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ITI Profile: Andrew Leigh

We talk to Andrew Leigh, Assessment Committee chair and tutor on the SUFT course, in the latest in our ITI Profile series.                                                                       

Why did you decide you wanted to be a translator? 

After completing my first degree in modern languages (French and Spanish), I went straight into teacher training and spent two years teaching at a secondary school. I’d really enjoyed the challenge of translating at university and missed working at a high level so I applied for the Master’s Course in Translation at the University of Westminster and the rest, as they say, is history….


What made you specialise in legal translation?

I spent my first few years in-house at a translation agency in London. It was an invaluable experience that set me up to become freelance in 2003. I quickly realised that translating all kinds of documents was not the way forward. I wanted to be a solicitor when I was in my early teens so I revived that interest and followed a part-time evening degree in law at my local university in Sheffield. There seems to be a constant demand for legal translation and it can be a lucrative field so these were, of course, important factors in my decision to focus on legal translation.


Describe a piece of work or project you are particularly proud of.

I once translated a bundle of witness statements concerning a case of a British national who had disappeared mysteriously in Italy. Sadly, he was never found but I think the family found some comfort from knowing what the documents said and it was nice to have helped them in a small way.


You’re a tutor on the Setting Up as Freelance Translator online training programme – what are you covering?

I run the final module, which is about getting paid on time. We cover topics such as checking out clients in advance, negotiation and contractual issues, invoicing as well as chasing up debts and debt recovery. All very important matters for those starting out in the business.


What do you think is most challenging for those just starting out on their freelance career?

Getting a steady flow of work. It can be difficult to land those first few clients but at least we have the SUFT course to tell you how to do this successfully!


Why did you become an ITI member?

I became a student member of ITI when taking my Master’s in London. I could see that, for the payment of a small annual fee, ITI could offer support to those embarking on a new career in translation. Being a qualified member of ITI is one of the best things that one can do to progress one’s career and is a hallmark of quality.


What does your role as chairman of the ITI Assessment Committee involve?

ITI’s Assessment Committee looks at all aspects of the Assessment process. We identified a few years back that we could make improvements to the Exam, as it was then known, so we undertook a root-and-branch review of the entire process and looked at how we could make it fairer and more robust. All of this needed coordination and liaison between ITI’s office staff and between the committee members, which is the job of the chairman.


How was your experience of this year’s ITI Conference?

The ITI Conference continues to get better and better. I thought the speakers were all top quality this year but the conference is so much more than listening to the sessions. We now have a huge array of fringe activities and it is during these activities that you can get to know other translators and interpreters and make valuable connections. I think next time the conference will need to last for a whole week!


What was the most important thing you learned early in your career?

To specialise.


What would be your perfect holiday?

I think my perfect holiday would be a mix of skiing, walking, running and adventure activities. After all that exertion, I would probably need another holiday relaxing at a remote beach in the South Pacific Islands.



More information about the Setting up as a Freelance Translator online training programme is available here.






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