This article is a part of a series where we interview the team behind Drops, sharing a bit about what they do, how they started working in the language field, and why they enjoy being involved in the world of languages.
Name: Viola Librenti
Location: Bologna, Italy
Languages: Italian, English, German & Spanish
One word that best describes how you work: Passion
Tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are today.
I was born and raised in Italy where I attended a German-Italian high school. I later enrolled at the University of Bologna (the oldest university in the world!). There I completed my BA in Intercultural Communication and my MA in Conference Interpreting with the language combination German / English. During my studies, I had the incredible opportunity to spend two semesters abroad within the Erasmus programme, respectively at the University of Hull and the University of Heidelberg. After a five-month traineeship in Berlin, I moved back to my hometown where I work as an interpreter and technical translator.
I am keen on language teaching, legal and medical translation and terminology research–and traveling, of course. I am currently learning Spanish and Arabic and haven’t given up on Brazilian Portuguese.
In November 2018 I started working with Drops as a translator and proofreader for the Italian app content.
What made you first interested in translating?
I started learning foreign languages at the age of 10 and haven’t stopped since. I remember being fascinated by all the new sounds and words and of being excited at the thought of being able to express my ideas in another language. Later on, attending a bilingual high school helped me enhance my language skills, cognitive flexibility, and intercultural awareness. It was a crucial factor in my choice to pursue a career in the field of intercultural communication.
Take us through a standard workday for you--what are some of the things you do as a translator?
Despite what one may think, translating is a multifaceted profession which requires flexibility and excellent multitasking skills. It not only encompasses the translation and proofreading of general and specialized texts from a wide variety of fields but also activities such as terminology research, transcribing, subtitling, copywriting, localizing websites and apps, creating glossaries and translation memories and teaching languages courses. Moreover, a translator’s daily routine should include practice, further targeted training and networking which, just like in any other profession, are the keys to success.
So far, I have managed to pursue my freelance career while also working in a company as a translator, which allowed me to gain expertise in various technical fields and while still having the chance to tap into my creative side.
What apps, tools, or resources could you not live without in your work?
Computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools such as SDL Trados Studio are a professional translator’s best friend--they streamline the entire translation workflow, improve productivity, and ensure coherence and precision. Online dictionaries and glossaries, terminology databases, spell checkers are also essential tools in my field. I regularly use Google Drive and Slack, which are useful platforms for coordinating teamwork as well as sharing and storing files. Lastly, I am constantly scribbling notes on paper post-its or on my note-taking app.
What’s a “hack” or learning technique that you use to figure things out in a new language?
My personal strategy is to always look for similarities and “patterns” in terms of vocabulary and sentence structure between the language I am learning and my mother tongue as well as other languages I already mastered. Most languages can be grouped into families and have similarities passed down from their common ancestors. This comes in handy when you embark on the adventure of learning a new language with its set of rules.
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
Working with tight deadlines and having clients or other team members relying on you requires outstanding time management and prioritization skills. Each morning I outline a rough schedule for the day ahead of me; drawing up to-do lists, establishing top priorities and planning short breaks so as to recharge my batteries is part of my routine and helps me adapt swiftly and effectively to last-minute changes of plan and incoming assignments.
What’s your least favorite thing to do and how do you tackle it?
In your career as a translator, at times you will find yourself working on poorly written source texts, i.e. texts containing repetitions, obscure passages, register shifts or texts lacking consistency and logical flow; they require extra work and can deeply affect your motivation and productivity.
My strategy to tackle bad and ambiguous writing is differentiating, i.e. subdividing the various problems – as well as the solutions adopted to tackle them – into categories. Some passages will require minor adaptations, others will have to be rewritten from scratch and in some cases, you might even have to ask the client for explanations or additional information to avoid misinterpreting the text’s message and purpose.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
What fascinates me so much about my work is that it constantly stimulates intellectual growth, nourishes my curiosity and enables me to discover a great deal about the world surrounding me. It’s a lifelong learning journey during which you can make a tangible contribution to overcoming linguistic and cultural barriers.
What would you say makes learning languages for translation different from learning languages for other reasons?
Translation is a discourse-based method of comparing and contrasting two languages and cultures; its aim is producing a text that achieves the same function and produces the same effect on the readers as the source text. This means that an excellent command of the target language in terms of grammar, vocabulary and writing skills is just a starting point; translation, indeed, takes the learner one step further, thus requiring great proficiency in his/her mother tongue and a profound intercultural understanding.
What are you currently reading or what would you recommend?
I have just finished reading “Where the Wild Winds Are” by the British travel writer Nick Hunt and was literally ‘blown away’. It is a brilliantly written chronicle of the author’s on-foot journey across Europe chasing four of the continent’s winds. Truly inspiring, strikingly unconventional and highly informative--I would recommend it to anyone.
What’s the best advice related to languages that you’ve ever received?
I’ve devoted half of my life now to learning foreign languages and I believe the best way to acquire a new language quickly and effectively is not to be afraid of making mistakes and to just make the most of every opportunity to practice and improve your vocabulary or pronunciation. I didn’t follow this advice at first because my insecurity was holding me back, but it was when I started to venture out that I could notice any real progress. As Italians would say it, buttati! – just give it a go.
What is your favorite "un-translate-able" word or phrase?
An Italian word I am particularly keen on is l’abbiocco, which refers to that drowsy and groggy feeling which tends to hit after lunchtime when you had a heavy meal. Rendered by some as a ‘food coma’, the only antidote to this powerful sleepiness is taking a pennichella, a reinvigorating afternoon nap.
How has knowing multiple languages impacted your life?
Speaking multiple languages has impacted my mindset and personality in so many ways. It has helped me develop my decision-making skills and a stronger sense of identity; it has redefined my horizons, my understanding of freedom and my aspirations in life. Moreover, my language skills have opened up incredible opportunities for me at both a professional and personal level and changed my way of traveling, accessing information and perceiving reality.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Perfect equivalence between words and languages is really hard to find. My job, and that of my fellow translators here at Drops, is to provide you with useful everyday vocabulary, promote intercultural understanding and help you discover nuances and similarities between distance cultures.
Want to learn more about Viola and her translation work? You can visit her on LinkedIn to learn more.
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