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Translation is a craft – an internship report

Nov, 2017
Written by Sabrina Grether, translation by Mari Smith
Übersetzen ist Handwerk

“If I want to learn to swim, I have to go into the water, otherwise I’ll learn nothing.” (August Bebel)

With a Bachelor’s degree in translation under my belt and the start of my Master’s approaching, I wanted to see what it’s like to work in a translation company and put the knowledge I’d acquired at university into practice. After a three-month internship at Peschel Communications, I’ve learnt one thing above all: translation is a craft! And a craft needs to be practised.

Of course, it’s essential to have an academic grounding. I would recommend a degree in translation to anyone who hopes to make a career out of it. University is where you really hone your command of your foreign languages, and your native language too. And you have to learn how to familiarise yourself with all kinds of different topics, so that you can produce accurate translations whatever the subject matter. But a degree alone isn’t enough to make someone a good translator. Without the practical experience that I was able to gain at Peschel Communications, I certainly wouldn’t be adequately prepared for the world of professional translation. For example, you may think you know your way around Microsoft Word, but you’ve probably never had to prepare a document for translation and fiddle with countless obscure settings to reproduce the layout of PDFs or other read-only file formats.

After focusing mainly on journalistic texts and the occasional specialist text from a particular field during my translation courses at university, here at Peschel Communications I was suddenly confronted with official documents, certificates, directives, court rulings and various other texts from a whole range of areas. Translating from English, Spanish and French, I had to deal with all kinds of bureaucratic jargon and all of the different institutions and systems that are specific to each country. The highlight of my internship was helping with translations for the European Commission: working on these texts meant I had to familiarise myself with subject areas that otherwise I would probably never have come into contact with. And that’s exactly what appeals to me so much about translation.

I am extremely grateful that I was able to work on real translations from the very first day, which is something you can’t always take for granted with translation internships. The whole team were excellent mentors, patient, helpful, and always there for me. Here at Peschel Communications, every translation – no matter who produces it – is thoroughly checked by a second translator before delivery, which guarantees the quality of the translations and really helped me to improve my skills as a translator. I received feedback on all of my translations from one of my experienced colleagues, and this enabled me to discover my strengths and work on my weaknesses. I also had the chance to get a taste of project management, a field which was completely new to me and which I found extremely interesting. I was able to see how quotations and invoices are drawn up and even took responsibility for private customers arriving to collect their translations, which gave me the opportunity to interact with customers every day.

The team showed me a warm welcome from day one and I was always happy to go to work. I am very grateful for everything that I learnt here and for the wonderful time I had. Now I can start my Master’s degree feeling well prepared and secure in the knowledge that this is the career for me!

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