Manuela Spinelli

Interview with ITIA member

Manuela Spinelli

from Members' Corner in ITIA Bulletin 2020-03

Describe yourself professionally

I am a freelance Media and Conference Interpreter. My language combination is English <> Italian. I have significant experience in Media Interpreting, particularly in sport, thanks to my collaboration with the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). I worked with Giovanni Trapattoni, Head Coach of the Irish Senior Team during his tenure in Ireland.

I am a professional member of the ITIA and a member of AIIC.

When and why did you decide on a career in translating/interpreting?

I always knew I wanted to work with languages and made the decision to become an interpreter when I moved to Ireland in 1993.

Name the most important thing you did that helped you launch your career.

Working in sport and particularly in football for a number of years allowed me to build my confidence. Media-facing interpreting is rather different from conference interpreting but like anything else, it is all about practice.

How important are training and qualifications for a career in translating/interpreting.

I graduated in languages from UCD and then completed a Masters in Theoretical Linguistics in Trinity. I studied languages from the age of 14. When it comes to interpreting, based on my personal experience, I believe training is more important than qualifications. I know a number of incredible interpreters who did not attend interpreting school. However, knowledge of the language is fundamental. I didn’t attend an interpreting school, simply because at the time I graduated it was not available in Ireland. Given the opportunity I would certainly have done so.

I started interpreting immediately after my Masters. I learnt by training on the job, which is only possible if, like me, you meet a colleague who is willing and patient enough to teach you and support you. I was lucky that I did and will forever be grateful for that opportunity.

How do you find clients?

Most of my clients are personal contacts and mainly through word-of-mouth. I also work through the Calliope Network.

Do you think it is necessary to specialise?

It’s inevitable that we all end up specialising in a number of subjects and this is mainly due to working with the same clients over time. It definitely helps in the case of assignments in the same field.

What is your favourite type of text/assignment?

I love working in sport and food. I have a personal interest in both and I am grateful to have the opportunity to work in both fields.

What is the best/worst thing about being a translator/ interpreter?

The best is undoubtedly, the opportunity to constantly learn. I love studying and I am very curious by nature. I enjoy preparing for conferences and I particularly enjoy compiling glossaries!

The worst for me is that you run the risk of becoming your worst judge. It is a lonely job and you become very critical of yourself.

Is it possible to have a good standard of living?

It is if you build enough experience to attract new clients and enough clients to build on your experience. Although Irish-based, most interpreters have connections all over Europe. In my opinion the Irish market alone would not be enough, unless interpreting is combined with other work.

What advice would you give someone thinking of embarking on a career as a translator/interpreter?

Be humble and keep your ears open. There is always something to learn from other colleagues. Learn to take criticism because, sooner or later, you will have to face it. Criticism is a good learning tool, if taken the right way.