Alessandra Vita has found something that eludes most people – a true love for her work. She experiences continual joy, excitement and pleasure with what she does, viewing her career as a vocation not just a job.
Alessandra is a freelance translator and interpreter, specializing in corporate communication for a broad range of clients from all over the globe. She is working in a field she always wanted to be in, and got their through determination, focus, passion and learning.
Alessandra grew up in Italy, and as far back as she can remember had a love of languages. Her childhood neighbor was from England and she used to love hearing stories about its culture, people and traditions. In addition to her English studies, she studied Spanish, and for fun, took courses in Chinese, Russian and Portuguese. Such was her preoccupation with languages that her mother suggested she study translating and interpreting.
“So that’s what I decided I wanted to be. I didn’t want to live in Italy anymore so I planned to study abroad and finally settled in Spain.”
Knowledge and Learning
Although translators and interpreters work with languages, both jobs are different. In simple terms, a translator interprets written text while an interpreter translates orally, for example during meetings, conferences and interviews. The services are rarely performed by the same people, but Alessandra is one of the few who can translate and interpret successfully at a professional level.
Both translating and interpreting require fluency in two or more languages, but being bilingual or multilingual are not enough to do the jobs well. There is a lot more involved.
“The language is just a basic requirement, because you also need to know the culture and you need to know techniques. Translating involves a lot of grammar, while interpreting is much more complicated whether you are a consecutive interpreter or a simultaneous interpreter. They require lots of technical skills. Even if you are bilingual and they tell you ‘go to a conference and do the simultaneous interpretation’ you will run away after ten minutes of trying if you are not trained to do it.”
To be able to perform her roles at a high level, Alessandra has invested a lot of time and money in language skills courses and spent a lot of time abroad. She has a bachelors degree in Translation and Interpreting and a masters in Multidisciplinary Conference Interpreting. But the learning hasn’t stopped there. Alessandra is a firm believer in continuing professional development and has attended numerous courses to enhance her skills levels, including courses in Constitutional Law and Financial Markets offered by Yale University.
“Nowadays, to be a good interpreter and translator you need formal studies, and it is a job where you have to study every day. I translate something different every day, and there is always something new to learn. I specialize in marketing and law, but sometimes I have to translate something about fields I never knew existed before. So, if you are not curious, it is not the job for you.”
The importance and value of having a career mentor cannot be underestimated. Their help, advice and support are invaluable assets in any field. Although Alessandra didn’t have a mentor per se, there were figures that she looked up to.
“When I started to study, I really looked up to my interpreting teachers. In terms of business, such as entrepreneurship for example, I had my father in mind who works in a completely different sector. Because when you are a freelancer, it doesn’t really matter what you do; you are like a business. You really have to combine what you do, so your specific area of expertise with business knowledge in general, such as marketing, preparing invoices and so on. Interpreting and translating are not everything. They are just a part of my business.”
To help stay on top of the business side of things, Alessandra reads a lot of books on leadership and entrepreneurship. In part, this comes about as a direct result of her work, translating for speakers who are experts in these fields. Occasionally, she applies the knowledge she learns from them into her business. All of this makes her more than ready for the fresh challenges that each new project can bring.
“Whenever I get a proposal asking for a quote I always get a surge of adrenalin. Every project is different and I enjoy the learning component. I would find it very boring if I had to work every day on the same project. I also work with different language combinations and that’s always fun so I could be translating from German to Italian and then from English to Spanish and that makes it more interesting.”
Being in Charge of Your Own Destiny
Alessandra thrives on being her own boss, and on the challenge of carving out her own career.
“I love being able to choose what I want to do. For example, if I want to work like a crazy person on the weekend or if I need a break, the choice is mine. Most of the time, I really have a good workflow and regular clients. I can reject any projects I don’t want to work on.”
Happiness and Success
While many people are saddled with jobs they don’t want to do, Alessandra loves what she does, and admits to being one of those who confuses her job with her hobby.
“I am lucky to have found my place in life. When people ask me what I do for a living I say I am a translator and an interpreter, I don’t say I work as a translator and interpreter. Sometimes, I feel like a doctor in emergency situations, for example if someone needs help at an airport and can’t communicate properly, I am always ready to help. It’s just the way I am. So for me, translating and interpreting are more than just a job.”