Learning to Be Your Own Boss


My initiation into the freelance profession is complete. I have (re)learned the hard way the importance of balance.

“Know your limits! Save some time for yourself!” – we have all read and heard this, time and again, whether in a peer’s blog, in an ITI Bulletin article, a university lecture, a conference talk. Do we listen?

My next blog was supposed to be about my trip to Mexico (and my, my, did that give me a lot to write about). However, the very reason I still haven’t got round to that (or any blog for that matter) has become the replacement topic.

Mexico was a two-week holiday, my first since becoming my own boss. I thought knowing that every day not working is a day not earning makes might make it hard to switch off. But actually I felt things had been going well enough not to be too concerned. Plus, after the stress of a disastrous job (practically a con) and the resulting second relocation in less than a year, I felt I had earned a break.

However, the week before holiday was quiet… and the week after? Let’s just say I spent a lot of time arguing with the airline. So when two fabulous jobs came along the following week, how could I turn them down? And when the client for another, open project asked me to do just a little bit more, how much would it really add to my workload?

Well: I had Christmas Day off but around that was a cacophony of nine-hour days and unbridled stress.

Of course, there will be busy times. Of course, it’s hard to turn down work. Of course, after writing this, many a time will follow when I do the very same thing. Again. (And probably again.) But going forward:

  • Both clients wanted me to do the job, and at least one of them would have been able to eek an extension out of the end client.
    • Client A: I said yes to them first, but I didn’t try for an extension after the second job arrived. No harm comes from asking, and politeness goes a long way.
    • Client B: When the second came in, I shouldn’t have assumed they wouldn’t budge either. “I have just accepted a job of x words due on y date. Could we push this deadline back a couple of days?” I repeat: no harm in asking.
  • To the existing client: I should simply have turned this down. There’s a stark difference between helping out your client and not overworking yourself. That doesn’t mean saying no: I learned long ago to always propose a solution: “I’m booked up until x date, after that I can help you with y amount by z alternative deadline. Alternatively, colleague a might be able to help you – would you like me to find out?”

And now in the new year I’m back on it – not quite swamped, but busy enough for general-admin avoidance. As far as New Year’s Resolutions go, I will aim not to do this to myself again… And I have signed up for my next marathon as punishment!


Parallels – from the perspective of a full time freelancer

I couldn’t help but use the title of this entry to show off about the exciting new development in my career. Hear ye, hear ye! I am now translating for an extra special company – myself – on a full-time basis and I am super thrilled about it.

Feel free to check out my LinkedIn account for more details on my experience and the services I offer.

The development ties in nicely with the next topic I wanted to explore – using Parallels. I have had my MacBook Air for some time now, much longer than my previous (Sony VAIO) laptop lasted. It’s fast, I prefer the interface to Windows and, from time to time, I still find new little tricks that make my life easier.


But there’s an obvious downfall for translators: the main CAT tool producers (SDL Trados and MemoQ the biggest that spring to mind) are Windows only[1]. OmegaT was enough for the odd, short translation job, but for larger projects its scope and its benefits are limited. Not having one of these tools goes beyond increases in working efficiency, though. As freelancers, some of our biggest potential clients aren’t interested unless we work on the same platforms that they’re using[2]. That’s a whinge large enough to save for a future blog, though.

Of course, switching to a PC doesn’t only conflict with preferences. CAT tools alone are a significant investment (especially for a new starter), so also buying a whole new computer and the accompanying everyday software (like MS Office), is financially challenging. That’s where Parallels comes in.

I was dubious to begin with, but Windows10 took a long time to download. Then I had to restart because my computer (and I!) slept half way through, causing a download error. I considered giving in. But soon it was up and running and I have been impressed at how Windows literally runs in parallel to OS. I can use Mac keyboard commands to switch directly to individual applications on either platform (i.e. not just between operating systems or only between the applications on one operating system at a time).

A few Pros and Cons



  • The obvious one – I am ABLE to use the CAT tools my clients require, without buying a whole new computer.
  • Opening Mac applications from the Windows 10 operating system can be quite a short cut: for example, when you “Save Target As” in SDL Trados, it gives you the option to “Open Target Location” (which it of course does in Windows in Parallels). Being able to open the file into (Mac) MS Word directly saves manually finding the file in (Mac) File Explorer.
  • Similarly, the programme installation accessed in Finder opened automatically in windows. Much faster.


  • For a piece of software that has been a lifesaver, and actually works quite efficiently, it’s not out of reach.


Keyboard shortcuts

  • I’m a shortcut junkie and the usual Mac ones don’t work in the same way on a virtual machine – the “cmd” button doesn’t exist on a PC.
  • Ctrl replaces cmd for the basic functions, but muscle memory is usually how I source these shortcuts!
  • [cmd + direction arrow] to skip a full line of text, [Options + left arrow] to skip one word are two shortcuts I use an awful lot. Skipping one word is now impossible on the virtual machine and it’s made life a fair bit slower.


  • I believe it does use up quite a lot of memory and so can be a little slow (although my Mac is a few years old and very full, so that does have some impact).


  • I have had a couple of hiccups that I’ve known PCs to have that I don’t have on my Mac. But that’s less a Parallels issue than a Windows one – I’d have that if I bought a PC.

My pros and cons list turned out to be a little short but that’s because Parallels’ offering is so simple. I am able to work on my own terms and my clients’ terms simultaneously, I have spent relatively little and – touchwood – there have been no major mishaps…

Would recommend!

[1] For the desktop versions at least.

[2] This podcast touches upon the subject, thanks to Dragoș Ciobanu for bringing it to my attention.


ATC Summit 2017

The Association of Translation Companies goes all the way back to 1976, making it one of the oldest associations of its kind in the world. Their 2017 Summit was my first time at a large conference of the sort, but I was excited to be back in the translation world proper.

Variety abounded, ranging from SEO and the importance of digital content to a tech talk (including the inevitable AI vs. the translator), fabulous jokes to Sci-Fi analogies, a crash course in hostage negotiation to an extraordinary new dictionary tool. And – of course – plenty of tea, coffee and biscuits.

First up was Udo Leinhäuser’s master class on SEO

He brought it back to basics to show us we can all be involved. He asked me a surprisingly difficult question: “Which bit of SEO are you interested in?” Given I currently work for an SEO company, it might seem odd that I was there precisely because I know so little about it.

In managing translations for SEO specialists, I am fortunate they have never asked me to literally translate a list of keywords; yet they have never seen enough of a connection between translation and SEO to teach me it in any detail.


Udo provided us with a detailed definition of SEO and the elements involved. I’d like to explore those details after I have played around with the list of tools that Udo provided. But in the meantime…

Why teach SEO to LSPs and translators?

Marya, from Surrey Translation Bureau, hit the nail on the head in her Day-Two speech, “How Digital Marketing can grow your brand”: translators and translation project managers need to understand SEO because Google is the bigger “audience”. We’re here to help our clients communicate globally, how can they do so if they’re not ranking on the search engines of their target audiences?

Stability in an ever-changing market

After a coffee break, Renato Beninatto inspired confidence in us about the importance of human employees in the translation industry. He believes our core functions are PMs, Sales and VMs – and that will never change. We’re not in the business of “translation”, we’re in the business of “Project Management” and we need to sell that.

From a translator point of view, this is relevant – we need to sell to all the peripheral activities that combine to perfect our services to clients (Ever tweaked the formatting after a job? Created a Trados package? Recommended a peer when the client requires extra hands or additional languages? Translated for SEO?). Our clients will stay with us over the machines because we’re providing a service… but more on machines and machine use later.

What about future planning?

I mentioned recently that I returned to blogging because of a need for self reflection  – I’ve developed a strict plan for my business and a PDP to help me get there. By contrast, Louise Killeen explained she had no “grand plan” for what she calls her “accidental LSP”, LK Translations. But her message was similar to Renato’s: they don’t “translate”, they “enable” clients to sell, do business, etc.

And now for something completely Sci-Fi

Tony O’Dowd from KantanMT woke up a sleepy, well-lunched audience with an amusing Star Trek analogy, equating RBMT to the USS Enterprise, and Neural MT to its space-ship successors. It’s just so much better – and even Kantan don’t know how it does some of its stuff.

Although the first paper on NMT was delivered in 1970 (so Star Trek came first…), computer power of the time couldn’t support it. SBMT (in Tony’s words, “a TM on steroids”) replaced RBMT and was an improvement, but NMT goes further. The latest technology in MT looks at sequences i.e. sentences, rather than just phrases. It takes more hours to train but the BLEU score – an algorithm used to measure the success of MT output – is better.

old computer.jpg

And by the way Kantan, well done on the SEO – you’re the first hit, with a featured answer, for “BLEU score” on Google!

Machines can even help in VM

Alessandro Cattelan at Translated.net says they manage 250,000 suppliers with just two VMs by combining a Bayesian classifier and their own “T-Rank” system. It reads CVs automatically and, by inputting certain fields to Translated.net, companies can find the best translator for their job.

I asked Alessandro what this might mean for my PDF CV, with an email address watermark. It uses OCR to convert to text and then looks for keywords, so it shouldn’t cause any issues. It doesn’t eliminate the need for cover letters either – they creates more chance for the system to pick up your keywords.

The “You spent how much?” pose

The following day began with a talk from Richard Mullender, a hostage negotiator. Why? When we’re selling – persuading our clients to buy our services – we need to know what makes them tick. To bring them round to your side, you need to “find out their motivator, and provide their currency”.

He proved the importance of body language by showing that leaning forward shows you’re listening – if you only do it for the bits you’re interested in, it’s a dead giveaway (like finding out how much your partner just spent on an item!).

A thesis: coming soon

Andrew Hickson from Ludejo followed, discussing his localisation paradox and a thesis he hasn’t written yet – Nostalgia, Nationalism & Nuance, or: How I learned to stop worrying and love alternative facts.

He gave a neat definition of nostalgia, nationalism and nuance through sports and music analogies, including insulting half the room and putting up a topless photo of Justin Beiber. He had the room in tears of laughter, but his point was salient – we’re actively promoting cross-border cooperation, selling services to people worldwide and telling them each culture needs to be respected… so we should really understand culture ourselves.

Eat humble pie

Erica Manning of Imperial gave a cheerful talk about managing people based on her own experience in HR. We all need to consider doing a personal “strengths and weaknesses chart” (and avoid coming up with many strengths but few weaknesses!). Once you understand yourself, you can understand others and so figure out where you can help them.

My own PDP has a similar aim: figure out where I’m going and when. To do so I need to know how to improve and monitor my progress through targets. It’s like a long-term to-do list: not only does it make you more productive but it feels good to tick things off!

ATC Summit Blog

And the extraordinary new tool?

WordFinder is a dictionary, but it’s not just any dictionary! I spoke to President & CEO, Ola Persson, who gave me a demo.

For a monthly subscription, you can access all the mono- and multi-lingual dictionaries with which they have a contract. You can select dictionaries to save to your profile, then choose which are active at any given time. If you want to work offline, you can download them to your desktop, or to the tablet or mobile app.

Hot keys allow you to select a word in any application – it’s compatible with CAT tools – and jump to its dictionary entry. Inserting your chosen equivalent into your translation is simple. There is already a wide range of dictionaries available and he’s adding new ones. I sent him a list of publishers for Italian-English legal dictionaries, as he said he’d look for the publishers at an upcoming book fair. Brilliant!

The Summit’s summit

The two-day conference drew to a close with a panel discussion from the ATC council. They want to hold more sway over government, for better recognition for the profession, and to build stronger links with other associations. All sound good to me – oh and on that topic, a belated happy International Translation Day to all.

Why waffle?

This is a bit early, but an article on writing for translators in the ITI Bulletin July-August edition inspired me. The author, Oliver Lawrence, discusses why translators need to be good writers and pointed me in the direction of Udemy.com where ex-Wall Street Journal editor Shani Raja’s course Writing with Flair was just a tenner. So I went for it.

The crux of writing with flair is keeping it simple: no jargon, be clear, don’t be OTT. That means getting rid of unnecessarily long sentences, avoiding long words where short ones will do and knowing who your reader is.

It got me thinking about two things: do I bring the above to my own writing and where it is relevant to my translations? I know fewer words are more powerful, but I’m conscious that doesn’t always mean I’m not sometimes inclined to a bit of waffling (or, “I’m conscious I still waffle sometimes”). I need to consider my target audience more: it’s a blog about translation.

I’ve written about CAT tools, about my travels, about a recent cycling trip around Scotland and I have always mentioned translation. I want to write about these things and I don’t particularly want to create a separate blog for each topic. However, I haven’t always considered whether my terminology is apt for the target audience: a translator who doesn’t like to ride and fix their bike needs coercing into enjoying a text about precisely that.

To conclude I’m going against Shani’s advice with a cliché – the proof is in the pudding. See my convoluted version here.

Back in the saddle

It has been some time – a year and four months, in fact. In that time I have moved from Milan to London and London to York. Professionally I have spent most of my time on Translation Project Management.

Many motives have driven my return to the blogosphere: some personal encouragement from a former mentor and a general need for professional self-reflection are high up on the list; but a large contributing factor was the discovery of a few non-translation-related blogs on topics of interest to me personally. It just made me want to talk about the things I enjoy!

Most people have a notion that there is a vital importance in work-life balance and the New York Times even goes so far as to claim exercising will help us learn a new language. In any case, I’m very proud of my recent achievements in water polo, marathon running and triathlon. But it is in cycling that I recently took part in one of the most intense physical challenges I have ever attempted – and also one of the most fun: the North Coast 500.

As a proud Scot (people like to dispute this, as I was born and grew up in the south of England – but both parents are Scottish, and they brought me up), I had still never been to see the Highlands in all their powerful, ominous beauty.


The NC500 is the famous route around the entirety of Scotland’s North Coast, and its pilgrims traverse winding one-track roads, sit in sheep and cattle traffic jams and gaze over perilous cliff tops and sandy, azure bays. Motorhomes, motorbikes and cars alike make the journey; and you’ll come across the odd group mad enough to cycle it, too.


Some (to be specific, four blokes and two girls in their mid-twenties) are lucky enough to find someone willing drive a motorhome from campsite to campsite, transporting their belongings – as well as tray bake, sandwiches and coffee.

Heading from Durham to Inverness in the motorhome on the first day, our cycling journey then took us from Inverness to Applecross, Laide, Inchnadamph, Bettyhill, Dunbeathe and back to Inverness.

If ever a quote was needed, Raymond Bonner’s “if you don’t like Scottish weather, wait thirty minutes, and it is likely to change” about sums up the week. But changeable weather makes for unbelievable scenes. This eye-level rainbow was pretty spectacular, but don’t take my word for it: the jaw-dropping sights have to be witnessed first hand.


Bealach-na-Ba, the UK’s toughest climb, turned out to be a tough physical challenge. Unaccustomed to climbing (York has some beautiful rides, but it’s flat as a pancake), at times I wondered whether I could make it to the top. Progress may have been slow, but having had a road bike for a mere 5 months I’m pretty proud of my achievement.

The descent was fun and less leg-burning, but there were still sharp turns, cars and strong winds to contend with. So you can imagine my relief and satisfaction when we made it down to sea level and Applecross campsite.

Unfortunately my cycling journey that week ended with Day 4, and a rough bout of sickness whilst overlooking the bay under a rocky cliff side at Craigdhu campsite. I was infinitely gutted not to complete the full 500 miles but, 311.8 miles (out of 500) and 15414ft (out of a lot more) over 4.1 (out of 6) days later, my cycling career has still climbed some way – literally. Here are a few things I’ve learnt:

  1. On the down hill, I’m still too light to take too many chances when coming round sharp corners in windy places, but I’m more comfortable in how I position myself on the road and bike so as not to lose too much speed.
  2. A terrible pain in my shoulder was demonstrable proof that I need to relax my shoulders and arms to use my legs more when climbing.
  3. Speaking of climbing – I can! And I can keep going if I need to.
  4. I love my Liv Avail and I’m glad I upgraded it to a Shimano Sora groupset, but I did find I was looking for gears I don’t have. The main expense in any bike is the groupset – the gears, cassette, cranks, brakes – and the more you spend, the smoother your gear changes and the more options available to you.
    At least I know that if I ever get to a point where I do buy a new one, I’ll appreciate it all the more.
  5. I have made cycling about more than just fitness. I don’t just want to get on my bike and (try to) go, I want to understand the mechanics and be self-sufficient, too. Before I left, I cleaned my bike thoroughly and attached a new bottle cage – baby steps, but it’s a journey I’d like to explore on here so do follow.

And there it is, I’m back on the blog. I’m hoping to hop on this monthly for the time being. Conveniently, in a month’s time I’ll be back with translation-related topics, as I’ll be attending the ATC Conference in London.

Translation professionals, I’ll see you there. Fitness fanatics, perhaps we’ll bump into each other on one of the other nine toughest climbs…

And now for something completely different – Waterpolo: a glossary

It is my last day at work today before the Christmas holidays – I have a bit of extra time off in order to head back to Leeds and graduate.

So I thought I’d bring something a little different, a bit fun and possibly useful to someone somewhere doing a very rogue translation. Here it is, my IT – EN waterpolo glossary.

I intend to keep updating this over the course of the year, developing it to make it more complex but this is a good start on the basics. Although if any UK waterpolo players want to give me a better translation for positions 2 and 4 (I had never referred to them in English and the only words I could find was “flat” or “driver”), I would be more than grateful.

Intanto, for anyone planning on going swimming in Italy, the strokes are all written below and remember to always swim anti-clockwise. Happy Monday.

(centro) boa pit/centre forward
esterno destro flat/driver
ala destra right wing
semicerchio arc
centrovasca point
esterno sinistro flat
ala sinistra left wing
difensore defender
attaccante attacker
portiere goalkeeper
arbitro referee
uomo in più man-up
difesa a uomo // pressing full press
uomo in meno man-down
contropiede counterattack
schieramento set up/
palomba lob shot
fallo semplice minor foul
fallo grave major foul
rigore penalty
passaggio sulla mano dry pass
passaggio sull’acqua wet pass
cuffia swimming hat
calott(in)a waterpolo hat
porta goal
palo goal post
palla/pallone ball
occhialini goggles
fischio whistle
Swimming Styles
gambe a rana breath stroke
gambe a bici egg beater
stile libero freestyle/front crawl
farfalla butterfly
dorso backstroke
tirare shoot
palleggiare pass
prendere un fallo win a foul
espellere (espulso) exclude (exclusion)
commettere un fallo foul (somebody)

Monday smiles – I give you this orange

After the Sant’Ambrogio “ponte” (long weekend), today is essentially Monday for me! So I’m reblogging this “Monday smile” from wordstodeeds, as it made me chuckle!

From Words to Deeds: translation & the law

Everyday phrase:
“I give you this orange.”

Legal translation:
Know all the persons by these presents that I hereby give, grant, bargain, sell, release, convey, transfer, and quitclaim all my right, title, interest, benefit, and use whatever in, of, and concerning this chattel, known as an orange, or Citrus orantium, together with all the appurtenances thereto of skin, pulp, pip, rind, seeds, and juice, to have and to hold the said orange together with its skin, pulp, pip, rind, seeds, and juice, for his own use and behoof, to himself and his heirs, in fee simple forever, free from all liens, encumbrances, easements, limitations, restraints, or conditions whatsoever, any and all prior deeds, transfers, or other documents whatsoever, now or anywhere made, to the contrary notwithstanding, with full power to bite, cut, suck, or otherwise eat the said orange or to give away the same, with or without its…

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Changing the Language Services Industry


My Master’s degree at Leeds taught us (well) how to charge clients. And not just ‘you’re supposed to charge £x/word’ but how we should be thinking about this from a salary perspective: what – as a freelancer or thinking on behalf of a larger business – might we need to pay for (lights? heating? software? project-creation time? billing time?)?.

It seemed like a lot to get one’s head around at first but with the Team Projects that made up such a fundamental part of the course (read about them hereherehere and here), it soon sunk in and we were negotiating and bargaining rates – per word for translation, per hour for proofreading or DTP, and so on – like pros. Literally. (In its literal meaning.)

And yet…

The other day I was browsing Sandberg Translation Partners (STP)’s newsletter (‘Has per-word pricing had its day?‘) and was confronted with a somewhat revolutionary thought on transforming the language industry. This is because the current system “can sometimes leave vendors short-changed”, that even minimal fees are relatively small costs for large companies. The conclusion was that dramatic change is difficult and would require total innovation/renovation, citing “speed and simplicity when calculating costs” and the “only concrete starting point for creating quotes” as the pros for the current system.

But what if it’s not too difficult…?

Although many would and have argued that translation in itself is becoming obsolete anyway. An extreme view, perhaps, but some alternatives are certainly already in motion, including new language services.

For example, last week I stumbled across Clark Football Languages (CFL)’s “Liveets”.  This “branded solution” offers bundles of tweets sent out in foreign languages, an entirely new service to accompany their existing translation and interpreting services. And, I have to say, it’s an excellent idea. Think how many footballers in the Premier League have been transferred from teams in other countries; think how many people in other countries already follow the Premier League; think how many people in general follow football via Twitter… The market is already there and, I have to say, I think CFL has hit the nail on the head in targeting it.

STP, CFL and I are not the only ones to have been considering the translation industry’s mutability. Reginaldo Francisco caught my attention the other day with this blog, citing the difficulties we as translators face when confronting clients who are reluctant to pay large amounts for our work and questioning whether there is a way to have the large amounts of text in existence that merit translation translated. His solution? Another item on the ever-more-modernised and -globalised world agenda: a crowdsourced project.

And of course this is not to mention adding on transcreation, DTP, proofreading, etc, etc, etc, to your services. Remember Proz and all its magical CPD offerings – the world is a translator’s oyster, we just have to make the most of what is on offer and keep ourselves motivated towards learning and growing our portfolios.

What about consultation? Consulting exists in probably every other industry you can think of. We even explored using “consultants” during our Team Projects at Leeds for DTP in languages we were not familiar, for example. But could it be used simply regarding a translation?

Some of the work I have done over the last couple of weeks here in Milan could be considered a simplistic form of this: unfamiliar with the law, but very familiar with the English language and translation processes, I have been working alongside trainees to translate texts. We read it together, they explain the bits I don’t understand and, ultimately, it made for a very quick translation process. Could it be an answer to the “perennial question of equivalence and the possibility and impossibility of legal translation” (Cao, 2007: 4)? Possibly not, as obviously this would never overcome the sworn/certified translator barriers present in so many countries.

Although it is arguably a win-win solution, like an XL version of specialisation: the resulting product is more professional as it has received the added touch of a native speaker, familiar with the Target Culture, and it creates further working opportunities whilst saving time meaning the product is delivered quicker. Of course it would need to be put to a client so they believe the cost is worth it. But with the right selling tactics, could the consulting translator be the next big thing?

I repeat, the world is a translator’s oyster – our skills are niche, yet transferable.

Why don’t these words and phrases exist in English?

Inspired by an article I read on “8 Italian words we should be using in English”, I am coming up with my own, albeit more practical list…


According to Collins it’s both an adverb and a conjunction. It does seem to correlate well with English’s “anyway”, used as a conjunction (“comunque… come ti dicevo”//”anyway, as I was saying”). However it is also “however”, “nevertheless” and “whatever”. A magic word, I’d be lost without it.

Ci sta

I don’t remember ever having heard this whilst in the South so perhaps it’s a particularly Northern thing. It’s a useful filler in conversation, but even if you don’t want to use it understanding its various meanings is pretty important, given its frequent usage!

The phrase ranges from meaning, “può capitare”, “obviously”, would be “fitting” (as someone on this wordreference forum phrased it) or to imply that the person you’re speaking to agrees with something.

Now (and I’ve been warned this is a southern thing and not strictly grammatical but comunque…) there is also a more literal meaning, which is that someone/thing is physically somewhere.


This adjective – in the sense I find most useful – is used to describe anything relating to the EU. How great is that? (I suppose that depends on your opinion of Britain’s part in the EU… I’ll save that discussion for next time).

Yet it’s actually a starting point for a whole host of other adjectives that are almost impossible (if not outright impossible) to find in dictionaries: because they have been made up from existing concepts, to apply to a specific branch of expertise – think “pubblicistico” or “amministrativistico”, two adjectives causing me a great deal of aggro in the line of translation I am currently pursuing.

Would this sound a bit childish in English? Or simply lack the necessary meaning? “Administrivistic”? “Publicistic”? Well anyway, in Italian it works. In fact, it makes things sound more professional.


Anything from “no worries” (after someone says thanks, with the implication of “Why even say thank you?”) to “duh, it’s obvious”.


You’re welcome”, “Here you go” (e.g. a waiter giving you your drink), “on you go” (e.g. someone holding a door open for you)… Love it.

Per forza

I first heard the word “forza” for the first time at the age of 11, when it was slapped across the front of my first ever Italian text book.


However the first time I heard it used in this phrase I remember my expression of sheer confusion was so vivid that it alone invited an explanation. “Forza” on it’s own means “strength”, “force”, or as an expression it is a sort of confidence boosting “come on”.

Otherwise it can also mean, “of course”, “definitely” and in a sentence “by force”. And whilst researching this I came across another meaning I was not familiar with, again on a wordreference forum: “if I must” or at least an expression reluctance.

In fact, there are even occasions where, translating into English, the “per forza” part could simply be left out.

And finally, a translation issue I have been having. It is small and seems insignificant but it has been bugging me for the month and a half that I have been working here. The constant Italian tendency to put anche in a sentence, anywhere, for emphasis. If anyone finds a coverall solution to this, let me be the first person to hear it.

Adjusting to life in a law firm

Late the week before last, the true nature of working in a law firm struck me right between the eyes. The trainee I work with and I were “asked” to stay late on Friday evening and come in on Saturday morning to get a translation done in time for a meeting the following week.

The Palazzo di Giustizia, lunch hour last week

I had hoped that being paid so little meant I could escape such a thing. Apparently not. It seems the praticanti – trainees – are paid the same starting rate as I am, which makes me feel slightly better about it. And at the end of the day, although I have not chosen law as a career, I did choose to further my own career from within a law firm.

There is, though, in my opinion, a barrier to be broken down here. There is an attitude that I have seen in Britain, but is even more strongly engrained in the collective youth’s psyche here in Italy, and it goes a long way towards legitimising gli stage or internships that exploit young people who have been taught – by the system and by the employers themselves – that it is an unavoidable situation. I can’t pretend that I have the solution to the problem, neither am I suggesting that it is entirely our fault for being too accepting of the situation; I am simply commenting on the fact that something needs to be done – particularly here – to help young people get out of the “can’t get work without experience, can’t get experience without work cycle”.

Anyway, coming back to praticanti, I wanted to dedicate some space to the system for becoming a lawyer in Italy – after all, as I have said, this is the environment I am working in (even if not one I need to wade through myself). And it is certainly not unrelated to the stage, low/unpaid work experience polemic.

The requirements are not altogether different from the UK’s (a degree in law – or law conversion – and then the LPC and a training contract). After graduating with a Laurea in Scienze Giuridiche and becoming a Dottore Magistrale in Giurisprudenza, they take on a two-year apprenticeship program, or praticantato. After the apprenticeship, they are allowed to take the bar exams, or esami di Stato, in order to be a qualified lawyer – the praticanti I work with are all still working as they prepare for these exams. I have also read that every six months graduates must participate in at least twenty cases.

The esami di Stato take place in December/January every year, the first year consisting of written exams and the second year oral. The poor praticanti must wait 6 months for their results and thus to know whether they have to resit.

And what about my work? I seem to be gaining the confidence of the partners and being entrusted with more work. Whilst this probably has a substantial amount to do with the fact that the trainee I usually work with is leaving (meaning they need to get me up to speed, senz’altro!), I like to think I have also proved myself. I certainly feel more confident in this environment.

And I am gradually getting over my fear of the polite “Lei”.

In my first week, the couple of practice-type translations I was asked to do brought to my attention the difference between dottrina and giurisprudenza, which are essentially be legal theory and case-law respectively. I have been heard that placing a lot of importance on case-law is characteristic of Civil Law jurisdictions and, indeed, from some of the reports and so on that I have been looking at this seems to be the case (is that an unintentional and terrible pun?).

Glad to be finally getting my head around the legal environment, I am also making swift progress in the field of waterpolo-in-Italian. Oh and yesterday a bus driver waited for me at the bus stop as I crossed the road. So I am feeling pretty chuffed with life in Milan just now.