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  • Writer's pictureNadine Hegmanns

Interview: 10 years of freelancing

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been a freelancer for 10 years now. In June 2006 I started my own business. So much has happened since. I experienced a lot during this time, and as you know, some of the things I’m happy to write about on my blog. As I’m celebrating my 10-year anniversary as a freelancer this month, I thought I'd share this interview about my profession as an interpeter and translator with you. Happy reading!

When did you learn your first English words?

That must have been on holiday with my grandparents, when I was about six years old. My grandfather took an English class at the time, he played the cassettes and watched "Telekolleg" (an English language course on German television) with me all the time. I certainly knew how to say "Hello", "How are you", and "Goodbye" at a very early age.

What inspired you to become an interpreter?

The urge has always been there to talk all the time (ask my teachers!), to travel and to learn a new language, so I turned my passion into a profession.

How did you start your career as an interpreter and translator?

I did a few internships in translation offices and then a professor of mine asked me whether I wanted to join the interpreting team of a film festival in the Ruhr area. That was the first time I translated for a big, international audience, and I loved it. After my studies I worked as a copywriter in advertising and then, in 2006, I applied for a business start-up subsidy and became a freelancer.

What are your lessons learned from 10 years of freelancing?

I always learn something new with every new assignment - literally! I have to study vocabulary, update my glossaries, become familiar with a new topic, do some background research and draw from my experience. And I’ve learned some life lessons, I’ve become better at managing my time, assessing and assuring quality, advising on simultaneous interpreting equipment and organising teams of professional interpreters and translators.

Where can we see/hear you in action?

Oh, that would probably be at a specialist conference, at a product presentation, on a factory tour or maybe even on the radio. Also, check out the imprint of some high-gloss magazines, you might find my name in there, too.

What was it like to hear your own voice on the radio for the first time?

Part of me panicked: it’s always strange to hear your own voice, although back at university we did nothing but record ourselves all day every day and analyse our recordings afterwards. Which is why I was really self-critical. I noticed all the uhs and ums and scolded myself. But I’ll never forget the first text message I received, it said: "Hey, is that you on the radio? So cool!" That made me smile my head off.

The perfect assignment?

Being well prepared and a detailed briefing are always a huge help. And you need to get along with your team. And then, when I turn on the microphone, fully focused on what is being said, when I’m totally comfortable with a speaker, that’s a perfect assignment for me. And that moment, when I walk behind a row of interpreting booths and catch a few words in so many different languages, all spoken at the same time. To me, that’s the most beautiful sound in the world.

What advice would you give to students who want to pursue a career as an interpreter?

Don’t give up. You can expect to be criticised a lot when you’re still a student. But if this is what you really want you will have to fight for it. If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, chances are you won’t succeed.

Thanks to the pupils of MPG and AvD grammar school for the questions.

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