translation and interpreting internship

(You can read the post in Spanish here.)

The freelance life may be a bit lonely sometimes.

But what happens when you have the chance to work hand in hand, not just with a intern, but also a good friend?

Projects were finished more fluently, and we were able to progress quicker and better. And obviously, it’s so much fun when you work with a friend!

This summer I’ve been part of an internship program organised by the University of Alcalá in Madrid. During the last two months, I’ve got the pleasure to work with Irene Fuentes. I thought it would be interesting to talk to her about the benefits of doing an internship remotely with a freelancer.

So I’ve asked her some questions that she will answer through this post. If you’re thinking about doing a translation and interpreting internship, don’t miss out all the tips and her experience working for Circa Lingua.

Why did you choose to do a translation and interpreting internship with a freelance translator?

Truth be told, I must admit that doing my internship with a freelance translator was not part of my initial plans. One of the requirements of my master’s was to do at least 125 hours of internship experience in translation and interpreting, and the truth is that the university made it really easy – every week they would publish around five or six internships on the online platform, and the only thing the students had to do was to send an e-mail to the company in which they were interested, attach their CV and await for a response.

From the wide range of job opportunities, I chose a small translation and interpreting agency, which was located in the city center. What they offered, in particular, was a project manager position, where the intern was supposed to be responsible for the publication of information and the creation of media material, the management and administration of the corporate material, the communication with both clients and partners and, of course, the tasks related to translation and interpreting. However, the reality turned to be quite another.

I had been there working for almost two weeks when I decided that I had not spent years studying to be a translator/interpreter to spend the days sending emails or picking flowers (true story). I was disenchanted with the internship as it did not turn out to be what I expected. I wanted to start translating, to start interpreting, and to start coming into contact with the exciting world of translation – I did not want to waste my internship, I wanted to learn from it.

One day, when I was leaving the agency, I sent a voice message to a friend of mine (my master’s colleague, by the way), and I told her that I did not like what I was doing in the internship. And she was the one, precisely, who gave me the idea: “The same happened to me when I was an intern in the last year of the degree, and I quit. Eventually, I contacted a sworn freelance translator, and I did the internship with her. And that was the best decision I could have ever made.” As she was telling me this, I suddenly thought of David, my friend from college.

Within two days, I quit my internship at the agency and I signed an agreement with Circa Lingua, David’s company. At the same time, I got hired on a full-time basis at Mercedes-Benz, which is why doing my internship from home (David in Edinburgh and me in Madrid) and with a schedule of my choice was, to me, like a gift (and that was also the main reason why I decided that doing my internship with a freelancer, given my situation, was perfect).

But this was not what I had in mind – as I said before, my initial plans (since August last year, when my Master’s started) was to do the internship in a translation and interpreting agency or somewhere similar. However, and as I usually say, everything happens for a reason, and there is no doubt that I was meant to do my internship with David Miralles.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing an internship with a freelancer?

In my case, as I mentioned before, I work on a full-time basis from Monday to Friday from 8 am to 5:30 pm, so having the opportunity to work from home, with a flexible timetable, is, without a doubt, the greatest advantage of them all. Our sessions are usually from 7 pm to 10 pm from Monday to Friday, but if one day I cannot do the internship hours for whatever reason, I can make up those hours any other day. Nevertheless, I strongly recommend, as in any other job, to provide timely warnings to your tutor in case you are going to miss the session.

Another advantage I would like to point out is how close the internship brings you to the real-world experience. Doing my internship with a freelance translator has allowed me to observe and get to know many aspects of both translation and interpreting: the canvassing of clients, the billing, how to deal with the client, the different types of translation that can be found, etc. Besides, you have to bear in mind that every week is different from the last one; one week you may be doing a sworn translation, and next week you may find yourself translating a tourist brochure. In that sense, I love to have the opportunity to deal with different sectors/fields because I believe it helps in order to decide what I really like and in what I would like to specialise.

That being said, my advice to those who are doing an internship is to always give their best and to be relaxed and rested before starting translating. In my case, I get home directly from work and I immediately turn the computer on. Therefore, some days I just find it very difficult to concentrate and I translate slower than usual. The good news is that your tutor is responsible for what you do and if you are not feeling well or you are not “inspired”, David won’t hesitate to give you a hand. As a matter of fact, another advantage of doing my internship with a freelancer is the feedback you get from him – he points out and argues what he likes or dislikes, how he would modify the text, his suggestions and, especially, he gives you recognition for doing a good job.

My advice for those willing to do a translation and interpreting internship with a freelancer is to make sure you have free time for yourselves. Due to my timetable, it is practically impossible for me to do sport or spend time in leisure activities, and I believe having free time for you should be something mandatory in order to do a proper and quality translation. If I could have been given the opportunity, I would have done the internship before starting in the office where I work now.

As I see it, doing the internship with a freelance translator is like rushing headlong into the pool of the translation and interpreting world of work (personal trainer included, needless to say).

What have you learned during your translation and interpreting internship?

Some people have a very clear idea of what they want to specialise in, even before starting to study the degree in translation and interpreting. But that was not my case – I knew that I liked to translate, that I was (am) in love with languages and cultures, but I did not know if I liked one field in particular.

The first day of my internship, David asked me: “What do you want to learn?” and I answered that whatever he considered, that I did not have any preference. Learning a little of everything (marketing, translation, dealing with clients) has provided me with a global and detailed insight of this world of translation and interpreting (especially translation). Besides, the overview of the situation has showed me the field/specialisation I like the most and the least when it comes to deciding in which field I would like to specialise.

One of the best points of this internship is that you get to see the reality of the world of work. Although the normal thing is to do the internship in a company, doing the internship with a freelancer is the best option for those students that are not quite sure whether they want to be freelancers or not. As a matter of fact, it is very difficult to get to have the chance of doing an internship somewhere else different from a company. So if you are one of those that want to make sure if this is for you, you have a golden opportunity thanks to Circa Lingua.

A year ago I did not consider using computer-assisted translation tools for translating a text with less than 100 words – now I know how useful they are and I would use them even for translating a one-paragraph text. A year ago I would not have known how to deal with clients – now I have tools and ideas that can help me to make myself known. A year ago I would not have dared to accept translations that were outside my “comfort zone” – now I have experience, vocabulary and translation memories from different fields of translation. A year ago I did not consider being a freelance translator – now the idea won’t go out of my mind.

Do you believe that this internship has helped you to feel more prepared for the world of work?

Absolutely. My answer to that question is a YES in capital letters. As a matter of fact, one of the things I missed the most during the degree was having more subjects focused on the practical part of translation and interpreting. Although it is true that we do learn to translate and interpret during our academic training, the reality is quite different when it comes to start working in the real world. There are no second chances in real-life situations – one must be professional, reliable and responsible. In a way, the internship makes one realise what a real job is, but it also helps you to make sure if this is what you want to do for the rest of your life.

I have always thought that being a freelancer is not for everybody, and now, after doing my internship, that idea is clearer than ever. With David I have learnt that being a freelancer is commitment and organisation – many people think that working as a freelancer has fewer responsibilities than working in a company. However, when you commit to your clients, you have to do your duty. Being a freelancer implies putting in hours of work in order to promote yourself and stand out on the rest of the freelance translators.

One of the things that I find more useful when it comes to start working in the world of work is to learn how to deal with the client. Whether you are a freelancer or you work at a company, you will always have to speak to clients. From my point of view, knowing how to establish a consolidated work relationship with one person is a key factor in any job. In that sense, David has a broad experience when dealing with clients from different sectors of translation and interpreting with which he works and he will encourage you to feel confident about yourself in order to deal with clients.

As Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. I have witnessed how much David enjoys his job, his translations and interpretations and everything he does, and I must admit that the joy is contagious. The internship makes you realise that we are not all meant to work at an office from 8 am to 5 pm. To me, doing my internship at Circa Lingua has made me consider the path I would like to walk and how to be successful at the same time.

However, the path of a freelance translator is rocky and it is not easy to walk it. Therefore, I would like to conclude this interview by quoting the Spanish poet, Antonio Machado, whose words seem to be written for this situation: «Caminante, no hay camino; se hace camino al andar» (“Wayfarer, there is no way. Make your way by going farther”).

translation and interpreting internship

Biography: Irene graduated in Translation and Interpreting for English from the University of Alicante in 2013. Since then, she has been working as a sworn English-Spanish translator and interpreter. Nowadays, she is doing her European Master’s Degree in Intercultural Communication, Public Service Interpreting and Translation at the University of Alcalá (Madrid) and she is working at the Front Office for the English and German-speaking entities at Mercedes-Benz in Madrid.

You can find Irene on LinkedIn here.

Now that you know Irene’s experience, would you consider doing an internship with a freelance translator/interpreter? Have you ever done a translation and interpreting internship? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below! 

About David Miralles Perez

My name is David Miralles and I am aware of how languages can influence professional environments. Honing communication between two cultures has become crucial in today’s globalized world. And that is what I do by means of my translation and interpreting services. Small and medium enterprises and individuals can now spread their messages through cultural and linguistic barriers and make a big impact on an international scale.

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