When I grow up, I want to be a translator!

OK, so it’s not up there with astronaut, fire-fighter, footballer or rock star as a dream job, but for as long as I can remember, I wanted to become a translator. While I didn’t know any actual translators, I knew I loved learning languages and wanted to continue working with languages, so the answer was obvious.

What I love about the profession is that you meet people from lots of different backgrounds, often with fascinating careers behind them. For this reason I wanted to share my journey with you.

As part of my degree studying French and German at King’s College, London, I spent my year abroad teaching English in a bilingual secondary school in Germany. This gave me an insight into teaching and it rather appealed to me. But I still wanted to translate, so after graduation I became Project Manager at Absolute Translations Ltd., a thriving company based in west London that counts as one of my best clients today.

Although I wasn’t translating as such, working in this role in a young company taught me a great deal about the industry. I was involved in every aspect of the company’s work – liaising with clients and prospective clients, calculating quotations, selecting the right translator for the job, carrying out quality checks, delivering assignments and invoicing. I was busy and I loved the variety of work.

After working in this role for two years, I decided that I wasn’t yet ready to embark on a lonely journey with my computer and a large pile of dictionaries: I wanted to work with people and teaching still spiked my interest, so I embarked on a PGCE in modern foreign languages at the Institute of Education, London.

Teaching was a great adventure and there was never a dull moment in the six years I did it. It was tough and rewarding in equal measures, and what I loved most was that I was never alone. From all the observations and feedback to collaborating very closely with other teachers, I was constantly learning and growing. I also loved working with children and this is the aspect I miss most.

In 2009 circumstances led me to live in Brussels and I decided it was time to turn to freelance translation. Though I had built a small client base by translating alongside teaching, it was clear that if I was to turn my hobby into a career, I needed a formal qualification. So I took a Masters in Technical and Specialised Translation at the University of Westminster, which turned out to be the perfect course for me. It was very hands-on and led by proficient translators with deep and varied experience, teaching me everything I needed to know and providing translation opportunities all around the world.

And so here I am. My one-year-old is keeping things interesting on the home front and working closely with the other bloggers is an added bonus to the fascinating work I do. After a short career in teaching, I’m enjoying the freedom of being my own boss and I’m glad the sound track to my day is no longer 30 children in an enclosed space with no mute button! That and the fact that I actually see projects completed.

The variety of subject areas and languages means no two days are the same: dealing with oil pipe laying in Brazil one day and press releases for the European institutions the next. Best of all, I get to do my own dream job every day while taking a peek at those of others!


2 thoughts on “When I grow up, I want to be a translator!

  1. Carol's Adventures in Translation says:

    It’s great to meet other people who were born to be translators! 🙂
    Just like you, since I started learning English as a second language, I fell in love with it and the only thing I knew for sure was that I loved English and languages in general. I also didn’t even know there was such a profession, but when I found it out it just clicked, and I knew what I wanted to be for the rest of my life. There was no second choice – and still there isn’t.
    Wonderful and inspiring post!


    • Paula Pitkethly says:

      Thank you, Caroline! Yes, it’s great to know there are people out there who had the same experience with languages, so thank you for sharing yours. English was also my second language, but as I’ve been living in the UK since I was six, I definitely class it as my mother-tongue.

      Liked by 1 person

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