The Polyglot Profiles – Introducing Veronica Costea Veronica Costea is currently the Director of Client Services at MCIS Language Solutions, as well as a certified Romanian translator and community interpreter with over 10 years of experience in the language services industry. Prior to joining MCIS, she worked as a freelance language professional and language teacher, while also conducting research in computational linguistics. Veronica also coordinated the development of MCIS’ Online Training Initiative to Address Human Trafficking.
How did you become involved in the language industry and MCIS?
I studied languages and was originally set for a career in teaching English and Japanese, which I did for a while in addition to working as a research. So, in a sense, I became a translator and interpreter by chance, seizing various opportunities that presented themselves at different points in my life.
The first time I considered translation was when a colleague from university got a job with a translation agency; she contacted me asking if I wanted to do any translation, and I started doing that to earn some extra money while I was doing my master’s. So, that was what opened me up to the world of translation.
My first experience with interpreting was conference interpreting. Community interpreting is not a big thing back home in Romania, because it’s still a very homogenous society. However, around the time I graduated from university, Romania had just recently joined the European Union (EU), and interpretation was required for a whole host of meetings and events involving delegates from various European countries.
So I started out in the industry very casually. While I had taken some translation courses in university, those were minimal and my degree was in theoretical linguistics. However, that did give me a good foundation to build my translation and interpretation skills through practice.
When I moved to Canada, my son had just turned 3, and I was facing the typical newcomer’s predicament: you need daycare to get a job, but if you get daycare then you don’t have money to pay for it, because you don’t have a job yet. An excellent solution for me was to focus on translation work. For a while I worked with the agencies that I had worked for back home, and that’s a beautiful part of translation, to be able to work from anywhere. Then I slowly started getting more clients here in Canada and a part-time contract as editor for a large translation agency in the U.S. This allowed me to be home with my son while also working and focusing on building a career in translation, which I had grown to really enjoy. I spend a lot of time during this period also teaching myself about translation, learning about translation technologies, industry best practices, participating in online forums and so on.
But then, I started getting really lonely. As a translator, you’re working from home, just yourself and your computer. I figured that it might be nice to switch things up a bit, and that’s when I began to look at interpreter training programs. I figured a mix of translation and interpretation work would be ideal.
I enrolled in the LITP Program at Humber College and my instructor was also working at MCIS. As I approached the end of the course, we were discussing opportunities to build my skills, and she suggested volunteering at MCIS. I started at MCIS as a volunteer, and shortly after was hired part-time for a project that was going on at the time. That’s how my teaching career turned into a language industry career with MCIS and I’ve never looked back!
Did you always think you’d work with languages?
Not always, but as soon as I started thinking about working, I think I had a feeling languages would play some part in my life. But I didn’t set out to become a translator or interpreter. That was serendipity.
What’s the best part about working in the language industry?
I’m not going to touch on my work as Director of Client Services, because that’s a whole other thing, but what I like most about translating and interpreting work has to do with my curiosity. I am very curious by nature. I enjoy reading and finding out interesting things about the most eclectic range of subjects. Translation in particular, but also interpreting to a certain extent, exposes you to a lot of information that you otherwise might not have access to. That’s a lot of fun. You get to do a job that is never boring and learn a lot in the process.
I also have a desire to help people, and I find with community interpreting, although I do very little of that these days, the helping bit is the part I love. Knowing that I am helping make someone’s life a little easier through the work I do.
Where do you see the future of the language industry and your role going?
Clearly our industry is being shaken to its very core by disruptive technologies. We have to reinvent who we are as translators. In the space of my personal experience within this industry, things that we do today, we wouldn’t even have dreamed about 15 years ago. “Google Translate” used to be a bit of a joke, but no one is laughing now. Our work is becoming more and more entangled with technology every day.
I’m also noticing that boundaries are becoming blurred. We used to be so adamant about distinguishing between translation and interpretation. These days, the line between these two professions is becoming blurry as we now talk of real-time translation, whereas before only interpreting could be simultaneous, never translation.
Every time I talk to fellow translators, I sense a mix of excitement but also a significant underlying fear around the possibility of being replaced by technology. I don’t think that will be the case. In fact, human translators remain key to our industry, but keeping up with the technology is essential. With the massive amounts of content being produced in the world these days, and the need to make it available across multiple languages extremely fast, there are simply not enough translators in the world to do all that work. A concept that is being used more and more in the industry is the notion of “augmented” or “enhanced” translation/translators, which is using technology to augment/enhance our capacity to translate. While this definitely increases productivity and quality, it does make our jobs as language professionals much more complex. So it will require more work for people to become qualified and stay competitive.
What’s the biggest tip you may give someone interested in pursuing a career as a language professional?
Before you decide on a career as a language professional, carefully consider how you feel about the technology component of the profession. Many people think that their love of languages is all it takes. That is indeed crucial, but it’s just the first step and you will need to invest a lot of time and effort into training and building the technical skills that are equally crucial.
I would also recommend taking the time to consider all the different possibilities. Language professionals used to neatly fit into one of two categories – you were either a translator or an interpreter, or both. These days, the possibilities are endless. Proficiency in multiple languages truly opens a door onto a fascinating world with a wide range of career options. So just take some time to see what’s out there and what speaks to you and what you think you might enjoy, and then figure out what it would take to get there.