Hi, I’m Giulia and I recently completed my internship at Aktuel Translations. You already heard from another intern’s struggles with Covid-19, and I’m here to give you a slightly different perspective, as our experiences had one major difference: I never got the chance to even come near Aktuel’s offices. I spent my whole internship in lockdown in Italy.
This is going to be an account of how I managed to get the most out of it while keeping my sense of humour, and how I coped with being a translator in a world where travelling is impossible.
I always loved travelling, and ever since I was a kid, I was always fascinated by other languages. I even started to gather an impressive collection of mundane products with labels in different languages during our family vacations – I’m sure I still have a box full of empty multilingual Tic Tac boxes somewhere. So, when the time came to pick a field of study, I went for languages. I really loved the idea being able to build up my skills just by travelling and living in different cultures.
Even if I wasn’t sure what to do exactly at the time, I wanted my future job to be something practical, so I chose a university that gave foundations for both translation and interpreting. After my bachelor’s, I was able to narrow it down to translation, as I felt more comfortable with the written form.
By the time I started my Master’s in translation, I had made another wonderful discovery: one of the best things about translation is that you don’t really have to narrow anything down right away. There were a lot of different paths a translator could take, such as audio-visual translation, software localisation, editorial translation, transcreation, technical translation in every possible specialised field, and many more. I just needed to start gaining professional experience in some of them, and it was only natural to start doing so while actually living and immersing myself in a foreign country again.
So, following my university’s recommendations based on previous experiences of other fellow students, I contacted Aktuel and Patent Transaltions International. They have the perfect internship program for someone that is just starting out in the translation world: it gives you the opportunity to gain experience not only with technical and non-technical translation, but also learn the basis of project management and business skills, another aspect that is extremely useful to those who want to learn more about the actual workflow of a translator in a professional setting, or even have a career in project management for translation.
After a translation test and an interview, I was informed that I was accepted into Aktuel’s internship program, and I was really pleased to have this great professional opportunity, and also to be able to actually move to the UK for a couple of months.
So, my plans for the year were set. I just had to complete my thesis, graduate, celebrate, and go live in the UK for my three month-internship. Unfortunately, as we all know by now, 2020 plans rarely turn out as expected: I graduated via webcam, and after a couple weeks I was set to enter the workforce from the comfort of my quarantine bedroom.
At that point, I had spent months imagining myself in the UK, moaning about the rainy weather with the locals and, digging into countless full breakfast fry ups, as one of the few Italians willing to go on record saying that I really like British food. Much to my dismay, I found myself forced to watch a beautiful sunny Mediterranean spring from a balcony, and the only stereotypical national food I had at my disposal were mother’s pasta dishes, and even those were becoming increasingly creative and less recognisably Italian as the quarantine boredom progressed.
Despite all of this, I was still able to take full advantage of the professional aspect of the internship, because even if translators thrive with travel, translation is able to keep bridging gaps between cultures even when we’re unable to actually do so physically. Even if I didn’t get the chance to meet any of them in person, the project managers at Aktuel made me feel right at home, enduring my questions and providing me with all the feedback I needed while I translated and proofread highly technical texts.
The most challenging and interesting part was the translation of patents. In my opinion, this text type is the best place to start for a would-be technical translator: while they incorporate a lot of legal language, patents require terminology for every possible field, so each patent is like a mini entry level course on the terminology of a specific topic, be it pharmaceuticals, engineering, or biology.
I’m really glad I had this opportunity despite the unprecedented circumstances, and I would recommend it to all language students or graduates who wish to gain some hands-on experience while learning the inner workings of translation industry.
I would like to conclude wishing good luck to future Aktuel interns, and I hope all of you will be able to grow professionally while enjoying all the bangers and mash, meat pies and gravy that I missed out on.