The idea for this blog post came from an excellent presentation given by Isabel Espuelas at the Proz.com conference held in Barcelona in December 2014 entitled Traducir no es lo único que puede hacer un traductor (Translation is not the only thing a translator can do).
Isabel explained that while there are many of us who actually enjoy spending the whole day in front of the computer, translating and producing beautiful documents (can I get whoop-whoop for us desk slaves who love doing this?!), there are other translators among us who for whatever reason (contact with others, economic motivations, etc.) prefer to combine translation with another discipline. And that variety is spice of this wonderful life! Isabel gave the example of Scheherezade Surià, who incorporates audiovisual and literary translation with giving English classes. Isabel herself is another example of this; she felt that she had solid business skills she could take advantage of as a translator, and so she started up as a translation project coordinator. During her presentation, Isabel gave us an insightful look into her world and delved deep into the how to coordinating clients’ projects effectively as well as how to look after your team of translators. I would highly recommend watching video of her whole presentation (Spanish), which can be seen here: http://tinyurl.com/q8ekrwv (courtesy of Gabriel Cabrera). When it comes to diversification, this is a really inspiring video!
This got me thinking about translator friends, whose professional lives involve translation and other interesting projects too. So, I’ll stop talking (writing) now and hand you over to Martine Hansen of MIH Consulting. Martine is a NO>SP, SV and NO<>EN translator and interpreter, who combines these skills with language teaching and being a tourist guide. She is originally from Norway and has been living in Barcelona since 2010.
Martine, when did you feel you would like to do something as well as translating and why?
I always felt like I wanted to do other things as well as translating. Being a translator means that you have to dominate the languages you work with at a very high level, at native level, so you need to use those languages as much as possible. The more I used my languages in other areas, the more I can apply my knowledge and understanding to my translation work . When I was studying Translation and Interpreting, I knew that I wanted to do other things as well as translation, so I would be in constant “evolution”, let’s say, towards my goal of being a professional translator and I could apply what I learnt to my future work. This was my real motivation.
What else you do in addition to translating?
I’m the main Norwegian teacher at a Scandinavian school called Institut Nòrdic in Barcelona. I teach Norwegian language, history and culture to adults of all ages who want to go to Norway to work or who want to learn the language for other reasons. Right now I have 8 different classes at all levels, and also give some private lessons.
On top of teaching, I also work as a guide from time to time. I work with a couple of travel agencies, and I guide groups of Norwegian, Swedish, Danish and English speakers in Barcelona. It can vary from walking tours, bus or bike tours, or tapas tours, or just picking them up from the airport and accompanying them to their hotel or a restaurant. I love helping them to communicate with the local people and interpreting for them when we come Spanish or Catalan speakers.
Being a tour guide also gives me the chance to use my knowledge to help others, and last but not least, the chance to get out of the house! Translating is a very lonely job, sometimes you need variety and to be among other human beings!
Did you come across any obstacles at the beginning of your professional trajectory? How did you overcome them?
Yes, I did. I think the main obstacle was, without doubt, understanding how to get established and how to work as an self-employed freelancer. There are a lot of rules and laws you need to comply with regarding finance, billing, taxes, VAT and accounting and it is sometimes difficult to access this information. And another obstacle finding clients. In the beginning I had to do a lot of marketing to get my name out know there. However, with the right accountant and the advice from other professionals in the same situation, I managed to overcome these barriers. Most importantly I dedicated a lot of time and hard work to this, which is an absolutely essential if you work as a freelancer! I’d advise newbies to look into all of these aspects before setting up!
What does a typical day in your life consist of? Is every day different?
Yes, every day is different – I love the variety. One day I may wake up early in the morning to work on translations, then later on, I give a couple of private lessons and then in the evening give classes at the school until 10.00 pm. But other days, if I don’t have classes, I might be able to get up later, and as well as translating, I go and pick up a group for a guided tour. The only thing regular events in schedule each week are normally the hours I teach at the school, as the students have classes on the same day every week. Some weeks I also have to work during the weekends.
Do you work in a team or with outsourcers? Do you find this advantageous?
I am part of a team at the language school, as we are all teachers and often discuss methodology and the best possible way to teach an aspect of language. Nevertheless, I don’t generally work in a team, at least not related to the translations. But on the other hand, I often discuss problems and doubts with other trustworthy translators, and they do the same with me. This way we help each other, and this is such a valuable relationship. There are always professionals with more experience than you, so they can help you learn more or point you in the right direction. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my work, so I’ll often ask another professional to correct or review job before I deliver it to my client.
Do you feel like you have developed professionally since you started and what are your goals for the future?
Yes, absolutely. I have developed and learned a lot since I started 2 years ago, and I still learn new things from every project I work on. In this profession, the more you practice and work, the better you get with time.
Would you do anything differently if you were to start again?
No, I don’t think so. I am really happy with what I do now, I am able to work with what I love. And it turned out this way because of the hard work I put in to get here. It certainly is not an easy thing to do, but it is very rewarding!
Martine, thank you very much for your time and this valuable information. If you have any comments on this topic or any questions for Martine, please feel free to comment below. I’d love to hear about your freelancing lifestyle.
Now…how do I sign up for those tapas tours?