Jozef Štefčík on Being a Freelance Translator in Slovakia — INTERVIEW
Years of experience: 15
Language combinations: SK, DE, EN
Services performed: Translation, Interpreting, Editing
Jozef Štefčík completed Translation studies of the English and German language at the Constantine the Philosopher University in Nitra, Slovakia. Since 2005 he has been working as a interpreter and translator. His research domain is the didactics of interpreting, the use of technologies in translation, legal and community interpreting. In 2016 – 2017 Jozef Štefčík was member of the Task Force for Education of the International Federation of Translators – FIT and member of the Terminology committee, ISO (Information and Documentation). He is coordinator of the mobility network CEEPUS and co-founder of the online journal Translatologia. Currently, he is the president of the Slovak Society of Translators of Technical Literature (SSPOL) and project manager of the Translogia-company which focuses on multilingual digital projects. He works as an assistant professor at the University of Economics (Department of Linguistics and Translatology) in Bratislava. He has published several articles on translation and interpreting and a monograph on various issues of legal interpreting in Slovakia – “Einblicke in das Gerichtsdolmetschen in der Slowakei und seine methodisch-didaktischen Ansätze” that was published in 2018 at Dr. Kovac Verlag in Hamburg.
TC: How and why did you become a freelance translator/interpreter?
JS: Languages have been my passion since I was a child. I have tried several jobs, but then I decided to study linguistics at the University. My dream was to become an interpreter. During the studies I had many opportunities to translate, so then I decided to work as a translator and a teacher of translation and interpreting at university.
TC: What is the main advantage of being a freelancer in your country?
JS: Working as a freelancer has the most benefits in freedom, not in the pay. The pay is as an average pay like transnational companies. However, if you are good and work in domains of strong demand, you can earn much higher as a freelance translator as well.
TC: What are your main fields of specialization and how did you choose them? Or maybe did they choose you?
JS: As a doctoral student, I have written a thesis on legal interpreting, so I started with legal and economic texts. Later, I started to work with technical texts.
”Unfortunately, I am afraid that the status of translators is very low worldwide and therefore, we-translators must cooperate more closely.”
TC: Can you tell us a few words about your working environment? Do you work at a desk or in a hammock?
JS: I work both, from the office and from home at a desk with two desktops, one PC and several CAT-tools (SDL, Memsource, MemoQ). I do the work in sitting position.
TC: And while we are at it, how many hours a day do you spend in front of your computer?
JS: Ca 6 hours.
TC: What about staying fit? How do you manage to squeeze in exercise in your busy life?
JS: I try practicing a healthy lifestyle: cycling, inline skating, occasionally jogging, cold showers and a combined diet… I usually eat at home.
TC: As for your eating habits, do you usually cook or order/dine out? 🙂
JS: I eat out 2-3 days per week.
TC: All right let us get back to the business side of things. Do you mostly work with agency clients or direct clients?
JS: I mostly work with direct clients, occasionally with agencies.
TC: Do you feel your local language services market is the same or different from markets in, say, Western Europe or the Americas?
JS: It is different. It is different regarding the quantity of domains, number of LSPs, the remuneration and the contracting conditions.
TC: When you go to a conference and attend a presentation or workshop on marketing by a professional or trainer who is not familiar with the situation in your country, how useful is their advice? Do the principles or strategies presented apply to you?
JS: The principles and strategies of marketing mostly apply to my home country, only with some minor exceptions or details. In general, I am satisfied with any piece of information on marketing.
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?
JS: Unfortunately, I am afraid that the status of translators is very low worldwide and therefore, we-translators must cooperate more closely. I welcome any initiatives by international organisations of FIT Europe or FIT which teach translator of how to communicate with clients, how to educate them and bring information about the work of translators or interpreters. An average person does not have a clue of it at all.
TC: Do you mostly work with local or international clients?
JS: I work with both, local and international clients. However, I have more international clients.
TC: Is there a strong community of linguists in your country? Do you have an active translators’ or interpreters’ association?
JS: Yes, there are different platforms. I am a member and currently hold the position of executive chairman of the Slovak Society of Translators of Technical Literature (SSPOL). There are also 2 other associations of literary translators and interpreters – SSPUL and SAPT. All of the Slovak professional associations are members of the International Association of translators – FIT.
TC: We are approaching the end of this interview and we would like to find out a couple of things about Slovakia. What is your favourite city or region in Slovakia? What should a tourist who has never been to Slovakia visit first?
JS: Currently, I work in the Slovak capital of Bratislava, where most foreign visitors come. I also love the mountains “The High Tatras”, which I have been visiting since I was 19. It is a beautiful place for hiking or any activities, so I warmly recommend visiting The High Tatras.
TC: And finally, if you had to give a single piece of advice to young language professionals, what would that be?
JS: It is never too late to find a domain that you love…
I have managed to publish a book on Amazon: “The world needs translators, or how to work as self-employed” (2020) which gives young translators insights and advice of what a beginning freelancer in the translation industry needs and must know to be successful.
It contains references to some tools of computer assisted translation, how to choose the right one, to subtitling, text corpora, term bases, professional organizations and tips on using
online search tools, and also, answers to frequently asked questions.