Interview #2: Sara Colombo


Today, we talk with Sara Colombo about the world of translation. Sara blogs about the importance of balancing life and work. A keen dancer and fitness lover, she shares with her readers some tips & tricks to lead a healthier life while remaining an excellent translator. She also recently self-published a book, Balance your words, which is full of advice for newbie translators!

Hello, Sara, and thank you for taking part in this project! Could you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

Hello Emeline, thank you very much for inviting me, it’s a pleasure!
I am an Italian translator and transcreator specialised in marketing, IT and health. I am also a blogger, a fitness pro and yoga addict. I have always loved languages and writing, but this year I have been lucky enough to publish my first book ‘Balance Your Words. Stepping in the translation industry’. The book has been defined ‘charming’, ‘witty’, ‘extremely interesting’, but I like to call it a ‘professional diary’ because it walks down the path that led me here. Good and bad times included.

You grew up in a multicultural home so I can imagine that you developed an interest for languages quite early. What makes you so passionate about translation?

Yes, languages have always been part of my life and I have always loved them. I have a multicultural (Jewish-Italian-Belgian) family scattered all over the world. My partner has a partly Belgian family, as well, so we are a really mixed and lively group! Family events can be a bit chaotic, though!

I have always loved both languages and literature, but translation only came when I started to volunteer as an undergraduate, and clearly loved it immediately.

Translating is all about understanding, and, as I love to say, finding the right balance. Indeed, you need to understand the client, but also the language, the text, the context, your skills, your limits. The more you understand these aspects, the better you will be able to establish a good rapport between the client, yourself and your job.

Moreover, I have to say I cherish the idea of becoming an established professional and tell people “I have been translating for 25 years”.
Experience is also a positive feeling, something that emerges when you look back and realise you and that client have been collaborating for three or more years, you know each other, and have a true and positive business relation. People trust you, and you can say you are working for them, as well.

On top of that, add the various possibilities that young freelancers have nowadays and you will get a mix of languages, business options, challenges and creativity able to motivate and guide any passionate translator.

How do you usually celebrate International Translation Day? Is this day special to you or is it just like every other day?

In all honesty, I still have to. I like to use social media to share related articles, but have never had the chance to attend an event. And there are so many of them!
Translation is everything, it is a key feature of every business, and I believe that celebrating it is a great way to tell people what we do and how much we love it. So, yes, I think it’s an important recurrence.

Which difficulties do you face as a freelance translator (and now self-published writer!) ?

Getting in the translation industry is not easy and you feel pulled in many directions, even confronted.
You have to convince potential clients about your skills while competing against established professionals, there are taxes and bills to be paid and you start to feel tired and frustrated.
Besides, people come and tell you how you should run your business, that you have follow a certain model, fit in. But fitting in is just another tool that the market uses to destroy your talent, while you need to be strong and avoid comforming if you really want to grow, establish yourself and change things.

I didn’t agree with the market and decided to follow my instinct. Think about the blog. It started out by chance, it raised a few eyebrows, but then people started to follow it. I received many emails and very positive comments.

If I had listened to all the negative feedback, the blog would not exist, now. My business would not exist. Don’t let other people control your business, listen to them, but love your ideas and instinct more. Follow them.

On the other hand, our profession has great aspects. What’s your favorite and why?

As I said above, it takes time to carve your niche out of what is a very busy and competitive market, but it pays you back. In terms of money (well, we have to eat, right?), but also personally and professionally.
From a postive feedback, a nice comment on the blog, an email of an inspired person, a compliment from an experienced colleague, the publication of the book.  When I started to interview people for my ‘Balance your words with…’ series I was really afraid to contact translators, I told myself let’s try with three, then I will decide. I was lucky and people loved the idea, we collected about 20 texts and the number is growing.  You might say it’s not that much, but it was my first attempt, I had to contact these big names personally and felt quite unsure.

The whole profession is challenging, (oh yes, you will face confrontations and a series of grey days, as well!) but if you are not afraid of trying and testing your ideas, it allows you to grow, establish professional relationships that grow with you and gives you the chance to express yourself. And appreciate the moment you decided to ditch negative people and follow your passion!

What do you think the future holds for us translators?

Translation services play an integral part of any business. Communicating across different cultures is important for every professional, company, organization. I think that this profession will keep on attracting many students and the demand for languages such as Japanese or Portuguese will increase.
On the other hand, however, I have noticed that many colleagues are investing their time and resources in new initiatives to diversify their services. The usual pair translator-interpreter has been replaced by more creative options like writer, copywriter, teacher, consultant, trainer, co-owner, but also researcher, dean, lecturer, journalist, photographer, artist and so on.
I don’t know if it is something directly related to the recession, but it clearly looks like something that, if thought with value and passion, can turn any skilled translator into a smart entrepreneur and contribute to the development of our industry.

Thank you so much for this very inspiring interview, Sara!


3 thoughts on “Interview #2: Sara Colombo

  1. Thank you for this very interesting interview. As a translation student, it really inspires me. Most of all when you say we should follow our ideas and instinct. While it’s necessary to use negative feedback to improve, it seems even more important to do what we really want to do and to create our own way.

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