Q&A with a Language Professional is a new series of interviews dedicated to showcasing the wonderfully diverse career paths we linguists and language professionals might take and what language means to us all. Same set of questions – yet very different answers indeed!
This time, the questions are answered by Martina Abagnale, Legal Translator. She is an English and Dutch into Italian translator based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. After starting her career as a project manager at a translation agency, in 2019 she started Picobello Translations. In the same period she became a sworn translator for the Dutch courts and has been specialising in legal and financial translation ever since.
What does ‘language’ mean to you?
Martina: Language is a way into a new culture. You can’t really understand one without the other.
What is your journey about?
Martina: As an Italian living in the Netherlands, my journey is about helping other people in a similar situation and companies that want to do business between these two countries.
Where did you start from, and where are you now?
Martina: I decided I wanted to be a translator when I was 17 and doing a year abroad in Hungary. I studied translation and interpreting in Italy and Belgium and eventually moved to the Netherlands a couple of years ago. Once I settled, I started working as a project manager at a translation agency to get an idea of how the language industry works.
Last November I quit my agency job and started my own translation business, Picobello Translations. I specialise in legal and financial texts. And I help Italians deal with bureaucracy here in the Netherlands.
Tell us about your successes and career highlights.
My biggest achievement must be having set up a freelance career in the middle of a global pandemic, meeting and surpassing my goals month after month.
What does an average day look like in your life?
Martina: I try to keep a mixed agenda, so everyday I work on different things in my business and for my business. When I’m not translating or talking to my clients, I try to stay up to date on my craft with courses, (virtually) meeting other translators and listening to podcasts (which are my addiction).
Have you ever thought of changing directions, and if so, why?
Martina: I’ve never doubted for a second that I wanted to work as a translator, and now that I can finally do it I’m extremely happy and satisfied. Then again, I’ve been doing this for all of 10 months.
Maybe in 20 years I’ll change my mind, but for the moment I’ll keep on translating.
Can you identify anything that might be challenging in the future for your profession? And what’s the most common misconception about your field of work?
Martina: Machine translation and automation are definitely a challenge, especially when misused by the bigger players in the industry. I’m not against machine translation in and of itself, and I’m happy to offer post-editing for a suitable text. But very often agencies see MT as a way to cut down costs and compete with other agencies.
Where are you heading? What is the rest of the journey like as you see it now?
Martina: I’m curious to see how my translation business will evolve. I really like translating and I want to keep on doing it, but I also have the necessary skills to turn Picobello Translations into a boutique translation agency. I would also like to add interpreting into the mix, and to that end I’m starting a one-year interpreting course next month.
Any books / movies / exhibitions / events / art that you would recommend us language professionals to read / watch / visit?
Martina: I live on bread and podcasts. There are so many great podcasts for translators, and I would definitely not have come as far as I did without the invaluable lessons I learned thanks to them. My absolute favourites are “Marketing tips for translators” from Tess Whitty and “Speaking of translation” from Corinne McKay and Eve Bodeux. Some other favourites are “Small business boss” and “High-income business writing”.
Do you have a favourite quote, or a life mantra you live by?
Mindset is everything!
I have it framed in my office and it reminds me that as long as I put my mind at it, I can achieve anything.
How can we find you in the online space? Website, LinkedIn, or email perhaps?
Martina: My main website is Picobellotranslations.com. I will soon launch a second website which focuses on the legalisation of documents for expats in the Netherlands.
I’m very active on Linkedin and in Facebook translation groups.
And you can always write me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love sharing stories with other people!
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, Martina. Congratulations on all your professional and personal achievements. Wishing you all the best for your future plans.
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