Chartered Institute
of Linguists

A community of linguists

By Rachel Holland

It’s less than three weeks since I travelled from Copenhagen to London to attend the first CIOL Conference. Yet how our world has changed since then. When I first drafted this, I wrote about how brilliant it was to spend a day in the company of other translators and linguists – and indeed it was! I also wrote about how energising it was to meet people face to face, as working alone – even when you love your work - can be quite isolating. Well, hello self-isolation and our strange new reality.

I’m based in Copenhagen and we’re now more than two weeks into some stringent social distancing measures. We’re a family of seven and we’re all at home now, with no end in sight. I’m nearing the end of an MA in Translation with The Open University (ask me how that’s going whilst home-schooling five children…) and have just started to set up my freelance translation business. I wanted to tell you a little about my take-out from the CIOL Conference from the point of view of a newcomer to the profession. There were so many great ideas shared and it was an excellent way for me to meet and learn from other translators with lots more experience than me. But in the last week or so I’ve questioned whether it’s the right time to enthusiastically share that with you, given the current worrying situation for translators and freelancers and…well, everybody really.

Above all, what I took away from my day at Conference was the sense of belonging to a professional community. That was important to me personally at this stage of my new career, but I think now more than ever it’s important to all of us. The current global situation may delay my translation career getting off the ground but I write this knowing it’s not affecting me right now as seriously as it’s affecting many of you who are more advanced in your translation careers and reliant on the income it provides. Nevertheless, I think there were many presentations and keynote speeches that are hugely relevant and that are worth taking some time to follow up on with action. Perhaps even more so now.

Jaquelina Guardamagna suggested setting SMART, specific goals to grow your freelance translation career (or in my case, get it off the ground). Starting out in a new career feels a little overwhelming but I’m going to be making a business action plan and getting very specific about my capabilities and work preferences and which target markets I’m aiming for based on my fields of expertise. I loved the slide she shared about a day in the life of an entrepreneur. I definitely feel those peaks and troughs, oscillating between confidence in my abilities and fear that I’m not good enough – I wonder if this is a feeling that ever goes away?

It will take me a while to go through the advice that Martina Eco shared in her digital marketing presentation. I used to work in online branding and content management so I know the basics already and enjoy this side of things but there were some really useful new bits of advice too. Now to put the time aside to put it into practice and feed it into my business plan.

During the day I met fellow translators who were friendly and willing to share their ideas and experiences. I didn’t come across anyone who translates out of German, though I’m sure there were some out there. It would have been useful to have some way of linking up those with the same languages and/or specialisations at some point in the day. If any DE-EN translators would like to get in touch I’d love to connect.

On the Translation Studies side of things, I loved the academic presentations (I’m a translation student so this probably goes without saying!). Dr Binghan Zheng’s keynote speech on ‘What’s going on in the translator’s mind’ made me realise what a great grounding in translation theory my MA with the Open University is giving me. I understood what he was saying! I had already studied the background to process-oriented DTS! It was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about current research being undertaken in the field.

Jaquelina shared a quote from Mark Twain that really resonated with me – “Twenty years from now you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do…”. Starting out in a new profession is scary and exciting in equal measure. Meeting lots of others at different stages of that journey was both inspiring (you really do make a living by playing with words!) and grounding (these people are real and pretty normal!). I’m so pleased I had the chance to hear those presentations and meet fellow translators in person and look forward to doing so again in the future. In the meantime, it’s really good to be part of this virtual community of linguists.

Rachel Holland
Twitter @rachtranslates