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A Day in the Life of a Translator

A Day in the Life of a Translator

We thought we’d give you the opportunity to meet Cecilia Etchegoyen who is one of the English/Spanish translators that we work with here at Jonckers.

Name: Cecilia Etchegoyen
Native Language: English/Spanish
Working languages: English/Spanish
Location: Spain and Argentina


The work of a translator is often considered to be easier than a copywriter or content writer. It’s believed that translating content from one language to another is child’s play, especially given that sites exist online that will translate content verbatim for free.

But the reality that it is far more difficult and complicated than just translating content word for word. A word-for-word translation, which is the simplest form of translation, is difficult in itself.  However, more often than not a simple word-for-word translation is not good enough. A translator has to imbibe cultural nuances of the target language into the translated content.

Cecilia has been translating content for over 25 years and she points out that the subject or topic of the content adds further complications.

For example, when I am translating content about finance and savings from English to Spanish, I require in-depth knowledge of a Spaniard’s attitude and beliefs about finance and savings, besides being an expert in Spanish.

A typical day in the life of a translator depends to a great extent on whether you are employed at a translation agency or operate as a freelancer.

Cecilia says that “I work from home and have been doing so for about 20 years. There was a point when I thought of stopping being a freelancer and working for an agency, but I prefer the freedom that working from home gives me”.

If you’re employed at an agency, you will have fixed working hours, with a couple of short breaks in between. You will have little to no control over the tasks assigned to you and you will have to deliver a pre-decided amount of translated content on a daily basis.

On the other hand, as a freelance translator you will have complete control over when you work and for how long, as long as you meet the deadlines. You will also have a greater scope to interact with clients directly, thereby building relations and possibly regular work.

A number of translators begin by working at a translation agency for a period of time to learn the process and the business side of things, before striking it out on their own.

Employed Translator vs Freelance Translator

As an employed translator, you will have to reach your workplace at a specified time.

The time you spend travel to and from work everyday will depend on whether you drive to work or use public transportation and the distance between your workplace and home.

Usually, you will work straight through till lunchtime, when you get an hour’s break.

You resume work after the break and go on till the end of the day, with another short break in between.

If you’re working as a team, you will have to discuss and plan the work with other translators. You might have to attend meetings with your supervisor to discuss a new project or to receive feedback on the previous project.

As a freelance translator, you can work from home, from a coworking space or divide your time between home and cafes. Freelancers need to be a lot more disciplined than those working from an office, because there are a plethora of distractions around you.

If you’re prone to procrastination, freelancing might not be the right choice. Unless you’ve other commitments on the day, you should ideally finish your work for the day in the first half.

That way you have free time in the second half to focus on other things. Do not work on your bed is generally good advice for a freelancer. Get a desk and a proper chair and create a professional atmosphere.

Translation is an exciting and interesting field of work and can be as rewarding as writing something original from scratch.

Here are some quick fire questions we asked Cecilia about being a translator for Jonckers.

How long have you been a translator for?

I’ve been a translator for over 25 years.

Do you work from home, from the office or a coworking space? What would you ideally prefer if you could pick?

I work from home and have been doing so for about 20 years. There was a point when I thought of stopping being a freelancer and working for an agency, but I prefer the freedom that working from home gives me.

What do you do first thing in the morning when you start?

The first thing I do is start my computer and check my messages. Even before my first cup of coffee!

Do you use any tools to help you with your day to day work?

I have been using translation tools, such as Trados, memoQ, among others since they first started coming out in the market at the end of the 90’s.

What challenges do you experience in your day to day work?

The most problematic for me is an unstable Internet connection where I live. I live in the mountains, which is wonderful, and being a freelancer allows me to do that, but it’s quite stressful for me when I cannot check messages and respond in a timely manner to my clients, or be able to investigate things with no Internet connection.

Obviously, sometimes working from home can be isolating and you tend to work many more hours than if you were working in an office from 9 to 5. It’s sometimes very difficult to say “no” to a client when your workload is heavy or even during holidays, but over the years, I’ve accepted the fact that you can only work so much before burning out, and being honest with clients and not accepting more work that you can handle is very important.

Another challenge is keeping up with modern jargon and technologies, that sometimes require additional investigation and learning.

What do you love most about your job? 

I specialise in IT and software, and I love that this topic keeps me up to date with the latest technological advances. The drawback is that I’m also up to date with hacking, security, and privacy risks, which sometimes makes be me want to disconnect everything from the Internet and go back to using a pen and paper!

What type of person and skillset does it take to be the perfect translator?

I think someone with attention to detail and conscientious, committed to responding to customer requests in a timely manner. Someone that can look at the source material and translate in a way that seems natural and fluent, conveying the meaning of the source, but providing content that does not read like a translation, but rather written in the target language.

What career path do you think there is for translators?

Despite the advancement of machine translation, which have improved significantly over the years, I don’t think human translation will ever be replaced completely. There are multiple opportunities, both within companies as internal translators/language specialists, within translation agencies, and as freelancers.

If you’d like to find out more about working for Jonckers then see our careers section of the site.


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