Communication matters - Interview with translator Petra Junge

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This is the tenth in our series of interviews with translators from all over the globe. Translation is a very diverse industry - we want to introduce some of the people behind making the world a more multilingual place. This episode is an interview with Petra Junge of www.translationworks.org

Tell a bit about yourself.

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My name is Petra Junge and I am a NAATI-accredited English <> German translator. I have been living in Adelaide, Australia, since 2005.

My areas of expertise are business/commerce, information technology and finance. I also handle a lot of official translations, especially for people who require their German personal and professional documents translated in order to obtain a skilled or business visa for Australia. My website can be found at www.translationworks.org.

I also have a Facebook page and am a member of LinkedIn and Xing.

How did you decide to be a translator? What makes you passionate about languages?

Back in high school, languages were always my favourite subject. When studying Latin from year 7 to 12, I learned how language “works” and it fascinated me. It helped me a lot with learning other languages, too. I found it amazing that knowing another language like English enables you to communicate with people from all over the world.

After I finished my business/language studies, I worked for several multinational companies across Europe. Communicating in English or French and translating company guidelines and documents were always part of my work routine. Then I fulfilled my biggest dream and migrated to Australia.

Here, I obtained accreditation as a professional translator through the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI).

What have you done to improve your translation skills in the last year?

Continuous professional development is one of my favourite non-translation tasks. It is also required to maintain my NAATI accreditation, which needs to be renewed every three years.

Throughout the year 2013, I participated in a number of webinars (e.g. about financial translations), became certified in using the CAT tool memoQ and attended several local workshops organised by AUSIT (the Australian Institute of Interpreters and Translators). Topics of those workshops were translation ethics and the role of social media in the industry, for example.

Reading blogs of translator colleagues can also be very educational. I regularly interact with other translators in person, on the phone or on social media. This kind of networking it not only fun, but it can well and truly improve your translation skills. Apart from that, I completed two certificate courses in Business Planning and Financial Accounting last year.

What aspects of your job are the most challenging?

I personally struggle with the so-called feast or famine cycles you experience as a freelancer. I like being busy – ideally finishing one job just as the confirmation for the next one comes in. However, in reality there are times when you are flooded with projects, followed by other periods where you might just think: “Why is it so quiet? Doesn’t anyone need translations anymore?”

Having been an employee with a regular salary for over a decade, it has really taken some time to get used to these ups and downs in terms of workload and income.

What excites you the most about the languages you work with?

I enjoy learning new idioms, slang or colloquial expressions – especially in Australian English. It is also quite exciting to explore the dissimilarities between different varieties of English (e.g. American English, British English or Australian English) and to find out where these different expressions originate from.

What is the funniest translation experience you can remember?

A few years ago, I translated a tourist audio guide for an open-air museum from English to German. Once I had submitted my written translation, the customer approached me again and asked if I could also provide the actual voice recordings for their tour.

I accepted the job and had a lot of fun producing the audio files. Sometimes I smile when I think back about this job and envisage a group of German tourists walking through a historical village in New Zealand with earphones on their heads, listening to my voice. I might travel there someday to check if they are still using it.

What are good or bad things about freelancing?

As mentioned above, one of the disadvantages is that it can be challenging to plan and juggle your workload. On the positive side – apart from the obvious working-from-home benefit – I particularly like the fact that you are in complete control: you can choose your clients, your type of work, your working hours; you control your product, i.e. you don’t depend on others doing the next step for you.

And, if you can afford it, you can take as much time off as you want!

What are you wishes for 2014? What excites you, what are you sceptical about?

I am planning to complete a certificate in Human Resources Management, since this is a (translation) area I am really interested in. I am also contemplating starting my own blog. On a personal level, I am excited to travel back to Germany to see family and friends later this year.

What would you pass on as personal advice to new translators?

  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes!

  • Stay professional at all times and on every level, communicate wisely!

  • Be organised and be patient and “Bob’s yer uncle!”

Thanks to Petra for the answers!