NAME: Karolien van Eck
PROFESSION: Translator & interpreter
WORK LANGUAGES: Portuguese and Dutch

What kind of translation / interpretation work do you do and what type of clients do you work with?
My work is mostly (90%) legal translation, in all its diversity: civil / commercial and criminal law. Since my language pair is quite special (2 minor languages, or at least in Europa that is), I don’t feel the need to specialize further, although I have preference for certain project over others, of course.
My clients are also divers; I do a lot of work for end clients (private persons and companies), some of them “one-timers” and others recurring, and I also have some agency clients. I work alone, but I have a small group of reliable colleagues that provide (almost) the same market as I do, so we exchange work, ask each other for revision of our projects and so on.

Can you provide a brief description of a typical work day?
A typical work day is … spent mostly behind the PC. I’m online about 12 hours a day; I think it’s important to be contactable and accessible.
I normally start working at 8.30 am, because in the Netherlands it’s 1 hour later, so the first e-mails will have arrived by that time. The morning is for planning, proofreading yesterday’s translations, delivering, invoicing, social media, etcetera. And twice a week I go to the gym between 9.30 am and 11.00 am. karolien van eck
In the afternoon I take care of the bigger projects. Luckily, I have no problem limiting my attention to the most urgent messages or quickly interrupt what I’m doing and getting on later. Two or three times a week you can find me in the public notary office (for certification of my work under Portuguese law), and also the post office is my “second home”.
I’m married and our youngest son (17y) still lives with us. Normally we schedule our days and meals around the projects we have in hands. Both my husband and I are freelancers so normally there’s no tight schedule, other than our own agendas. Sometimes in the middle of the week we decide to spend an afternoon near the sea, and we go out for lunch or dinner quit often. Since we have family and friends in – ate least – two countries (my husband is Portuguese and I’m Dutch) we do a lot of travelling between Portugal and the Netherlands. And recently we fell in love with the Azores…

What aspects of your profession do you enjoy most?
The diversity and the freedom of planning my own working days and weeks. I always find something I love in (almost) every project. A special (small) group of my clients are Dutch prisoners in Portuguese jails – after they’re sentenced, they can apply for transference to the Netherlands and at that point they need their process documents translated into Dutch; those jobs always give some good stories to tell at parties 😀
And I love to attend conferences and meetings with fellow translators. I find it very important to share experience and knowledge and to learn from and with each other, so I try to participate in at least one or two conferences or other forms of knowledge sharing a year.

Which aspects do you least enjoy?
The loneliness and the long hours sitting behind my screen. I’m rather a control freak about my work and I find it hard to unwind when not all is done as I planned to. And of course there’s some typical jobs I would rather do without (like the translation of school diplomas, for instance)! Normally I’ll not accept them, but sometimes I know the client has not much alternatives, so I try to attend…

How long have you been working as a translator / interpreter?
About 25 years now… wow, that is a long time! I graduated in 1992 and soon after that I started translating, the first years in combination with a part time job and later full time, in combination with family & children.

Does this work fit with your initial studies? Did you in fact study to become a translator?
Yes, completely, I graduated at Utrecht University (I hold a Master degree in Translation). And since I’m a very curious person, I love to get informed about the most various subject matters I translate.

What is your career path? Why did you make the decision to work as a translator / interpreter?
It all came quite logically after my studies. I’m very happy working as a freelancer. Years ago, I had my own language school, providing translations in other language pairs as well, and language teaching. But I found it difficult to be responsible for other people’s work, so I sold it and went back to my home office, and I’m very happy since that!

Is translation your sole professional work? If not, in what other fields are you involved?
I am a fulltime translator. I also accept some interpretation assignments, although I have no background or specialized studies. It’s just that in Portugal there are very few colleagues who accept interpretation jobs, and so, after several agencies insisted (a lot!), I started to take on jobs and have been doing well.

For more information, feel free to explore Karolien’s website, her Twitter account, or her Facebook page.

English and Spanish > French translator
French and Spanish teacher (face-to-face/Skype)


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