Starting Work as a Translator or Interpreter

by Fanny Chouc

LINCS and Career Services teamed up again to hold the annual SWATI (Starting Work as a Translator or Interpreter) event on campus, for the 6th year running, on Saturday 13th February.

The one hundred or so places were booked in no time, and despite the snowy weather, Lecture Theatre 3 filled up with students from Heriot-Watt University, as well as Napier, Edinburgh, Strathclyde and Stirling Universities.

The session started with an intervention by a staff EU translator from the Directorate General for Translation, Elizabeth Carmouche, who highlighted the languages most needed by the institutions, explained the recruitment process and shared tips and advice based on her own experience.

Her intervention was followed by another very informative talk, this time by Lila Guha, a freelance interpreter and member of AIIC (the only international association for interpreters). She explained how she started her career and gave students an interesting glimpse of the exciting life of professional conference interpreters, mentioning the various organisations, cities and unusual settings where her profession has taken her over the years.

Dr Castillo then took the floor to enlighten students on the versatility of media interpreting, flagging the range of skills needed to cope with the fascinating and sometimes unexpected situations an interpreter may encounter when working for the radio, the film industry or TV. Based on his personal experience, as well as his own research, he gave students a number of ideas as to how they may start to develop their CV to go into this side of the industry.

Following the break, Fiona Paterson presented her own very interesting professional pathway, which led her to combine a successful freelance translation career with regular contracts translating for the UN in Geneva. Her very informative talk, full of practical and useful information, highlighted the flexibility of this career path and the supportive attitude of fellow translators towards early-career colleagues.

To complement this already wide panorama on these professional pathways, Karin Bosshard took the floor to explain the importance and benefits of joining a professional network, using her own example and that of ITI (the Institute of Translation and Interpreting) to highlight a number of issues future professionals may not have considered yet, such as professional insurance, networking, clients’ perceptions, to name but a few.

The audience was then split into two, to facilitate participation in two practical sessions: firstly, an introduction to key business skills for freelancers, by Robert Mynett, from the International School of Linguists. His sessions focused on matters such as market research, marketing and professional organisation. Secondly, participants were invited to take part in a speed-networking session, during which they had a chance of a more personal and informal chat with the speakers, but also with Kim Scouller and Victoria Milton, two managers from Rubrik, a language service provider based in Edinburgh, as well as with Corinna Kromm, a freelance translator who recently and very successfully started her own freelance career.

All the keynote speakers and guests involved in the speed-networking are Heriot-Watt graduates themselves, who kindly and enthusiastically agreed to take some of their time to come and share their experience and advice with the younger generations.

It seems that participants particularly appreciated the chance to hear about each speaker’s own experience, and valued even more the opportunity of a more personal chat through the speed-networking. The event was described as “relevant”, “inspiring” and “practical”, and the range of speakers was generally welcome as it presented a very wide range of possible career paths.

We’ve taken the feed-back on board and will aim at organising an equally exciting and useful panel for next year’s SWATI. But before that, we’ll be hosting a talk on BSL careers in the media and we will welcome an EU staff interpreter who will talk about his career, from young Heriot-Watt graduate through in-house and then freelance translator to Brussels, Vienna and Strasbourg’s EU and UN booths.

Watch this space!

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