An unusual translation internship

Four months ago, I joined AJT as a French translation intern.

Hello, my name is Gautier Meister, and I am currently a translation intern at AJT. I am studying in Dijon, France, in my first year of a Multimedia Translation MA and as part of this MA, we have to complete a mandatory internship abroad to pass the second year. I knew I wanted to return to the UK, having lived there for a year before as an Erasmus student. So, I focused my searches for an internship in the UK and after several weeks of sending applications, that’s how I found AJT.

When you are a student looking for your very first internship abroad, you want to be sure that you make the right choice. Obviously, there are quite a lot of things to consider, but to me, working in a professional, office-based environment, was probably the best fit. They quickly replied to me, saying they had someone else in the queue, but if their test was not good enough, then AJT would be happy to send me one. Funny story, it turns out that person was one of my classmates. He did not send the test back, because Newquay seemed to be too much a of remote location for him. I guess you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. So, I passed the translation test, they sent it back with some feedback, I did it again, and that’s how I got accepted. I remember being so relieved when I received the email because it was maybe only 20 days before the start of the internship, in the middle of the Christmas holidays. A true Christmas gift. That is what drove me to Newquay’s shores.

What I worked on

During my internship, I have worked on a variety of texts ranging from highly specialised (marketing documentation, medical translation) to lighter and creative content. For a beginner in the industry, I reckon this was the perfect way to work on a vast array of projects and learn what I liked, what I was good at, what I still needed to work on. I had worked on CAT tools already as part of my studies, so this wasn’t really new to me, even though I had never worked on Smartling. The difference was that I was finally translating professionally, and receiving feedback from experienced linguists, which not only helped me improve my translations during the whole internship, but also my productivity and knowledge. There are reflexes that you need to develop as a translator, such as checking the project’s translation memory (also called TM)  to avoid wasting your time looking for words that has already been previously translated, and to keep the translations cohesive overall. Some things that may sound obvious to experienced translators but that are not for beginners. I think marketing translations especially taught me a lot, since you must learn the whole jargon of marketing, in both languages. I also learned how to manage my time to meet the deadlines, and I could evaluate my productivity in terms of words per day and per hour, depending on the content. I think it is highly valuable to learn about your productivity in a stress-free environment, and to know your limits. If you take on a translation without knowing your limits, either you’ll need more time than expected or the quality of your work may be compromised. In either case, that’s not what you want. You need to be reliable, even more so if you work in a team.

Apart from translation, I’ve also worked on a bit of post-editing machine translation (also referred to as MTPE), which, let’s be honest, wasn’t my favourite activity. However, it is an important part of a translator’s life as AI, machine learning and machine translation become more prevalent in our industry, and as I remember Anja saying, it’s always good to have another string to your bow. I’m sure with more practice and confidence, this is something I could enjoy doing more in the future.

As a translation student, you are often told that you need to specialise, but the opportunities are not always there. AJT provided me with these opportunities, and for that I could not be more grateful. Here are a few photos from my team in Newquay. If you ever go there, please try the pizzas from Wet Dog. I still dream of them!

Remote working

However, this peaceful haven soon came to an end because of the outbreak of coronavirus. This is the unusual part. It quickly became obvious that the threat could no longer be ignored and AJT decided to close the main office to let everyone work from home, for safety purposes. And although this has been quite a challenging time for all of us, once again, AJT’s warm spirit did not fail us. The team stood united, everyone cared for each other and kept checking in, to see if everything was going well. Despite not having the human interactions of the office, it almost felt as if nothing had changed. As in intern, I did not feel left alone. By early March, my university decided to stop the ongoing internships that couldn’t be continued remotely and prompted every student to go back to France. They were flexible overall, and it was pretty clear that I would continue remotely. They simply sent me an amendment for the initial agreement that my tutors, Anja and I signed, and that was it. I decided that I would stay in the UK until the end of the internship, hoping things would be back to normal by mid-May. Well, I think we all know I was wrong. AJT provided me with one of the office computers to work on from home, and my internship continued. But I soon came to realise that I needed to go back to France, as transport services started to be reduced, and I jumped on the first train to London. So here I am, working from my laptop. In terms of the internship itself, the virus was no trouble. The right measures were taken in time, and I was able to complete the internship remotely.

What I learned

Over these four months, I learned to be part of a team. Having responsibilities and people expecting you to provide good quality translations on time could have been stressful, but it never was. Here at AJT, you can ask any question you need to, and your colleagues will support you in any way they can. Being an intern at AJT gives you the opportunity to learn new skills, to develop new ones and most importantly – to get to know yourself. Thanks especially to the remote working, I learned how my mental state can influence my work, and that I need to take care of it. After going back to France, I learned that my body needs me to have a decent set-up (e.g. a comfortable chair, a big enough screen, etc). In my opinion, the most important thing I’ve learned during my internship is that I should never settle for good enough. I should always strive for better.

Four months ago I joined AJT as a French translation intern, and this time went by in the blink of an eye.