It has been a pleasure to conduct an interview with Francesca Airaghi, a translator who has been working with financial companies, asset management companies, investment funds, banks, financial communication companies, law firms and international corporations for specialised translations.
- How and when did you get started as a financial translator?
In 1992, I graduated in Foreign Languages and started an apprenticeship at a translation company in Milan specialising in finance, corporate law and journalism. I attended a course in economics and finance, and after some months, I became in-house translator and proofreader, then Translation Manager. I specialised from direct experience and through constant learning over the years.
- Do you think financial translation is a good field of expertise?
First, it depends on your personal inclination. If you are willing to be constantly up-to-date with current affairs and you are able to cope with strict deadlines, the financial field may offer good opportunities. You can work with global companies and banks, solid asset management and investment companies, which have to translate a lot of financial material. However, this sector, like many other industries, may be volatile. It is a niche, though wide with many subgenres. I think it is up to you and your professionalism to succeed.
- From your point of view, what are the considerations a financial translator should take into account?
Finance is related to news, political, social and economic developments. In order to translate financial documents, you must understand the subject matter very well. Terminology is not enough. You must be constantly informed on global and national developments. Most importantly, you have to deal with time pressure. Capital markets do not wait. Translations are normally urgent, with a very quick turnaround (from a few hours to a couple of days for market commentaries or investment fund factsheets, a bit longer for quarterly or annual reports). Planning is challenging, you should be – or learn to become – a well-organised person.
- Some people consider finance is a rather tedious affair. What do you think about this?
In my opinion, each profession is at times boring, at times exciting. When I went to school, I wished to translate novels and romances. Over the years, I understood that finance and economics, as well as law and politics, are part of our everyday life. Translating news into Italian on the US “shutdown”, on the earthquake in Japan, or on the one-child policy in China is probably more interesting for me, and very much connected with real life.
- What has been your biggest professional challenge?
I have been translating from more than 20 years, so I could mention many projects that were particularly hard, for various reasons (deadlines, terminology, and relationship with the client). However, my biggest challenge was when I decided – after more than 10 years – to leave the (second) translation company where I was working in-house to become a freelancer. I knew I had the expertise and specialisation as translator and project manager as well, but not as an entrepreneur. I had to learn a lot, almost from scratch: marketing and accounting, and improving time management.
- Do you do anything to keep your translating skills sharp? Does it help to consume other media such as movies or documentaries in the language in which you’re working?
Yes, absolutely. I watch movies and videos in English. I read articles, blogs on freelancing and translation. Periodically, I also attend conferences and courses. I have found a lot of good on-line courses and webinars (including on Udemy, Proz, etc.), very useful and convenient because they are self-paced training. What I am missing a bit as a freelancer is the daily contact in person with international colleagues that is useful for feedback.
- You have been translating for some years. Has the market and the demand changed in the meantime?
Well, yes, from more than twenty years now. The translation market was and still is very fragmented, and it may be irregular and volatile. Globalisation and the Internet led to increased competition, even from unprofessional translators that work for very low rates. Translators’ visibility has improved in general, though not so much, at least in Italy. Probably, income diversification may help freelancers. However, most of my clients are still looking for quality and prefer a long-term relationship with the translator.
- Do you have a consistent strategy or technique that you employ in the mechanics of your translation routine?
I have developed a workflow both for the translation process and for my daily routine. As for translation, I start analysing the source text and client’s instructions, then look for specific terminology, translate a draft, revise, check interpretation, style, grammar, terminology, and then proofread again. It is a multiple-step process. As for my work routine in general, I try to avoid distractions. When I translate (usually in the morning), I focus on translation, then I organise my week to include training, reading, marketing, accounting, and a bit of yoga! I am using David Allen’s GTD method (Getting Things Done) to prioritise activities and focus on one task at a time. It makes me more productive.
- Are there any pitfalls to avoid in the translation business?
The biggest pitfall is to fossilize on one’s skills and not to learn continuously. Moreover, you have to manage “feast and famine”. And bad payers! There are very good translators who are bad entrepreneurs.
- What advice would you give to an up and coming translator?
I know it is not easy, however I would suggest to have an experience as in-house translator (even for free, if you can). It might be very useful to understand how this sector works. Mentoring might be a good solution for young translators, as well as spending time reading translation and freelance forums. When you start having success and clients, do not stop learning. Languages, specialisation, CAT tools, technical skills are of the essence, though do not forget “soft” skills, such as communication and teamwork.
Thanks again for sharing your expertise with us, Francesca. It is a pleasure to meet professional colleagues in the translation industry. I’m sure this interview will be of great interest to many visitors and translators.
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