Camelia Oană on Being a Freelance Linguist in Romania — Interview
Years of experience: 6
Language combinations: RO, EN, ES
Services performed: Interpretation, Translation
Short bio: Having a curious mind and a passion for communication, Camelia thinks interpretation and translation equal #probablythebestjobintheworld.
Camelia is the kind of professional who will always stand up for the profession. Her energy and opinions are always inspiring for her peers. See what she has to say about being a freelance linguist in this corner of the world :).
TC: How and why did you become a freelance translator/interpreter?
CA: I’ve always had a passion for communication and languages, so this field of work came naturally. Then, as my studies advanced, translation never felt like another school task, but rather like solving a puzzle – finding the right meaning and the most appropriate phrase/word equivalent in a certain context and for a certain person or group of people. Later on, when I tried my hand at interpreting, I realised it fit like a glove, giving a more immediate purpose to an instance of communication. So, after my BA in Applied Modern Languages, I decided to do an MA in Conference Interpretation, which is how I formally became a translator/interpreter.
As far as freelancing is concerned, from my point of view, it’s the best business choice for professional translators/interpreters in Romania.
”Having an audience brings out the best in me when interpreting, as it helps me communicate more naturally.”
TC: What is the main advantage of being a freelancer in your country?
CO: Besides the business advantages, at least in my case, being a freelance also comes with the freedom of choosing the projects you take on, the colleagues you collaborate with, how you organize your professional and personal life. Although this latter point can be tricky unless you learn some self-discipline.
TC: What are your main fields of specialization and how did you choose them? Or maybe did they choose you?
CO: As a student, I volunteered a lot for various arts and culture organizations, so I could say performing arts chose me in a way. Some of my biggest clients are in this field, which means I’ve specialized in their terminology, but also fields such as surtitling, subtitling, localization, transcreation, etc.
On the other hand, as an interpreter especially, I’ve had the pleasure of working with/for organizations across several fields, including medicine&pharmacy, energy, environment, public affairs, transport, etc., in both consecutive and simultaneous modes.
TC: Can you tell us a few words about your working environment? Do you work at a desk or in a hammock?
CO: I have a dedicated work space at home, with my own desk, comfortable chair, computer, big screen – to be able to open all those documents and tabs at the same time without going (completely) blind. From the very beginning, I realised I needed to be able to be able to really focus on written translation.
Interpretation, on the other hand, is a totally different story. As you know, it normally happens in a booth or on the field, with clients/colleagues around. Having an audience brings out the best in me when interpreting, as it helps me communicate more naturally. This is one of the reasons we, interpreters, insist on being in the same room with the audience and having eye contact with the speaker(s). In fact, this is an aspect that has been heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, as remote interpretation feels much more mechanic, in the sense that it lacks precisely this relational part of communication, with everybody essentially being at home and speaking to a screen.
TC: And while we’re at it, how many hours a day do you spend in front of your computer?
CO: It depends on the season and the workflow. April-June is normally my busiest time of the year, with about 10 hours spent working a day. The good part is, even during these months when work feels overwhelming, I can still take a Wednesday off and spend a few quiet hours reading, shopping, walking, or whatever else I feel like doing to relax a little. On the other hand, freelancers have the freedom of going on holiday on weekdays, when everybody else is at work, thus avoiding heavy traffic and crowds.
TC: What about staying fit? How do you manage to squeeze in exercise in your busy life?
CO: I admit that it’s not always easy to find time for exercising, but I do try to stay active and at the same time protect myself from the pains of working at a desk for long hours. I do a bit of yoga, enjoy the occasional swim and rarely say no to hiking with friends.
TC: As for your eating habits, do you usually cook or order/dine out? 🙂
CO: I enjoy baking, meaning I always have a few recipes bookmarked to try out whenever I have some free time. But since I work from home a lot, I’m always up for a glass of wine and good company.
”Of course, it pays off when clients realise the benefits professional interpretation (and translation) can bring them and their business. But this is a long-term effort that we need to put in first of all.”
TC: All right, let’s get back to the business side of things. Do you mostly work with agency clients or direct clients?
CO: I work with both direct clients and agencies, which ensures quite a varied line of work.
TC: Do you feel your local language services market is the same or different from markets in, say, Western Europe or the Americas?
CO: The Romanian translation/interpretation market comes with its own specific characteristics and not having a strong professional association is certainly reflected on the prices and the treatment we get from the government. Traditionally, translation has been regarded a secondary activity, while interpretation is still quite unheard of for many people.
TC: How is the translation/interpretation profession regarded in your country? Are you happy with how local clients perceive language professionals? Do you feel that they are aware of the expertise and efforts required by this profession?
CO: Taking on a new client as an interpreter involves a lot of explaining regarding the nature of our job: why we work in pairs, why we need special equipment and technicians, why it’s essential that we receive preparation materials in advance. Of course, it pays off when clients realise the benefits professional interpretation (and translation) can bring them and their business. But this is a long-term effort that we need to put in first of all. From my experience, it can help retain clients in the long run.
TC: Do you mostly work with local or international clients?
CO: I work with both local and international clients.
TC: Is there a strong community of linguists in your country? Do you have an active translators’ or interpreters’ association?
Unfortunately, Romania lacks a strong professional association and many of us tend to be reluctant to most initiatives of the kind. There have been several attempts to regulate the profession in the past years, through associations or by law, but most of them have been faulty, which may have further undermined trust. Hopefully, things will change, but this is rather hard to do in practice. From my standpoint, an association should be staffed by fully-fledged professionals who know the market very well and can lead us into the right direction, supported by a great number of colleagues and by the government. Yet, I also understand that this would be a full-time job in itself and not many people would sacrifice the job they love for it.
TC: We’re approaching the end of this interview and we would like to find out a couple of things about Romania. What is your favourite city or region in Romania? What should a tourist who has never been to Romania visit first?
CO: Romania is a beautiful country. I will be subjective and start by recommending the city I live in, Sibiu, where one can find a well-preserved old town, experience local cuisine and enjoy a reverberating cultural life. Besides, the surrounding area provides numerous hiking and sightseeing opportunities, though the same goes for most of Transylvania. In fact, there’s plenty to discover in all historical regions, as the country has both wild mountains with virgin forests, rolling hills, plains stretching as far as the eye can see and seaside resorts.
TC: And finally, if you had to give a single piece of advice to young language professionals, what would that be?
CO: Always stay curious. It makes the inherent research process in translation/interpretation extremely appealing.