In the Skin of a Language Professional

  • 08/05/2015
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Ana Carretero, a Spanish freelance linguist, has been working in this industry since 2009 after completing her MA in Translation & Interpreting English & French to Spanish, she specialised in Conference Interpreting at the University Complutense in Madrid, Spain.

She was also appointed and certified as a Sworn Translator & Interpreter of English-Spanish by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2010.

Ana further developed her education by completing an MA in Community Psychology at Brighton University in 2014.

We caught Ana for a few moments to tell us about her life as a freelance linguist.

What inspired you to become a freelance linguist?

Since I was very young I always loved languages and was amazed at how they could very easily introduce you into completely different cultures, communities and ways of thinking. I liked the idea of being the bridge facilitating communication (whether oral or written) between two sides who wouldn´t otherwise understand each other.

How do you organise yourself on a daily basis?

For the last 5 years I have managed to juggle translating and interpreting with office jobs and university courses. It is never easy as some assignments come with very short notice, but since translations always work around a deadline it is always possible to fit some extra work to other daily tasks. Over the years, I have learnt that translators and interpreters do not have ordinary timetables. If you are really committed to your profession -which in my case it is something I am passionate about- there are no weekends, no 9 to 5 working patterns or bank holidays. So flexibility and adaptability are essential qualities that anyone considering becoming a professional should bear in mind.

What are the best and worst aspects of being a freelance linguist?

The best aspect of being a freelance linguist is that not only are you your own boss, but you also deal with different sorts of people from a wide range of backgrounds on a daily basis. I find it quite rewarding to have a job that is so versatile and varied in the topics that it can draw on. On the other more negative side, being a freelance doesn't always provide the same economic stability that you would have if you were on the translators’ payroll of the EU or the UN, but it is still worth it.

Have you got any anecdotes you would like to share?

Thanks to my involvement as a community interpreter I have had the chance of seeing four babies coming into this world. It isn't always pleasant to be an interpreter and witness cases of domestic violence, family abuse or neglect, people getting ill or facing court proceedings, etc.; so being able to make a contribution to something so powerful and life-changing as a baby being born is something that not only makes my day, but reminds me why I love being an interpreter. 

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Keep mentally fit with language

  • 24/03/2015
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  Brits are realising the benefits of learning other languages

A recent study by online language teaching company babble (, discovered the main reasons people want to learn another language.Respondents from six countries including the UK gave such reasons as “wanting to keep mentally fit”, “learning out of pure interest” and “to communicate better when travelling”.

Remarkably, 57% of those questioned in the UK felt that they wanted to communicate better when abroad. Perhaps the continental Europeans, who are largely at home with two or three languages under their belt, have shamed us Brits sufficiently about our linguistic inability when we take trips over the channel.

In addition to the ability to communicate, learning another language gives vital insight into the culture and mind-set of others. Cognitive research suggests that language profoundly influences the way people see the world. Meeting people with an idea of how their world view has been created is being recognised as an indication of cultural intelligence. Developing this "intelligence quotient" will certainly help co-operation between the peoples of the world as we face the challenges of the future.

In the meantime, learning and using pleasantries such as “good morning”, “please” and “thank you” are a great way to start - a quick poll among the Vandu office team revealed 10 foreign languages between us - plus Olivia's BSL!


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Words that will save you money

  • 16/03/2015
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The recent growth in international trade has increased the demand for legal translation services worldwide. 

Legal translation includes all types of documents required by the civil and criminal justice system.  Contracts, patents, court transcripts, legal certifications, statements and so on.   

Also bear in mind that other documents become “legal” when they cross into the civil and criminal justice system. That includes documents such as passports, birth, death and marriage certificates, immigration documents, power of attorney, testaments, partnership deeds, sales contracts, etc.  Yes, the list of legal documents is endless!

Why do good legal translations matter?

The importance of a good translation is most obvious when things go wrong. A mistranslation in a contract, for example, could lead to a lawsuit and loss of money. So there is no room for error in legal translation.  

So if you’re pressed for time, using the right professionals will not only save you money but also stress.

How can we prevent this from happening?

Only professional translators who specialise in this field should translate legal documents. It is a special skill that professionals work hard to develop.


It combines the creativity needed in literary translation with the specific terminology of technical translation.

A linguist doing legal translation needs to:

  • have extensive experience and knowledge of the source language;
  • be a native speaker of the target language;
  • have an understanding of the local culture and knowledge of the legal system;
  • have an accredited qualification such as an MA or BA in Translation or Linguistics in law;
  • have access to all legal materials like legal dictionaries, legal glossaries, journals, etc. to keep themselves updated with the terminology.

Another thing to consider is that qualified translators from other European countries working as translators in the UK must comply with the ECTS (European Credit Transfer System).  This is also called the Bologna Process which brings transparency and compatibility of higher education standards across the EU.

And to make sure your document meets the highest professional standards, you should ask an independent legal translator to do the proofreading.

If you’d like some more information about legal translations, please send an email to Alejandra Gonzalez, email address: or call me on 01273473986.

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Be confident about getting the health care you need

  • 11/03/2015
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Does your GP understand what you need? Do you feel your voice is being heard? Do you feel you are being treated fairly, when English is not your first language?

If you answered no to the above, you may benefit from the support of a bilingual advocate.

Bilingual Advocacy is a service which can support you in understanding the UK health & social care systems.  It means you’ll be more confident about making the choices you want.

You can become self-reliant and self-sufficient with just a few hours of support from a bilingual advocate.  Your new found independence will carry you through to the future.

Be positive that your GP is not only listening to what your needs are, but understanding them too.

Everyone living in the UK has a right to access health care services regardless of their race, ethnicity or language needs.

We’ll put you in touch with your allocated bilingual advocate who’ll be able to signpost you to supportive services & organisations in your area.  It means you’ll be able to get in touch with other people in your community.

If you’d like to learn English, your advocate can point you in the right direction and give you the information you need to access those all-important classes.

If you or somebody you know may benefit from bilingual advocacy then get in touch today on 01273 473986. Or you can email us at

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A successful career in Community Interpreting includes a Masters Degree for Vandu Associate

  • 03/02/2015
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Kate Bryant has been working with Vandu Language Services for nine years and has just received her Masters in Translation with SOAS, University of London.

   In addition to her outstanding grades in modules involving the translation from Mandarin to English and English to Mandarin, Kate received a Distinction for her dissertation in Linguistic Theory.

   Starting her career as a community interpreter, Kate has continually sought ways to improve her linguistic service portfolio and challenge herself. We snatched a moment in her busy schedule to talk to her about her career.     

   V: How did you come to interpreting, was it a conscious career choice?

   K: I was given a Community Interpreting course leaflet by a friend, who, at the time, thought I would be able to "kill" some time when my daughter had started school full time. I’ve now been working as an interpreter for about 9 years!


V: What’s been the best thing about the career choice you made back then?

K: ‘I enjoy all aspects of interpreting. I love the fact that I get to meet people and help them to express themselves’

‘That enables both the service provider and the service user to communicate effectively. It may seem daunting to some interpreters, but I particularly enjoy medical interpreting because I get to go to all departments in the hospital and learn about all kinds of medical conditions and treatment - this is a personal interest.

V: You have been a valued member of our team for many years, how have you found working with us at Vandu?

K: Vandu's office staff are very friendly and easy to work with. I particularly enjoy the opportunity to get together at conferences and social events that Vandu organise for interpreters.

V: What’s been the greatest challenge you’ve had to overcome over the course of your career?

K: As a mum and a full-time interpreter, translator, bilingual advocate and of course as a student over the last year, I did have to juggle quite a lot in terms of trying to fit in as many bookings as possible while trying to give enough time and attention to my family. I do have to be extremely organised and flexible to work around schedules.
V: So what motivated you to take on the pressure of completing your Masters in Translation?

K: It wasn't an easy decision to make as it would cut my income and take a lot of time, money, and effort.

‘I took on the Masters course as a personal challenge, just to see how far I can push myself; I also did it for my passion for languages.’

V: How has working in language services in the last nine years benefited you on a personal level?

K: I have lived in the UK for more than 16 years - this might sound strange to some people - but my Chinese was getting rusty as I was surrounded by only English-speaking people before I started interpreting. I spend a lot of time researching on the internet to 'tweak' my use of Chinese phrases and building my own glossaries, so my Chinese can sound as natural as possible to the service users. This helps me to keep my mother tongue in a "top-notch" condition!
V: Do you have any tips or advice for anyone considering a career in interpreting or translation?

K: One common misconception is that, as long as you are bilingual, you can be an interpreter. It takes more than that and a lot of experience and training to be a good interpreter. As it’s not a 9 to 5 job, there is always uncertainty about income, so you have to have a passion for it. You also have to be willing to progress and to improve your credibility and reputation.

V: You worked a lot with Children’s Services and they always wanted you to go back for their cases. What qualities do you possess that made these sessions so valuable to them?

K: Children’s Services are a specialised team, so confidentiality and sensitivity towards the issues are crucial when working with them. You need to accommodate both the service user and service provider’s needs and maintain professionalism the whole time. Once you are familiar with their policies and procedures, it makes working with them easier. That way the outcomes are successful for everyone.

Kate’s determination and professionalism have been key to her success and we hope may inspire others that are considering a career that utilises their language skills.

If Kate’s journey has inspired you, why not give us a call at Vandu Language Services on 01273 473986  We’d be happy to give you an idea of what community interpreting involves and more information about how you can use your language skills to help others.

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