994. Then, I started i.b.d., Ltd (International Book Distributors). In 2004, i.b.d., Ltd. became InTrans Book Service.
Jen: What part of what your business you enjoy most?
Freek: Dealing with customers, being able to carry over some of my knowledge, to be of help, to help people become better translators and/or interpreters by advising them what to buy in order for them to improve. That’s why I can’t stand the bigger online booksellers; they are not here to educate, but just for the sake of selling and making a profit.
Jen: You live on the east coast, right? Whereabouts?
Freek: I live in rural upstate New York, some 22 miles south of Albany, in a small village called Kinderhook. It is the birthplace of the 8th US president, Martin Van Buren, and Webster’s says “ok” originated here.
Jen: I have to ask… what about those delicious treats your sister Marjan makes? Secret recipe? Dutch treats? What’s the story?
Freek: Dutch Desserts is my sister’s company. She started it in 1994 with an old family recipe for a Dutch Apple tart and started selling them at the local farmer’s market. Soon she started to make varieties. Dutch Desserts now produces Apple, Blueberry, Fudgy Chocolate, Mixed-Berry, Peach, Peach-Raspberry, Raspberry, Sour Cherry, Pecan and Pecan/Chocolate tarts, all based on the original Apple tart recipe and they are sold at 12 farmer’s markets and at the moment in 12 local stores. Because the book business is in a perpetual slump, I joined her company part time and make a cookie called “stroopwafel” (syrup waffle) and carved out a little niche with this very popular Dutch treat.
So there you have it. Freek Lankhof is such a star, and we truly appreciate all he does to keep the offerings of the very best in resources readily available to us. He is a generous supporter of the authors among our ranks, a regular exhibitor at our conferences and he always has the right answers and great service. Be sure to check into getting on his mailing list at Intransbooks.com. While you’re there, browse the plethora of books and other items he carries. If you’re saving to purchase interpreting or translation reference materials, I can assure you that Freek is your guy!