As an entrepreneur and a self-starter with a background and continued interest in teaching and education, I have long since been passionate about mentoring and helping to train the future generation of translation trailblazers.

I know from my own experience that school and university can only teach you so much. From CAT tools to time management and crucial research skills, a lot of what matters in translation is stuff you pick up on the job and from your peers.

What’s more, because COMUNICA itself has roots in teaching and pedagogy – having begun life as both a translation agency and a language school – it has always felt to me like a natural and nurturing place for translators in training to flex their wings and learn the trade.

So for this edition of my blog, I would like to shine a light on the internship programme that we offer at my agency COMUNICA, and to consider how mentorship and a passion for knowledge-sharing can help to nurture budding translators in a way that benefits not just the interns themselves but the industry at large.

The COMUNICA Internship Programme

We first set up our internship programme back in 2009, and over the years it has grown into an established and well-oiled scheme.

The programme is exclusively for candidates who are close to finishing or have recently graduated from a master’s degree programme.

Students who have learned the theory and are now ready to begin gaining some practical experience. We are very careful in our selection process and require potential candidates to complete a series of translation tests to ensure the interns we select are a good match for COMUNICA.

The internship begins with an induction week which includes an introduction to all the CAT tools and software solutions we use. Following that, interns work on trial projects before gradually moving on to complete real jobs for real clients – with all their work being carefully revised by our expert in-house translators. This is both in order to guarantee quality for our end clients, but also to provide the translators with practical feedback in a real-world context.

All throughout their time with us at COMUNICA, interns receive personal mentorship from myself and plenty of guidance from the rest of the team. The idea is to teach them all the many and myriad things they don’t learn at university or college – from the often demanding realities of the translation industry to the research skills used in everyday translation practice.

Guidance and Support

One of the great things about beginning a translation career as an intern is that interns have plenty of guidance and support to help them find their feet. Unfortunately, this kind of a start is something that very few translators get to experience due to the high amount of freelancers in the industry, with about one-quarter of all translators working in a freelance role. It is obvious, there is not an internship opportunity for all of them.

Any translators go straight from their university programmes – which are often highly theoretical and sometimes involve little practical experience – into a home work environment comprised of a makeshift home office or even simply the kitchen table. This is the working reality for many translators and although it has its benefits in the long term, it is completely devoid of physically-present peers or senior colleagues who can take on a mentorship role in those early days.

In this kind of setting, it can be very difficult for translators to learn a lot of the things that are often taken for granted in the industry. Things that agencies and project managers often assume everyone understands. Like how to use CAT tools such as Memsource or memoQ , or how to carry out a proper QA process once the actual words have been translated.

Even things such as time management and schedule planning – knowing how to analyse a text and determine whether how long it will take and what challenges it may contain – can be a difficult skill to acquire without guidance.

Project managers can of course offer virtual training and support to new translators, however it can be difficult to really work one-to-one on a translator’s development without geographical proximity.

This is why we ask our interns to travel out to Fuengirola to participate on the programme, so that they can form part of a physical work environment that will offer them guidance, support, continuous feedback and an opportunity to ask questions and to learn from others. Not to mention, it also gives them a human introduction to the world of translation work which can be crucial to good mental health in those early days.

Two-way Street

Of course, it is not just the translators who benefit from the internship, but the translation agency as well. We have been lucky in that many of the interns we have mentored have subsequently gone on to take up full-time in-house positions with us.

This is a beneficial outcome for both parties – the translators get to continue in a dynamic and supportive environment which offers them ample opportunities for professional development, while COMUNICA gets competent and reliable members of staff who are well versed in internal workflows and procedures.

Because the industry is so fragmented – with many translators working from home, collaborating with agencies and clients spread out all over Europe or the world – it can be easy for us to disassociate from the other moving parts in the machine.

Mentoring and accepting interns is a way for us to recoup that agency and to take some responsibility for the professional development and the psychosocial work environment of the sector.

On a personal level, I also find the entire process very rewarding and enriching. Sometimes when the interns arrive, they might be feeling a little anxious or uncertain, so it brings immense satisfaction to watch as they grow in confidence and ability over the course of their time with us.

Whether they end up staying put or flying the coop for another agency or a budding freelance career, it is very enriching to think that we were instrumental in helping them fledge and take flight.

For more information about our internship programme, get in touch with us or contact our Internship Coordinator Tina Kok at interns@comunica.dk