Featured Translator: Natali Lekka

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Our Featured Translator this week is Natali Lekka. Natali has a MA in Translation Studies from the University of Warwick in the UK and has been translating professionally from English and French into Greek since 2008. She specializes in marketing, advertising and transcreation. Natali is also a bilingual content writer and feature writer for brands and publications. In 2020, she launched “Content Writing For Translators”, an e-course that helps translators branch out to content writing. She was also named #11 of top 50 influencers in the localization industry by Nimdzi Insights. 

Q: How long have you been a translator? Why did you choose this profession? 

A: I grew up in a multilingual household. My mom who grew up in the former Belgian Congo is a French speaker and my first best friend at the age of six was an American girl, so I’ve always known I wanted to work with languages.

I studied to become a translator at the end of the 1990s, but it wasn’t until 10 years later that I decided to become a freelancer. Translation encompasses my two biggest passions: languages and writing.   

Q: Do you remember your first translation job?

A: Back in the 1990s when I was still a student, I was asked to translate two pages of a very densely written French text into Greek. Not knowing what to charge back then, I asked for 5,000 drachmas per page. I couldn’t believe my luck when I made my first 10,000 drachmas from translating (about 30.00 USD).  I thought no one could be in their right mind to pay me that much for my work!

Q: What was the funniest/most interesting experience in the job?

A: Even before I became a full-time freelance translator in 2011, most of the jobs I did involved languages. In 2005 I started working on a travel and property TV program for Channel 4 in the UK. I was sent to Spain to talk to real estate agents and interpret between prospective buyers and agents.  

But the most interesting and life-affirming experience for me was meeting my husband-to-be through translation.  He was looking for a Greek translator for one of his clients when a mutual acquaintance of ours put us in touch. I did an excellent job for him and kept it professional for about 2 years before our late-night conversations over gTalk evolved into something else. We still have that first e-mail he sent out looking for a Greek translator. 

Q: Which social media do you use? What are your most favorite pages/accounts/groups to follow?

A: LinkedIn, hands down! I try to be active as often as I can, and it seems people like what I am posting because this year Nimdzi Insights chose me to be on their Top 50 Localization Influencers Watchlist. What an honor!

On Facebook, my three favorite FB groups to follow are:  “Things Translators Never Say”, “Foodie Translators” and “Translators with CATs”.

Q: What are your favorite books?

A: Business development books aside, I am a big Nordic noir fan and love Icelandic authors especially. I am also a big fan of modern Japanese literature.  Finally, I really like reading Gaston Dorren’s books about languages.

Q: What advice would you give to an up-and-coming translator?

A: Pick a specialization or two, read a lot and try to become the go-to person in your expert field. Many specializations does not equal more work. No one wants to work with a jack of all trades.

Make CPD part of your business plan and don’t hesitate to pivot or add more skills to your skill set. Learning about new skills such as writing, editing, CAT tools or DTP will only serve to make you better as a translator.

Q: What do you do to develop your professional skills? Webinars, conferences?

A: I am a serial course taker. I do both free and paid courses about various aspects of my business, especially marketing, which is my main specialization as a translator too. I also like attending trade shows in person (when that’s possible), as this allows me to find potential clients.

Q: What would you like changed or improved in the industry?

A: I think university modern language or translation degrees should become more applied, by offering to teach skills like CAT tools, marketing and small business administration. Learning about language and culture is very important of course, but that often leads to people graduating with a degree without knowing anything about starting a business or finding a client.

Moreover, the industry needs to assert itself and educate clients about the value it offers.  Marketing translators for example should be paid the same as copywriters, as localization is copywriting in another language.

Q: What is the most important to be successful as a translator, in your opinion?

A: The most important thing in my opinion is to try and achieve a healthy work-life balance. As freelancers, we often find it difficult to switch off, especially when we have to work with clients from different time zones. There is also this flawed mentality that the more work we have, the more successful we must be, when this is, in fact, a by-product of the poor rates that are on offer in the industry.  Our industry seems to consider burnout a badge of honor, but this needs to change. Success for me is having both a healthy lifestyle and a healthy bank balance. If you feel you need to work all the time to make ends meet, then consider raising your fees or creating some passive income. 

You can find Natali on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Natali is one of the speakers at IEO 2nd conference Language Access and the New Reality on December 3-4, 2020. Together with Alessandra Checcarelli 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.

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