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ITI Profile: Nathaniel Elcock

We talk to Nathaniel Elcock, who has recently joined the ITI Professional Development Committee, in the latest in our ITI Profile series.

Nathaniel ElcockWhy did you decide you wanted to be an interpreter/translator?

I have always been fascinated by language and the art of communication. Once I had gone to the effort (and expense!) of getting a degree in French and German, I was keen to use my languages professionally. I actually went to work for a national youth charity for three years following graduation. This was a great opportunity, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But it was never intended to be long-term, so inevitably, the question “what next?” arose before long. I applied for an MA, got offered a place, passed the course, and the rest is history, as they say!


So, what does an average week look like for you?

I’m currently working for much of my week as a lecturer in interpreting and translation at both the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and the University of York. I really enjoy the teaching/training side of things, and, fortunately, there’s still enough time in my week to run my own small company. I always want to keep the translation/interpreting/project management work going; apart from enjoying it, I also think it makes me a better teacher.


Was setting up your own company daunting?

Not particularly. I always wanted to have my own business, and had quite a good idea of what was involved beforehand.


Describe an area of work you particularly enjoy, or a project you are particularly proud of.

Two things, if I may! I do an amount of interpreting in the French nuclear industry. Obviously, I enjoy the linguistic challenge, but I also relish getting to grips with the technical side of things. The second thing which comes to mind is a voiceover project I worked on for a hospital. One of the things I like about AV translation over document translation is that you have something creative to look back at, and you can say, “I did that – and I’m really pleased with how it has turned out”. You can’t do that so much with things like technical manuals!


What was the most important thing you learned from your first job as an interpreter?

Something I tell my students all the time: linguistically, you can be the best interpreter ever, but if you’re not pleasant and easy to work with, people won’t hire you again. So, I guess, behave professionally, be polite, go the extra mile to help, don’t make a fuss. Oh, and prepare the subject matter!


What makes for a great client/supplier relationship?

One of the things I think is a bit sad about our profession is that there is often a mutual distrust between supplier and client. When I subcontract work to colleagues, I try to build a genuine relationship. It takes more time to write personal emails or make phone calls, but I think it’s worth it. When I work for agencies or direct clients, I expect them to treat me as an individual, not just as a ‘resource’. So in answer to the question, I would say, good communication and genuine relationship-building are key. It’s a win-win for all concerned.


How has ITI membership helped you?

It gives me more professional credibility, access to training/events and a pool of like-minded colleagues with whom I can (and do) work.


What does your role on the Professional Development Committee involve?

Ask me in another six months! At this stage, I’m still feeling my way, but I anticipate bringing another interpreter’s perspective to proceedings.


What are your favourite places to visit in France and Germany?

French vineyards and German car factories!


What would be your perfect holiday?

The USA. Forget the controversial politics at the moment; it’s an amazing place. So much variety – massive cities, deserted countryside, beaches, history. You name it. Something for everyone! And for once, I don’t have to speak a foreign language, so I can really switch off.


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