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This month’s interview takes a look at the world of Translation.

We took a short break from interviewing last month, but we’re back and are very pleased to welcome a top linguist to take their place ‘In the Spotlight’!

This month, we spoke with Iwona: a fantastic Translator who’s worked with us for a good while now. She’s a brilliant example of the high-quality (and highly engaging) translators whom we work in partnership with, overseas.

Delivering face-to-face interpreting to our UK clients naturally requires interpreters who live and work in this country, but for Translation we do find that–as a largely remote job & thanks to digital technologies (more about that in Iwona’s interview)–it allows us to connect with a whole host of talented individuals from here, but also across the globe!

That’s exciting to us for many reasons, not least of all because it connects us to so very many interesting characters from all sorts of great places.

With that, we come to our interview. We’re sure you’ll enjoy Iwona’s insight into the fascinating realm of Translation!

So, without further ado:


Spotlight Questions


1. Hi Iwona, thank you for taking part in this interview. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi, my name is Iwona. I am Polish, a happy mum to Peter, my 13-year-old boy, and I work as a translator for DAL. I love adventure, mountain trekking, sports, and contemporary British sitcoms. I am also interested in art, especially 50’s and 60’s European design. I graduated from the Jagiellonian University in Cracow where I completed an MA in Cultural Studies and a BA in English Philology. I also studied Art History. Whilst living in the UK, I completed my DPSI training and I am currently studying to complete a Diploma in Translation.

2. How did you get started working as a Translator and how long have you been working in your role? We often get questions from linguists who are interested in becoming Translators; do you have any advice for anyone looking to get started?

You just know from the start (even before you get into the job) if this is for you. In a sense, a foreign language is no different from your mother tongue; you simply know how to communicate your thoughts, and language is only a means for that.

A person who makes a conscious decision to work as translator will always benefit intellectually, and while it may be a great experience, it is also a great deal of fun. If, for instance, even if you sit and do the job at 1 o’clock in the morning and you feel it is really going well, nothing else could be more rewarding.

3. As a translator, I’m sure you’d agree that accuracy and attention to detail is essential to your work. How do you get into the right frame of mind to focus on your work?

I have never had a problem with that. I am a “focus on the job” type of person and I can’t do more than a few things at one time. Also, aside from English Philology and Cultural Studies, I studied Art History, which is very demanding in terms of importance of detail.

Getting into the frame of mind to focus is one thing, but good visual skills and an ability to pick out errors, is another. I believe it has something to do with the ability of the eye to focus both on a whole text and its smaller chunks.  Some people may have developed this skill very well and in translation it really makes the work easier. It is like a tool that you cannot replace by a “machine”.

4. What are your thoughts about recent technological developments that have been affecting the translation industry? For example, Machine Translation is becoming an essential tool used by agencies and translators alike; can you talk a little about your experience with translation software?

I can see why, for public sector translation projects, it is so important to use translation software. There are common standards that exist for how documentation is formulated, edited, prepared and developed. These segments are often repeated throughout a project and so automated software can save a lot of time.

I also believe it is efficient in terms of wise money spending, which we all aim for. For public sector, this offers wise expenditure; for the agencies, fair distribution of work; and for the translators, it offers peace of mind. For example, when you see a project as big as 15,000+ words which needs to be completed in just a few days, translation software can be very helpful in reducing the time it will take to complete.

Obviously, you always need to check and look for any errors with your own eyes after the software has done its job.

5. Are your hobbies, interests, or other work influenced by the languages you speak? For example: have you travelled a lot, or used your linguistic skills in other roles?

I used to live in the UK for almost 6 years. My son grew up in that country too and he is bilingual (Polish and English). His English and his ‘Geordie’ (we used to live in Newcastle) is fantastic; his English may be more fluent than mine! However, it is me who is left with the role of a teacher, who picks on spelling or punctuation mistakes.

Although I now live in Poland, I still do really feel a part of English culture.  I think the greatest challenge in terms of languages, is to keep up with how languages change. There is always something new that you can learn, but only through the culture that the language is rooted in. If you move to live permanently from one country to another, it can be difficult to “keep up-to-date”. However, travel and visits are always a great solution! Mine included lots of different countries: Eastern and Western Europe, but also Asia, like India or Nepal. My beloved destination, though, is Polish Tatra Mountains. As for England, I love the Lake District and the North-East coast, with my beloved Alnmouth.

6. Does the challenge of working with two languages simultaneously get easier over-time? Do you employ any unique methods to cope with the challenge?

It gets easier, provided you work very systematically, which in the case of translation is not always easy. Sometimes you get a lot of work and you work like a spinning wheel. Then it all stops for a while and it is difficult to get back on the right track and get that positive frame of mind back. That is why it is so important not to get too emotional about how often and how much work you get.

It is also good (it works for me) to stick with one agency. This helps to avoid hassle, like rushing, or taking on too much work. Emotional discipline is essential here. Apart from that, it is important to remember that languages change and it is the role of the translator to inspect those changes, implement them, and be sure that what you managed to establish in terms of meaning or register, is correct.

7. How would you say the job has affected you personally? For example, do you feel like you’ve learnt a lot from what you do, or has the work ever surprised you in any way?

The job gave me a lot of experience that slowly developed over time (a good few years now!), which is very positive. On the other hand, it is always about new challenges; reading, researching, or contacts you need to make to find out the answers to the subject matter that translation covers. After all, not everything can be “Googled”!

I remember translating a medical leaflet once. It concerned a rheumatic condition of the human foot. I really needed to elaborate and research the subject, but I was happy with the result and I delivered the job on time. Funnily enough, just one or two days later, one of my colleagues started on the same subject, so I spoke to them about it. The impression I made on all participants of the conversation was enormous. Yes! I think what surprises you most in this work is how it can make you an expert in many different fields of knowledge and study.

8. What are some of the challenges you encounter when working on a translation and how do you ensure you can overcome them?

I think for everyone who does that kind of work, deadlines are the biggest issue. Secondly, you need to have the ability to judge and weigh-up what is most important in the project, i.e. in terms of the target reader’s ability to comprehend messages easily and at their own pace; this is a challenge for a translator. Personally, I find short letters the most challenging. Concise and simple as they come, they can include a lot of information that could be distressing for the target reader.

Sometimes, it is difficult to avoid emotional coloration and the translator needs to be aware of that. What is also important is the awareness of confidentiality.  There is so much information, including sensitive facts that we handle as translators. Keeping it all safe and confidential is not only a basic requirement, but it is also a highly important condition to doing the job correctly.

9. Our team have spoken very highly of you, your work, and your positive attitude to the job; was there anything in particular that attracted you to our agency? What has appealed to you most of all about working with our team at DA Languages?

Thank you! DAL is the first translation company I registered with. I’ve stuck with it for a few reasons. For me, it’s the people who form the business. I consider myself a loyal person, and I think I expect the same form others. If things were going wrong, I would instinctively have felt that.  I have had so much pleasure from working with project managers.

There is great communication, a lot of openness and trust.

Though we communicate mainly via Internet and we have never talked face-to-face, the team are amazing! I can trust them, ask for advice, and help for more information about a project. I do not have one single occasion to complain about. For me, that’s the most important thing!

10. Translation can be considered a rather remote or isolated role, but it also offers a lot of freedom and flexibility. Do you agree with this? Do you enjoy the freedom of the role or find it challenging?

Most importantly, with time, I realised I became an expert in the field. I decided I wanted to get better and better. Freedom and flexibility is a bonus too. I often find myself working on a train, so there is no waste of time.

Remote, isolated? You need peace and quiet to do the job well anyway. In my case, translation is not the only thing I do, in my regular job – I work at the museum, I have contact with people and I enjoy my private life too, including being a mother to my 13-year-old son.

Translation is a text based work and it is for people who like it. I can’t see a problem here! It can gives me financial satisfaction, but more importantly, pure, joyful satisfaction too!


Nominate, Review, Contact!

Once again we’d like to thank Iwona for taking part in this month’s interview; it’s always fantastic to get an insightful look into the background of those who work with us.

Building quality working relationships and establishing confidence between staff and our linguists is truly rewarding! It’s a big part of the ethos we try to foster here at DA Languages Ltd. We speak with our staff regularly to find out ways to improve, but also looking at what’s going well; it’s also how we generate suggestions for these interviews!

However, if you work with us, or know someone you’d like to nominate to feature ‘In the Spotlight’, then get in touch.

We’ll be looking forward to bringing more interviews out next month too, but we hope you enjoyed the content as well!

Keep an eye out for this feature, and many more, in our next newsletter: coming soon! We’ll have content including a new Creative Linguistics feature, announcements about award nominations, and plenty more!


Written by Rhys Pattimore
Title image produced with Snappa.com.