The terminology side of translation — what my internship taught me
“Translation? I had no idea there was even a course for that. And what do you translate, exactly?” fellow passengers on the way between Freiburg and my hometown of Nagold sometimes asked.
And yes, you can actually study translation — I should know because I spent three years doing just that at Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences.
From Magdeburg to Freiburg
I really wanted to write a dissertation with a practical application in the field of terminology, so I went in search of a translation company where I would be able to tackle this project as part of an internship. Peschel Communications were immediately open to the idea and offered me a translation internship coupled with support for a terminology project on the subject of storage technology. Overjoyed, I accepted the offer.
The first day at Peschel Communications
I vividly remember how nervous I was on the morning of my first day at Peschel Communications. While university had taught me a lot of theory, I still lacked work experience, and the questions buzzed around in my head: What would a typical day at a translation company look like? Would I be able to put any of my newly acquired knowledge into practice? What was I to expect?
Well, for starters, quite a lot of information. There wasn’t one day in the first week when I didn’t go home with my mind reeling, falling into bed with exhaustion. But once I acquired a certain routine, the exhaustion quickly subsided.
“And what do you translate?”
I started off translating short legal documents, such as birth certificates. Most of these documents are only available on paper, which means they have to be prepared in Microsoft Word for electronic processing. It immediately became clear that my studies were very different indeed from the real day-to-day life of a translator. On more than one occasion, I silently thanked my translation tutor for always having provided formatted documents.
I can’t deny that documents with intricate layout or uncooperative software sometimes stretched my patience. But here, too, practice made everything much easier!
As the weeks passed, I was given longer documents to translate, such as press releases or contracts. Every new text meant having to familiarise myself with a completely different subject area. What may sound exhausting to some is exactly what makes translating such an interesting profession for me. No two texts are the same and you have the opportunity to broaden your horizon every day. Never before have I been exposed to so many different topics as during my internship.
One of my personal highlights was a marketing translation for a cosmetics product which required a entirely different register than some of the technical texts I had translated previously. The “creative freedom” was a completely new and exciting experience, something my course had not prepared me for.
As already mentioned, my internship also included a terminology project on storage technology, which gave me insights into the terminological aspect of translation. The demand for translations in the field of renewable energies and storage technology is rising, and so I was tasked with creating a German-English glossary of storage technology terms. I researched technical terms and prepared the researched specialist terms in an Excel document according to the Peschel Communication’s terminology guidelines, so that the terminology could be imported into the CAT-tool memoQ. The fruit of several month’s labour is a glossary containing 200 specialist terms, which is now available both as a PDF and as a terminology database.
The internship – a steep learning curve
The internship was one long and important learning process for me. Not a day went by on which I didn’t learn something new. The most useful part was the feedback from my colleagues, who took the time to thoroughly discuss every translation I produced. This helped me recognise my strengths and weaknesses, allowing me to continually improve my translation skills. Whenever I had a question or a problem, help was at hand.
Another reason why I enjoyed working at Peschel Communications was that I was welcomed as part of the team from day one. The working atmosphere was more than agreeable and there was always time to have a laugh, even on stressful days. Thank you for a great time!