The idea of taking on an intern had never even crossed my mind. But Fiona had just the right combination of initiative, drive, skills and impeccable timing to motivate me to find a way to make it work. Mentoring is very rewarding, and having her around inspires me to create all sorts of interesting projects for her: translation, interpreting, shadowing, marketing, translation project management, research, networking and everything in between. So far she’s handled everything from real estate law and finance to custody matters and cupcake toppers and managed to stayed as cool as a cucumber. A short interview with Fiona Gillespie at Red Tape Translation.
What attracted you to the German language?
At my primary school in Scotland I learned the basics and continued into high school. I took part in a 10-day German School Exchange with a Gymnasium in Traunstein, Bayern and absolutely loved the experience of immersing myself in the German culture and making lifelong friends. I’m still in contact with my lovely partner Janina 10 years later! We lived with a local family and attend classes at the Gymnasium. After the exchange, I knew I wanted to continue studying German. Little did I know that I would start a degree in German at The University of Glasgow eight years later!
You’re completing a mandatory year of overseas work experience as part of your degree. Why Berlin?
I originally had my sights set on Leibniz Universität in Hannover. The university had already allocated places for us, and I was looking forward to enjoying student life. However, closer to the time I suddenly felt that it just wasn’t right and I began to search for work placements in Berlin instead. I am so glad I decided to come to Berlin as the city has so much to offer. There are so many fascinating people here – I have already met and made lots of international friends. The city also has such an interesting history. There’s not enough time to do and see everything, but I plan to give it a go. I had only visited Berlin once before moving here but it already feels like a home away from home!
What do you want to get out of your time here?
Four months in, I have already gained so much. It has been such a privilege to feel at home in a different European country so soon. Meeting new people is fascinating, and you never know where the connections will take you. I want to gain more experience in the world of work (this is guaranteed working with Kathleen at Red Tape Translation). Running a business, how to use your language skills to help others. I also hope to improve my German skills. While it is difficult to measure, I do feel more confident in my spoken German and fortunately, I’ve found German-speaking friends to encourage and correct me! Most of all, I want to learn and have fun!
Describe a typical day at Red Tape Translation
To be honest there isn’t a very typical day – every one is completely different. In a typical week I’ll shadow interpreting appointments – anything from a property purchase contract read-through with a notary to an appointment at the immigration office. I sit in on coachings, too. Last week, Kathleen coached a U.S. couple organising paperwork for their Berlin wedding, guided several freelancers through the work permit process, helped an entrepreneur set up a Gewerbe, helped someone convert their driver’s licence and went through baby bureaucracy with a woman planning to have a baby in Berlin. It really is very varied – I get insights into the world of interpreting and translation and the German administrative system and its very complex procedures. I also get the chance to do some creative writing, research and admin.
What are you finding fun about the internship?
The variety is fun. Every day, I get to see a different part of the city attending an appointment that is completely different to the day before. I get to meet clients, work in a professional environment, observe the appointments and see what an interpreter’s day looks like. I really enjoy working at Factory Berlin and I also get to work remotely from time to time. The whole team at Red Tape has been super friendly and accommodating and it has made the experience very enjoyable so far!
What is the most significant learning curve you’ve faced?
The pure complexity of German sentences, particularly in the legal documents. It’s really frustrating to come across an entire sentence and just not even know where to begin. Kathleen is helping me recognise the different parts of the sentence, separate the elements, piece them together again and fill in the B-Informationen.
I’ve learned to ALWAYS READ THE ENTIRE SENTENCE (or even better, the entire document!) before starting to translate. German word order can be a bit funky, and I often think I have the grip of a sentence until I get to the end of it and think ‘Ok, it’s actually completely different’. Now, I try to remember to head straight to the end of the clause or sentence to find the verb. Learned this one the hard way!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
A difficult question. I change my mind quite a lot but there are some things of which I am certain. I want a job in which I can use my languages (I study Spanish too). I’m a very keen traveller and have been lucky enough to travel through many countries in my four gap years after high school. Having a job that could combine these two things would be ideal, but I remain open to any opportunities that come my way. With this internship, I will learn so much about translation and interpreting and I think this will really help shape my future plans. As a child, I wanted be a teacher, so that’s another path I could follow. I will hopefully have a degree, lots of experience in the world of work, and a job that feels worthwhile!
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