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  • Writer's pictureEllen Worrell

ITI Bulletin article: Winner's Circle

I’m writing this piece almost exactly six years to the day since I became a professional translator, having taken my first tentative steps in the industry in July 2012. As an outgoing person, I initially trained as an interpreter, thinking translation wasn’t really for me, but in the end, I wasn’t cut out to interpret: I’m far too much of a perfectionist and didn’t cope well under the enormous time pressure faced by interpreters in the booth.

So, as I came to the end of my MA at the University of Bath, I decided to apply for a position as an in-house agency translator. I had no experience and knew nothing about CAT tools, but miraculously I was offered the job and stayed there for two happy years, learning more than I thought possible. In 2014, I decided to take the plunge as a freelancer and I’ve not looked back since. I’m proud to have pushed my business onwards and upwards in that time, gaining some fantastic clients along the way. Once I’d met all the criteria to apply for the MITI assessment, I challenged myself to apply in January 2017. I was delighted to receive a text in my favourite specialism – travel and tourism – and set to producing a beautifully flowing text that would entice readers to the area in question. Fast forward several weeks, and I was told I had passed and could now call myself an MITI. I was beyond thrilled and used my new designation with pride.

Then life took a new direction with the arrival of our little girl, Izzy, in May 2017. I had planned to have about 4 months off before returning to work – it’s terrifying having worked incredibly hard to build up a business and strike up great relationships with clients to simply write to them one day to tell them you’re going on maternity leave. Would they wait for me to return? Would they desert me before I even went on leave? Would they be happy to keep working with me if I’m only working part-time on my return?

As the end of my maternity leave drew closer, I started to work out when and how I was going to work, as well as take Izzy to various baby groups, eat, walk the dog, clean the house, or even just have a hot shower. I thought I’d got it sorted and very nearly began telling my clients I was back. But then the dreaded 4-month regression hit. Suddenly, Izzy seemed to lose the ability to sleep, unless she was feeding or I was rocking her. I was averaging a total of 3 hours kip a night, in 20-minute snatches between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. The sleep deprivation was indescribable and utterly soul-destroying. Would I ever get enough sleep to have a functioning translation brain again?!

It all came to a head when, late one night, my incredibly supportive husband came home to find me sleep-deprived and sobbing, with Izzy screaming upstairs. He knew how I wanted to parent but he did say we ought to find something that worked for us as a family so we could all get the rest we needed and deserved. After all we deserved to thrive, not just survive.

Fast forward 9 months, and our little family is most certainly thriving. It took a lot of patience but Izzy did eventually learn to fall asleep without me and now she nails her daytime naps. The ‘routine’ is pretty flexible but I know I have a dedicated 2-hour window every day in which to work. “Only 2 hours?!” I can hear you thinking – but yes, you read correctly. Don’t get me wrong, I answer emails on my phone throughout the day, but I only translate for 2 hours. I’m still amazed at how much I can get done in a finite amount of time! In fact, looking at my translation records, I am now translating about 75% of the volume I was translating when I worked full-time. I know things will change again when Izzy no longer needs to nap, but that’s where nursery will come in handy and she’s old enough to qualify for free childcare. I’ve already decided that I’ll carry on working for a short period of time every day, rather than working two or three long days. My new life as a mum has shown me I’m far more productive when I dedicate a manageable chunk of time to translation, rather than being faced with a whole day and a ridiculously long to-do list involving a translation project at some point.

To top off what has been a very exciting 15 months, I was told in April 2018 that I had been awarded the John Hayes Prize for the best performance in the MITI translator assessment in 2017. To be honest, it still hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but I am so glad I pushed myself to apply for the assessment. I was very nervous when I submitted my translation and commentary but winning this award has given me a real confidence boost, especially in an industry where feedback is unfortunately still rarely forthcoming. As for my next challenges? Applying for ISO 17100 Qualified status and submitting a proposal for a talk at the 2019 ITI Conference in Sheffield. Watch this space!

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