11th CTS Professionalisation Talk 2019-20

On 27 February 2020, Dr Svetlana Carsten, a Honorary Fellow in Translation Studies at the University of Leeds, talked about the versatile work of a freelance interpreter.

Dr Carsten started her career in the early 1980s.  It wasn’t easy in the beginning to interpret publicly for multiple prestigious experts. However, despite all the daunting challenges, Dr Carsten has made it through and embarked on a professional career in the field of human rights. 

After sharing the story about how she started, Dr Carsten outlined the reality of the interpreter’s work via her professional journey. In terms of the public lecture interpreting, she emphasised the interpreter’s role in keeping the audience engaged. This means that voice projection, intonation and accentuation matters. The interpreter should keep the same tone and pace as the lecturer, if not better. She highlighted the importance of accuracy and quality of interpreting, especially on human rights’ issues, and mentioned that unfortunately, interpreters are often the first people to blame for any mistakes even when they make none.

Dr Carsten explained that bilateral meetings are interpreter’s “bread and butter”. They can become their primary source of income, and a steady one. Bilateral meetings are typical both for public and private sectors.

Bilateral meeting requires a lot of teamwork. As meetings are often scheduled regularly, interpreters get to know their colleagues and delegates. However, tension can be created when the other party bring their own team of intepreters. Establishing good rapport and sharing terminology and concepts can be helpful. But when sharing documentsintepreters always need to be cautious about using the information as it may not correspond to the protocol of your own client.  Coordinators usually organise briefings and interpreters are provided with documents in both languages but interpreters should check for any mistakes in them.

Interpreters usually work in pairs during meetings. However, as delegates can split up during pannels or have meetings outside of the main event, interpreters sometimes have to assist them. In that case, interpreters should try to know how long such ad hoc meetings are planned to last and what kind of expertise is needed then, in order to make their work easier.

In the last part of her talk, Dr Carsten presented a set of recommendations for interpreting students and young interpreters entering the market. She emphasised the importance of contracts and having all the arrangements with agencies or clients in written form. It is crucial for freelancers to have their rates set in advance and learn to negotiate them effectively before starting preparations for the job.

Further, Dr Carsten gave a few more practical tips. She “warned” young interpreters that their future job will not be only interpreting, but they should also expect translation and a lot of sight translation.

If working for private clients with particular focus on investments and taxation, immigration, and similar areas , background knowledge is essential.

The meeting with Dr Carsten, full of colourful anecdotes and insightful tips, was an invaluable experience for all the CTS students, not only those interested in interpreting.

Text authored by the following CTS students: Olga Stokowiec, Elea Roger, Qiannan Liu.