Italian native conference interpreter, translator and respeaker for English, German and French languages, Alessandra has studied in Rome and Munich. She has mainly worked in Europe after obtaining a BA degree in linguistics and cultural mediation in 2007, and an MA degree in conference interpreting in 2010. She is a board member of Association onA.I.R.-Intersteno Italia, the Italian delegate association of Intersteno international federation for information and communication processing.
Q: How long have you been an interpreter and why/how did you get started in the field?
A: I have been a professional interpreter for more than 10 years. I started carrying out simultaneous interpreting assignments in 2008 on behalf of some voluntary organisations, while I was attending my master’s course in conference interpreting at the interpretation school in Rome, the city where I currently live and work. Then I won the Erasmus scholarship, and during my university days in Munich I carried out some liaison interpreting assignments on the occasion of international trade fairs in Germany. Then I went back to Rome to obtain my Master’s Degree in Conference Interpreting in March 2010. After a 6-month internship period as a translator and interpreter at the Italian Parliament, I started my career as a freelance interpreter in Italy and Europe.
Q: Why did you choose conference specialty?
A: I graduated in conference interpreting, but I also attended a community interpreting course and I currently work as a conference, community and court interpreter. I started studying foreign languages when I was a child and I decided to become an interpreter at the age of 12. When I attended the language high school I was curious about every subject and this is the main reason why I chose conference specialty: I could speak and translate languages and study everything I wanted – from medicine to philosophy – without ever getting bored!
Q: What was your first interpreting job?
A: An English<>Italian simultaneous interpreting assignment during a 3-day meeting of a religious congregation in Rome. It was voluntary work, but it was a huge international meeting with young people and it was so exciting and incredible!
Q: How do you prepare for assignments?
A: First of all, I always make sure that I have some previous knowledge about the topic and never accept assignments where topics are completely unknown to me. I study the conference material if available, I learn glossaries of previous conferences on the same topic, I look for new words on the Internet, I prepare and learn new glossaries. I study hard, but I also leave room for improvisation. Conference interpreting is much more than words, and working live is always a new challenge and adventure!
Q: Which is easier, translation or interpreting?
A: Both are difficult, but it all depends on your personality. I am extrovert, impulsive and love new challenges, therefore interpreting is a better fit for me. I think translation is very useful for learning new words and reasoning on their exact meaning, but I find it less fun… and I am not always so patient!
Q: What was the funniest/most interesting experience on the job?
A: Funny enough, a liaison interpreting assignment during a one-week technical course for blue collars on the functioning of industrial machines. It was a highly technical task and I had spent the previous days studying engineering in German and Italian. The attendees were very friendly and easy-going and I could not believe my eyes that they really understood what I was saying. I had learned a ton of words, trying to understand how all those mechanisms worked, but engineering was a secret to me, and still is!
Q: What was the saddest experience on the job?
A: A consecutive interpreting assignment where I had to convey the message of the CEO of a multinational company to the employees who were going to get fired. It was so sad to watch their faces while I was interpreting, that I almost felt guilty about what I was saying, even though those were not my words. I did not feel well, but I managed to carry out the task anyway.
Q: Which social media do you use? What are your most favorite pages/accounts/groups to follow?
There are so many interesting and informative pages, groups and accounts to follow on all social media platforms that it would be impossible to list them all. The social media profiles of interpreting associations worldwide are absolutely top-notch and let’s never forget the profiles of freelance interpreters and translators. Some colleagues are just great at working and marketing themselves! If you are social media fans, you will not miss them, they cannot fly under the radar.
Q: What advice would you give to an up-and-coming interpreter?
A: Always be passionate about what you are doing and never ever give up if things do not seem so easy at the beginning of your career. Just try to be the best version of yourself in every single assignment. Also learn about marketing and treat both small and big clients in a professional manner: their success depends on you.
Q: What do you do to develop your professional skills? Webinars, conferences? If the latter, which conferences do you prefer and why?
A: Conference interpreting is a seasonal profession and in low periods I keep training myself in the simultaneous and consecutive interpreting techniques. I am always on the lookout for professional development opportunities both on the web and in person, I read books of every kind, I watch films and webinars in my working languages on different topics, not necessarily on translation or interpreting. The interpreting profession is very dynamic and never boring, therefore anything that is of interest to you may also be useful in your job.
Q: What would you like changed or improved in the industry?
A: Client and colleague relations. Despite everything professional associations have done over the years to stand up for interpreters’ working conditions, there are still many clients in the market who do not know what interpreting is all about. We should focus more on client education and we should also learn to say “no” when we think conditions are not fair enough. Moreover, interpreters are competitive people by nature – or the market requires them to be competitive – and this is good if we want to improve our skills and competences, but it is not good if we cannot collaborate. When you work as a freelancer, collaboration with clients and colleagues is always key.
Q: What is the most important to be successful as an interpreter, in your opinion?
A: You are interpreting what a person is saying, so learn to concentrate and actively listen. Then put yourself into the speaker’s shoes. Interpreting is not about you, interpreting is pure communication.
Alessandra is one of the speakers at IEO 2nd conference Language Access and the New Reality on December 3-4, 2020. Together with Natali Lekka and Rafa Lombardino she will be speaking on the panel “Expanding skills and careers”. This panel will discuss the potential to diversify your career by acquiring new knowledge. Topics to be covered are content writing, live subtitling and voiceover.