Nadine works for the European Commission and enjoys being involved with EU affairs through the work she translates
How did you get your job?
English-language translation competitions for the EU are organised once every two to three years. It just so happened that the application process opened just after I'd graduated from my degree at Cambridge.
Even though I was going to study at Bath for my Masters in translation and interpreting, I knew that the application process takes about a year so I had enough time to fit the MA in. While I was studying at Bath I was lucky enough to obtain a one-month placement at the European Commission's Directorate-General for Translation (DGT), which was a very rewarding experience.
The application process itself consists of many steps, including psychometric and translation tests and an assessment centre.
How relevant is your degree to your job?
Studying modern and medieval languages (French and Italian) and translation was very relevant to my current job, especially as during the MA we focused on EU texts in particular and used the EU style guide, which is currently used by my department.
However, it is not necessary to have a degree in foreign languages or translation in order to apply for this job. Applicants must have at least a 2:1 in any degree and be able to competently translate from two EU foreign languages into English.
What are your main work activities?
I currently translate from French, Italian and Greek into English. A typical working day involves taking documents from the trays to translate, which can come from any of the Directorate-Generals within the Commission. We are usually free to choose our own texts unless anything particularly urgent comes in.
The work is then given to another colleague to revise before it goes back to the requester, this is the case for everyone, including more senior translators.
Other tasks may include screening documents which will be translated by freelancers, working on terminology databases and attending unit meetings.
Conversation sessions are also organised to keep up our speaking skills, while there are language classes twice a week for those learning a new language.
What are your career ambitions?
Having just passed my nine-month probation period, I am now looking forward to fully settling in as a member of the team.
In the near future I hope to develop different skills by becoming a mentor to newcomers, and I will start learning Croatian in the spring as the department is in need of translators from Slavic languages.
What do you enjoy about your job?
I like the variety of texts we are required to translate. Subject matters range from customs and taxation, to the environment and public health. The entire department is very welcoming and friendly and everyone gets on well with each other.
It is also exciting to be at the forefront of EU affairs through the documents we work with.
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
The variety of texts can be quite a challenge as it is impossible to have experience or knowledge of every single topic. Sometimes a lot of research is required in order to produce a sensible translation.
Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?
It's a good idea to practise the psychometric tests in advance, especially the numerical and abstract tests as they are quite tricky. Plenty of material can be found online to assist with this.
In addition, keep an eye out on the web page for upcoming competitions. I initially found out about my competition by attending Language Show Live at Kensington Olympia, which is organised annually in October and is definitely worth visiting. The EU always has a stand where you can find out more about working as a translator.
Find out more
- Learn more about the role of a translator.
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