James Cairns studied French, Latin and German in High School and specialised in French and Russian at the University of Bradford, UK. He left the UK, in 1983, to teach English at the Bourguiba Institute of Modern Languages in Tunis, Tunisia. During his stay there, he became actively involved in Tunisian culture and society, and learned Tunisian Arabic and Italian. He returned to Scotland in 2000. He currently works as a freelance translator and editor.