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.

We talk to Claire Cox, French and German to English translator and a member of ITI's Professional Development Committee, in the latest in our ITI Profile series.


Claire CoxWhat made you decide that translation was the career for you?

I’d always loved the translation aspects of my degree course, and when it came to deciding what to do on my year abroad, my university, Salford, was very keen on language students doing work placements rather than studying at foreign universities. I had worked for the NatWest Bank in my university vacations and had actually managed to find a job with them in Frankfurt for the German stint of my year abroad, but decided to ask my personal tutor if he could find me anything translation-related instead. He duly found me a post as a proof-reader in a busy translation agency in Sindelfingen and the rest is history!

You’ve been translating for over 30 years - what do you see as the biggest changes in the work over this period?

Timescales are now much shorter than they used to be: I used to regularly have weeks to do assignments, whereas requests for turnarounds within days are the norm now. The advent of computers and the internet in particular have revolutionised working practices; I used to dictate my translations on a dictaphone and have them typed up by the typing pool. We were horrified when it was mooted that we should type our own! Finally, of course, CAT tools make it much easier to ensure consistency. I set up a very detailed filing system when I worked in-house so we could track down old translations for reference, but it’s much more efficient to have technology that brings up related texts at the touch of a key…

Tell us about a recent project you’re proud of

I like to think I’m proud of all the work I produce, and of course much of my work is confidential as I work in the nuclear sector, so I can’t really discuss it here. However, I really enjoyed a big project I did a year or so ago in one of my minor specialisms, food & drink. It was for a large restaurant chain who were setting up a new branch in the UK and ranged from menus, recipes, marketing material to contractual texts, events management and building/IT supplies. I outsourced the parts that weren’t in my comfort zone, but coordinated the whole project – and loved translating about food for once!

You’ve recently joined the ITI Professional Development Committee – what aspects of professional development particularly interest you?

I am passionate about the fact that we all need to keep on learning and developing, even after nearly 35 years in the profession, as in my case. I find it very sad when experienced colleagues take the view that they don’t need to do any more. We learn 'on the job' all the time, of course, but it’s rejuvenating to keep on our toes with other aspects of the profession too, be it writing skills, technological skills or simply finding out how colleagues do things and learning from them.

Do you have any priorities this year for your own CPD?

Having attended the “Translate In Cambridge” workshop in 2016, and thoroughly enjoyed the in-depth approach to wordsmithery, I’m very much looking forward to the German equivalent to be held just outside Berlin at the end of May: “Translate Better”, organised by the BDÜ and the ATA. It’s so good to exchange notes with like-minded colleagues and I hope to come back as invigorated as I did from Cambridge.

You’re a regular blogger – what do you like about it and do you follow any other bloggers?

I originally started blogging as a means of writing what I wanted to say for a change, rather than merely translating others’ words, much as I love what I do. After so long in the business, I felt I had a lot to pass on to less experienced colleagues and it was a means of giving something back to the profession. I’ve also really enjoyed the writing process in itself; shades of all those stories I used to write as a child! I follow a good many bloggers, but particularly like Marie Brotnov’s Translation Wordshop, Nikki Graham’s My Words for a Change, and Emma Goldsmith’s Signs and Symptoms of Translation, especially her clear and concise Trados articles.

What do you value about your ITI membership?

I only joined the ITI relatively late in my career, as I worked in-house originally and then worked part-time until my children were older. When I finally took the plunge, it was because it felt like the right next step for me professionally and my decision has been vindicated many times over. I love the support and camaraderie from colleagues and the fact that we represent a body of qualified practitioners, maintaining standards in the profession and moving forward as we go. The ITI sets a high benchmark for quality and it’s essential to be a part of that if you want to succeed as a translator or interpreter in the UK.

What do you see as the key to a successful translator/client relationship?

Maintaining a friendly working relationship is essential, and trying to offer more than simply what has been asked. Clients are often unfamiliar with the world of translation and might not know all the ins and outs, so we need to do everything we can to support them through the process. Going the extra mile often reaps rewards further down the line.

What’s the most valuable piece of advice you feel you could give someone just starting out on their translation career?

Specialise, specialise, specialise! Find a niche you’re comfortable in and work at improving within it.

Do you have a favourite French or German film?

Now you’re asking! I’m not a great movie goer and am struggling to think of recent foreign films I’ve seen and enjoyed. I loved Les Intouchables a few years back and the light-hearted Populaire also appealed to my film-watching tastes. I’m very much for a happy ending, in life as on the silver screen. smile

We talk to French and German to English translator Matthew Spofforth in the latest in our ITI Profile series.

When and why did you decide you wanted to work in languages?

I’ve always been pretty good with words, so when the chance came to pick up French/German in high school, it was a no-brainer, and I found I could progress quickly. From that point on, I knew I wanted to take things further, and managed to do so through A levels, University and Masters. Safe to say I knew very early on where I felt I wanted to go, it was just a matter of waiting for the right opportunity to present itself.

How did you come to specialise in technical translation?

After my MSc, I took on various roles for the DWP, the energy sector and within Bosch Service Solutions in Liverpool. The latter enabled me to use technical German on a daily basis in a practical way to assist customers with their queries. We also had tools on-site that we could handle to visualise the issue more easily. Eventually, extremely technical vocabulary became second-nature, and being aware of Germany’s excellent reputation for high-quality innovation and machinery, it was the natural choice for a specialisation.

What did you find most challenging about setting up your translation business?

Whilst working full-time, I’d assisted a mentor of mine with her projects in my spare time in exchange for her advice on setting up as a freelancer, so I’d ironed out my plans quite well and established a base before I took the plunge. That said, I’d say self-positioning is the hardest part at the very start, as you don’t really know where your place in the market is; and gaining clients’ trust takes a lot of work. I’d say I’m quite established now, but not resting on my laurels by any means!

What do you see as the biggest achievement in your career so far?

Probably securing my first direct client, which was a large engineering firm in the US. In a more general sense, I’d say being able to have a really good flow of work after two years in business is also something to be proud of, as lots of SMEs fail in their 1st year! Hopefully things continue to be positive over the next few years.

Has anything surprised you about the experience of working as a translator – is it how you imagined it?

Not really, as mentioned above, having a mentor helped prepare me for what was in store. The ability to co-work makes a huge difference as there are few distractions and it’s a great office atmosphere. The big surprise for me really was the lack of knowledge of the industry on the part of potential clients. Eventually I want to step away a bit from the production side and focus on one-to-one client consultation, so that they fully understand the added value we bring to the table.

How do you approach CPD?

I aim to do 1/2 in-person conferences a year (this year I was at the SDL Trados Roadshow in London in May, followed by an ITI Scotnet Microsoft Word conference in Edinburgh in September), but try to prioritise webinars that address any gaps in my knowledge. I have a ProZ Plus membership, which means I have hundreds of hours of webinars to get through...

What do you value about ITI membership?

Knowing that there is a professional body out there that serves to protect working linguists is a great boost to professional credibility and it tends to be a factor in being contacted for certain projects, as we have the code of conduct and strict eligibility criteria to adhere to. For instance, some of my clients said they found me solely via the ITI directory. I also enjoyed the last Scotnet conference, and plan to go to more in future!

Do you have a USP?

Service with a smile, and the deadline is king! I also see myself more as an ‘entrepreneurial linguist’ trying to build a lasting brand, where translation is just a part of consulting package I am aiming to provide.

Are there any books that have had a major impact on you?

Mastery by Robert Greene was an interesting concept, which taught me the value of patience.

It uses the life stories of history’s great figures to explain how they: 1. Gravitated towards the ‘life task’ that they excelled in and 2. Used their experiences and training over time to achieve a level of mastery in their chosen field and showed their lines of thinking when faced with challenges.

Who has inspired you?

Personally, my parents and family have been a huge inspiration to me, getting to where they have with a great work ethic after enduring some really tough times. Professionally, people like Stephen Hawking had worldwide success through his ideas despite motor neurone disease, and Elon Musk is a constant innovator who pushes the boundaries with Tesla and SpaceX. These two in particular showed me the importance of flexibility, resilience and a relentless drive to be successful.

We speak to Fiona Gray MITI, who specialises in German to English translation, in the latest in our ITI Profile series.

When and why did you decide to work in languages?

If I’m completely honest, I don’t even remember deciding to work in languages – it was just a natural progression for me! I was obsessed with reading and learning from about the age of 5 and I remember borrowing a children’s book about learning German from the library whilst I was still at primary school. German and French were my favourite subjects at high school and I went on to study languages at university. I even added Spanish into the mix, picking it up from scratch during the first year of my studies and completing an intensive module that brought me up to A Level standard within the space of ten months.

What were your early work experiences as a translator?

During the year abroad component of my undergraduate degree, I worked at a small translation and interpreting company in the centre of Berlin for six months. This initial experience and insight into the translation industry was the confirmation I needed that a career in translation was the perfect future pathway for me. I started my first job as a proofreader at a large patent translation agency the month after I completed my MA dissertation and 18 months later I was hired as an in-house translator at another small agency. There I learnt from some incredibly talented translators and had the opportunity to work on a variety of text types across a range of subject areas as well as trying my hand at project management.

How has working in-house helped you in running your own business?

The experience I gained in-house has honestly been invaluable and I’m not sure I would have had the courage or skills needed to run a successful translation business of my own without it. I have been able to apply my thorough understanding of how a translation company works to my own business, particularly in terms of marketing and social media as well as the financial side of things. Best of all, being able to put myself in a project manager’s position has allowed me to build up strong relationships with clients.

Is there a recent project you are particularly proud of?

I’ve recently been translating some fashion blogs that are written in what seems to be the perfect style for me. I’ve loved getting creative and aiming the texts at a very specific English-speaking audience. After submitting one batch, I received some positive feedback from the project manager and reviewer who said that my translation had been a pleasure to proofread and clearly reflected how much I love translating the blog texts. It’s always nice to hear that you’re doing a good job and it’s even better when you had so much fun producing the translations in the first place.

The best advice I could give would be to get networking and put yourself out there! Join the ITI, attend industry events and meet as many people as you can. I would also recommend getting as much exposure to translation work produced by more experienced translators as possible. In my proofreading roles, I picked up some fantastic tips, tricks, strategies and styles from talented colleagues. When I went on to become a translator myself, I could apply everything I had been soaking up to my own translation work. It’s also really important to get as much feedback as you can at the early stages (and onwards from there as there’s always more to learn). I was lucky enough to have my work revised in-house and I would also have meetings to go through the feedback in the form of track change reports and more general pointers. Another option could be to find a fellow translator working in the same language combination to partner up with so you could provide each other with feedback and suggestions.

What technology have you found particularly useful in running your business?

I enjoy trying out different CAT tools but the one I can’t live without is Trados Studio! I also run Verifika – a quality assurance tool – on every single project I deliver as a final step to ensure that all my translations meet the highest of quality standards. I’m also an avid user of social media and I post frequent updates on my company’s Twitter page (@GrayscaleTR). It’s a great way of keeping up with all the latest developments in the industry, connecting with fellow translators and even finding new clients.

What do you value about ITI membership?

I can’t really express just how amazing it has been to be a member of the ITI so far. I’m an active member of the London Regional Group and East Anglia Group, which has given me the opportunity to meet some inspiring professionals and make some friends as well as attending plenty of CPD events that have helped me progress as a translator and develop on a personal level. The ITI Conference in Cardiff in May last year was a truly incredible experience too (and I already can’t wait for the next one). Not to mention that I was put in touch with a client I am working with on an extended project of historical significance through the ITI German Network.

Any ambitions?

My professional goal for a long while had been to gain MITI status but I am proud to say that I passed the assessment last year! But I am still always working extremely hard to continually develop as a translator and business owner. At this stage, I’m really excited about the future of Grayscale Translations and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me and my company!

What would be your perfect holiday?

As much as I do enjoy an all-inclusive beach resort holiday, Berlin is my favourite place in the world! My husband and I spent six months in the city on our year abroad and we have been back many times since, usually returning at least once a year. We even got engaged under the Brandenburg Gate! We love going on long walks there, stopping off every so often for some traditional German food and drink to keep us going.

Do you have a favourite German author?

I’m a bit of a bookworm and you’ll usually find me with my head in a crime novel! So far, my favourite German authors writing in this genre are Nele Neuhaus and Sebastian Fitzek. There are so many German books I still want to read and I have been known to spend hours getting lost in one particular bookshop in Berlin!

We talk to Kim Eddy about translating, editing academic papers and beautiful and inspiring places, in the latest in our ITI Profile series.

What are your subject specialisms in your freelance translation work?

The humanities, mainly art, fisheries and oceanography, and increasingly psychology.

What are the particular challenges when working on a translation project?

I would say that terminology is always a challenge, whatever the subject area. Using a CAT tool (SDL Trados, in my case) and corpus mining tools (AntConc, Archivarius, Sketch Engine, etc.) aids cohesion and helps with identifying collocations and terms used in any given genre.

Is there a recent project you are particularly proud of?

The one that I am currently working on: a chapter on interpreting in situations of gender violence (to be published in late 2018). For a couple of years, I delivered speeches on the European Masters in Conference Interpreting at La Laguna University (Tenerife), which was where I found out about the European project Speak Out for Support (JUST/2011/JPEN/2912) whose objective is to improve training for professional interpreters in contexts of gender violence. I wrote an article for the ITI Bulletin (July–August 2015, Breaking the silence) on this very subject.

What are the biggest changes you have noticed in working as a translator since you started?

By far the most overwhelming and mind-boggling is technology. I started translating in the era of electric typewriters (a godsend at the time!). But in terms of improving efficiency, research and turnaround times, I'd say the Internet wins hands down.

What can you see out of your office window?

My neighbour's plant-filled attic terrace on the opposite side of the street, and the Anaga mountains in the background.

How do you keep abreast of knowledge and new developments in the translation sector?

By reading industry publications, e.g. the ITI Bulletin, In Other Words and The Linguist, listening in on the occasional webinar and by attending CPD events, mainly the Mediterranean Editors and Translators workshop seasons in Barcelona and the annual meeting or METM.

You also work as an editor/reviser of academic papers for publication. What sort of things do you find yourself working on?

Quite a broad range actually, but more recently I have been editing/revising papers on literature, medicine (mainly pathology), oceanography, psychology and sports science.

What do you like about living in Tenerife?

The diversity of the island in terms of microclimates means that I can indulge my passion for the outdoors—cycling, hiking, running and swimming, mainly—all year round.

What are your favourite places in the Canaries?

The islands are very different and each has its own idiosyncrasies. I have visited them all, with the exception of the tiny island of La Graciosa, just off the coast of Lanzarote. But the place that draws me back time and again is Las Cañadas del Teide National Park. At 3,718 metres, Pico Teide is Spain's highest peak. Walking on, near or in the shadow of the volcano is always inspiring.

If you were going to have a holiday in the UK, where would you go?

There is only one place in my heart and that is Cornwall, my home. But I could definitely wrench myself away to visit the Scottish Highlands, the Hebrides and Shetland.

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.

We talk to Claire Turner, one of our SUFT alumni and winner of ITI's Best Newcomer - Freelancing award.

Claire Turner is a German-English translator and qualified solicitor. She holds the IoL Diploma in Translation and has been an ITI Career Affiliate since 2016. Through her translation business, CTLC Translations, Claire offers translations and proofreading of legal documentation. She also works as a legal consultant. Claire was recently the first recipient of the ITI Best Newcomer - Freelancing Award.

Why did you decide to embark on a freelance career?

Having worked as a solicitor in private practice and then in-house for many years, I wanted a change of career that would enable me to work for myself and utilise my German language skills. I felt that working as a freelance translator and legal consultant would be a good way to do this.

What do you see as the biggest challenges of freelancing?

After many years in full-time, paid employment it is challenging not to know how much work you will be doing or money you will be earning on a month to month basis. One of the reasons I wanted to have two income streams to my business was so that one could subsidise the other if necessary. I also realised that I would need to incur some costs in order to set up the translation side of my business (for studying, exam costs and networking events) and that it could take some time to recoup these. Doing part-time legal work has made this less of a risk financially  but has also presented some challenges at times, in terms of juggling the two elements.

And the biggest rewards?

I have relished the freedom and flexibility that comes with working for myself. It has also been great to take my career in a new direction and make contacts in a new sector. I have also been able to travel abroad to conferences and events, which has been fun. Passing the Diploma in Translation exams and then winning the ITI Best Newcomer award in the same month confirmed that my decision to change direction was the right one for me.

Why did you decide to take the SUFT course?

I wanted to put myself in the best possible position to launch my translation business. I had never worked as a translator or run my own business and knew that new skills would be needed for this. I was attracted to the on-line course as it gave me the flexibility I needed to fit around my consultancy commitments and was much more cost and time effective than travelling to London to attend courses in person (I am based in Devon). I also felt that the range of topics covered was broad enough to ensure that I would not miss anything key in my business planning.

What are the most important learning points you have taken from SUFT?

The course confirmed the importance of offering a specialisation and I had an obvious one in the area of legal documents. I also realised that a large number of skills that I had developed in the course of my legal career were equally applicable to the field of translation for example, attention to detail, time management and a professional, customer-focused attitude are all essential to the work of a translator. The course confirmed that my plan to develop new contacts through networking, both on-line and in person, rather than simply sending emails to agencies, was a sensible one.

What sort of assignments do you typically find yourself taking on?

I launched my translation business in February and so far I have undertaken a mixture of translation and proofreading of a wide range of documents in the legal field, working with both agencies and direct clients.

Do you see specialisation as an advantage?

Yes, I think that my experience of working as a solicitor has been a significant advantage both in terms of attracting goods clients and delivering high-quality translations. The fact that I continue to undertake legal work helps keep me up to date in my specialise field and perhaps helps me compare favourably to legal translators who have not worked as lawyers. All the work I have had to date has been related to my specialisation.

What's next, after winning the Best Newcomer Award?

I will continue to grow the translation side of my business and develop my network of contacts. I will be attending the German Network Anglophoner Tag in Chester in September and then travelling to Hannover to attend the BDÜ specialist legal translation and interpreting conference in October. I am also going to be working on improving my Italian with a view to offering a second language in years to come.

We talk to Hannah Keet – German and French into English translator and member of the ITI Brexit Working Party – in the latest in our ITI Profile series.

When and why did you decide you wanted to work in languages?

Hannah KeetI’ve always enjoyed learning languages, and I was good at it in school. I had a good idea that I wanted to work in languages back in secondary school. So doing French and German for my GCSEs and A Levels and then studying languages and translation at university was a natural progression for me.


What have you found most challenging and rewarding about freelancing?

The most challenging thing was figuring out what I wanted to specialise in. I graduated from university and went straight into translation – like many translators my age, I didn’t have qualifications in any other fields and so I’ve had to do as much CPD as possible in my specialist areas of travel, tourism and marketing so that I can deliver accurate translations.

At the end of a project, when the client comes back and thanks me for my hard work – that’s the most rewarding thing about my job.


How did you come to specialise in tourism and marketing?

After I graduated, I landed an in-house translator position at Amazon. The job involved translating product descriptions for items intended for sale on the UK website. This is where my marketing specialism began. When I went freelance, I advertised marketing as one of my specialisms. I continued to develop my translation and writing style through CPD. Being able to write well is pretty important in marketing as this field is all about being able to carry a message across and make it stick.

As for tourism, I was asked to join an on-call team of translators working for an airline several years ago. When it came to evaluating my business and coming up with a business plan, I realised that travel and tourism – aviation in particular – had become a huge part of my work. So I started doing CPD in that field to broaden my knowledge. I’m now heading more towards wellness tourism, even though I am not the biggest fan of the word “wellness”!


Do you think you need to have copywriting skills to translate marketing materials?

It’s not mandatory, but it’s a definite advantage! In the field of marketing, making the message catchy is often more important than carrying every subtlety of meaning across. So if you are a skilled copywriter, it will certainly help.

But it also depends on what the client wants. They may want a translation that sticks closely to the original text. I often find this with German, as lots of my clients can speak excellent English and they then question why I’ve translated the text in a certain way, when they were expecting more of a word-for-word translation. Yet they may want something closer to transcreation than translation, which requires a different skill set altogether!


Do you travel a lot in the course of your work?

I don’t strictly have to travel for work as I usually work from home. But I attend one or two tourism trade fairs and at least one translation conference per year, so I do get to travel a fair amount. I’m considering venturing into the “digital nomad” lifestyle next year – picking out several destinations, taking the essentials from my office and heading off on a working adventure. But we’ll see how things pan out!


What sort of projects have you worked on for Translators without Borders?

It’s been quite a long time since I volunteered for Translators without Borders! I’m really keen to “donate words” to them, it’s just a matter of being available when assignments are being allocated. I mainly did subtitling jobs for an organisation, but I don’t remember too much about it. It was difficult because they only sent us the French subtitles, not the videos, and we had to stick to certain character and line limits, as is customary in subtitling.


Describe a project you found particularly rewarding.

The Translators without Borders projects are always rewarding. It’s nice knowing that my work is being used for a good cause.

I’ve also done a few translations for a not-for-profit organisation working with women who have experienced human trafficking and forced prostitution. Receiving an email at the end of the project telling me I’ve helped to make a real difference to these women’s lives was the best feeling ever!


How has ITI membership helped you?

ITI membership has enabled me to network with members in my local area. Before I joined ITI, I gained the impression I was the only translator in a 50 mile radius. I was wrong!

Membership has also made it easier for me to sign up with translation agencies. Many require two professional references, but I prefer not to disclose information about my clients, so I inform them that I had to provide a number of professional references when I joined ITI. This usually satisfies their requirements!


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

I absolutely love Berlin. I lived there for six months when I was a student. It’s a great city with a really edgy vibe. Every time I go back, I feel at home while also realising that it’s been almost ten years since I lived there! So much has changed in this time and there is always something new to see and do whenever I visit.

I haven’t actually seen much of France, which is crazy because it’s just a short ferry trip away from Plymouth. I’ve been to Paris, Nancy and I accidentally ended up in Montpellier back in 2010 when the ash cloud loomed over Europe and every flight on the continent was cancelled. I was in Barcelona at the time. Luckily my then boyfriend’s parents were holidaying near Montpellier, so they took us in for a few days!


What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about working as a translator since you started your career?

I guess the most important thing I’ve learned is that you never stop learning. If you think your training is done once you’ve graduated university (or whichever route leads you to translation), think again! I’m always working on my writing skills and on expanding my knowledge of my specialist fields. And that’s never going to stop.


Why did you decide to join the Brexit Working Party?

Like many of my colleagues, I was really unhappy with the referendum result. So when Sarah advertised the Brexit Working Party in the ITI Bulletin, I decided to channel my energy into something productive rather than just reading about the developments in the news and getting into heated debates about it with friends and family!


What sort of things have you worked on in the BWP so far?

We started by sending out a survey to members to find out what was most important to them. And now we are looking at ways to get our voices heard. This includes individuals writing to, or making appointments to see, their MP (more details are available on the ITI website here); attending meetings on Brexit in our local areas; and monitoring the latest developments and news. We are quite a small core team, so we are also investigating ways to work with other professional associations and groups to achieve our aims.

In our latest Profile interview, we talk to English into Portuguese translator Monica Machado who will be joining the ITI Board in May.

How did you get into translation?

A translator or an interpreter is a go-between, conveying a message that otherwise would not get through. This is a thrilling challenge in itself which I realised many years ago, growing among many different cultures and languages. I understood back then that without this essential link many people in the world are not able to communicate.

After having completed a translation university degree, in 1998 I successfully applied for a position with Xerox Language Services in the UK, and at 27 years old left my home and took my first aeroplane flight to work in London. On leaving Xerox in 2000 I started freelancing and have been working to try to be the best possible link in this communication process.


What type of translation work do you specialise in?

I specialise in what I think is an unusual and highly interesting combination of specialist technical fields: oil and gas, mining, shipping, environment, HSE (Health, Safety and Environment), hydropower and automotive areas. I also translate company documentation and legal contracts in these subjects.


What particular challenges and rewards do you experience from working with a number of engineering sectors?

The biggest challenge is that in these very specific fields, technology evolves continuously and I need to be constantly updating my knowledge to keep abreast of the latest developments. The biggest reward is that because my clients are mostly end-clients they understand the difficulties of the job and provide support all the way. They know how many words I can translate a day, that translation queries are part of the job and that my translation will be the image of their business. They know that no matter how good their product is and how well-written their English document is, at the end of the day my Portuguese translation will be the face of their business, which in many of my current clients’ cases includes Government/State bodies. Having my translation regarded as an essential part of the final jigsaw and not just as a legal requirement is the ultimate reward.


What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out as a translator?

Translation is personally and professionally a very interesting and rewarding profession. However, do not expect it to be easy, as no profession is. Be humble; be prepared to recognise experts and learn from them; be prepared to work over weekends and out of normal office hours; use CPD to learn about subjects out of your sphere of knowledge; be professional and good at what you do and stand your ground; don’t isolate yourself, instead join a professional organisation whose requirements are as stringent as possible.

Ultimately, be prepared to work as hard as you can, grasp all of the opportunities as they arise and along the way keep asking yourself if you, as a client, would employ someone just like you, and why.


You recently visited a prison. Why?

As mentioned above, using CPD to learn about subjects out of your sphere of knowledge is a way to be prepared – because you never know what the subject of your next job might be. HM Prison at Blundeston in Suffolk opened in 1963 and was in service for 50 years. Notable former inmates included John Stonehouse, a former Post Master General, Member of Parliament and Czech spy; Richard Reid, known as the Shoe Bomber; and Reggie Kray an infamous London gangland boss. Although this may appear to be a strange voluntary CPD experience, entering the prison gates, wandering the corridors, and experiencing the claustrophobic impersonal austerity of prison cells generated a raft of emotional and empathetic feelings which may help me with future translation works in social fields of this nature, as most of the times we translate better if we can actually understand the context surrounding the documents that we have to translate.


Why do you do pro-bono work?

To me the pro-bono work I do is a way of giving back to society and clients. Therefore, I believe my pro-bono work is part of my company social responsibility, where every year causes are selected from a range of translation projects in which I have participated. As pro bono, I have translated documents for the United Nations Volunteers Scheme to be used in Guinea-Bissau, and children’s story books for Angola, for example. These books are now published and can be bought online – this is extremely rewarding.


Tell us a little about your pro-bono work for endangered wildlife in Angola.

This work is part of my company social responsibility and involves translating mainly children's stories about endangered wildlife species in Angola. I have translated stories about the sea turtles and the giant sable antelope, for example, both species being highly endangered in the world but still seen in Angola. More recently, I have also proofread a sequence of children’s poems about other species observed in Angola. All these projects are part of a larger project aimed at teaching Angolan children how important their local biodiversity is and how rare some of these species are worldwide. I am particularly proud that a humble shepherd, Manuel Sacaia, who has helped protect this same Angolan sable antelope for almost half a century, was presented with the Wildlife Ranger award by Sir David Attenborough at the recent Tusk Conservation Awards held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on 30th November 2016, which was also attended by Prince William. To be part of something of this magnitude as a translator is very gratifying.

Sadly, due to a cancelled flight out of South Africa, I was unable to meet with Manuel Sacaia in person when I met with the other members of the Project when they came to London.


What do you value about being an ITI member?

ITI is one of the most prominent organisations in the UK dedicated to promoting the translation and interpreting profession; it is highly regarded by translators, agencies and clients, and it is seen as a sign of quality and reliability. It is also highly regarded worldwide, being actively involved in raising the standards amongst translators and interpreters. Therefore, to be part of such a professional institution is a privilege. Above all, I value the reputation of ITI and its members and the work that it is put into it for the good of the profession.


What are you looking forward to when you take on your ITI Board role in May?

I feel very honoured to be chosen by ITI members to represent them at this very high level in the Institute, and I look forward to the opportunity of sharing my translation expertise and experience with the Board for the promotion and further development of the profession.


Who is your favourite Portuguese author?

There are two, actually: Eça de Queirós (1845-1900), generally considered to be the greatest Portuguese writer in the realist style, and Miguel Sousa Tavares (1950 - ), a more current author. I think they both have a very descriptive narrative that makes their novels very real. I just love the style that makes me travel to distant places and different eras because I find it very relaxing.

In the latest in our ITI Profile series, we speak to English-Portuguese interpreter and translator Maria Teresa Bermudes.

When did you decide you wanted a career in languages?

I have always loved languages. Growing up in Mozambique, near the border with Zimbabwe, I learned to speak English at an early age and also learned French with my mother, a Francophile. Later on, while training to be a midwife, I translated a book on midwifery for my own benefit. I really enjoyed the process and decided to go back to school.


How did you get into interpreting?

By chance. While on a course I got into the habit of whispering translations into my Spanish-speaking colleague’s ear, unaware that I was practising chuchotage. Later on I worked in international development in Lesotho, a small country completely surrounded by South Africa. This was during apartheid; the country was a hub of diplomatic activity and most aid organisations also had offices there. One day I was asked to interpret for a Mozambican high-level official at a Red Cross conference. No one else was available so after some insistence on their part, I accepted. After the conference they told me I had done an excellent job and asked me to help at another conference, the very next day. I never looked back.


What do you see as the key skills required to be a good conference interpreter?

You need to have a deep knowledge of your working languages and cultures, and of the appropriate registers. Obviously this is not something that can be acquired overnight – it is a lifelong process entailing a lot of (unpaid) work. Interpreters need to be ‘mentally fit’, both in terms of having a good memory and of being able to split their attention between what they are hearing, what they are saying, and everything else, including the sound equipment, any visual information, etc. – much like a juggler keeps several objects in the air. Diction, voice modulation and volume control are also extremely important. The interpreter’s speech must sound clear and coherent. It is important to keep the listener interested (by avoiding a monotonous tone) but also not to startle him/her with a strident delivery. And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, the interpreter must be neutral and detached. Imagine interpreting a discussion on Brexit and taking no sides.   


What do you think is the most challenging aspect of interpreting?

The variety and unpredictability of situations.  Conferences are ‘live shows’. There are no rehearsals and no second takes, so one must have nerves of steel. Also it can be frustrating that one becomes acquainted with a particular topic, only to store that knowledge away until further notice at the end of each assignment. I have compiled many glossaries and my head is full of bits of information I may never use again.


What is the piece of advice you would give someone starting out in their interpreting career?

Practise, practise, practise – it is never too much and it always pays off. Your work will be delivered straight into the listener’s ears in a rather intimate process, so mistakes are really noticeable. I sit in front of the telly or use YouTube and practise to distraction. I time myself in conference-like conditions. I also give myself time to prepare meticulously before each assignment, including compiling a glossary, reading up on the topics and companies involved, etc.


Is there an assignment that really sticks in your memory?

Many years ago I worked at a meeting of Southern African Police Chiefs. It was one of my first assignments and I remember feeling rather dizzy at the sheer magnitude of the numbers and tasks involved. Ten gentlemen and their aides sat in a small room, working out how to maintain law and order in an area roughly the size of Europe – and they depended on my colleagues and myself to be able to communicate!   


Why did you decide to become an ITI Qualified Interpreter?

I was Associate Member for some 15 years so it was a natural progression. In this increasingly globalised market, the qualification guarantees a standard of quality that my clients find reassuring. It is also important to get organised with one’s peers and colleagues.


What do you think is the most common misconception about your job?

That it’s all about glamour and excitement. While it is true that assignments are varied and we visit different countries and regions and meet interesting people, this lack of routine can also be exhausting. We spend countless hours preparing for assignments and often leave home at the crack of dawn and get back late at night. We also tend to have an intimate knowledge of airports and train stations, which is anything but glamorous. 


What would be your perfect restaurant meal?

Being a vegetarian, I have a weakness for Middle Eastern/Turkish cuisine. It is delicious, nutritious, surprising and versatile.


Is there someone who has really inspired you?

I always feel inspired by good communicators. A good speaker has a deep knowledge not only of his or her message but also of how to deliver it – by using simple, fluent, striking language, good diction and voice projection, etc. Good speakers often use written notes as guidelines rather than reading their speeches or if they do read them, they do so in a natural voice, breathing and pausing in the right places and never rushing. Good speakers are aware of cross-lingual communication difficulties and often come into the interpreting booths prior to their presentations, to introduce themselves and answer any queries the interpreters might have. A good speaker always helps me do a better interpreting job.  

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