Monica Cliveti, ATIS President and CTTIC Treasurer

An interview with Angela Fairbank, CTTIC Vice-President (2019-2022), previously published in the STIBC Voice Newsletter, April 2021, pages 5 to 7.

(c) Monica Cliveti

Translator, Terminologist, Interpreter – which of these three professions do you identify with and what is/are your language combination(s)?

I definitely identify myself with the profession of Translator. I tend to be quiet and shy most of the time and translating in my own space is where I feel most comfortable. However, lately I have found myself stepping a little bit more into the interpreting scene and I quite enjoy it.

Please provide a brief synopsis of your education – including language education – and background related to how you came to be a Translator, Interpreter or Terminologist. For example, immersion in foreign countries and culture, university education, mentorship/menteeship, internship, etc.

Well, there’s nothing brief about how I came to be a Translator! I have loved learning languages ever since I was a child, but life took me on a very tortuous journey to be where I am today.

To explain my fascination with foreign languages, I shall give you a sketch of my background. I was born and raised in Romania, and as part of the school curriculum during that time, I was obliged to take two foreign language classes. Consequently, my formal education in foreign languages started with French and Russian. As a help to my learning, all our TV programs had subtitles, so I could hear the original language and read the Romanian subtitles. This is a feature, I must admit, I miss here in Canada. As a result, I was immersed from a very early age into the wonderful universe of languages, even if traveling outside of Romania was almost impossible at that time. During my school years, I had pen pals in Magadan, Russia, and writing compositions in a different language was my way of traveling to all those amazing places.

After the fall of the communist regime, the borders of Romania were opened up and I was finally allowed to travel, something I would take full advantage of during my university years when I went to study in Italy (in Italian), in China (in English), in Austria (in English) and finally in Regina, Canada (in English). Moreover, I participated in every single student conference I was able to register for, and being able to understand and read some of the languages of countries I have been through helped me a great deal along the way. For example, the first conference I participated in was in Finland. My friends and I hitchhiked most of the way there, crossing multiple countries in a few days: Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Finland. It reminded me of the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles. For us, though, it was only automobiles – from trucks to luxury vehicles – and trains. We did also try to take a plane but we didn’t have enough money. My knowledge of Russian – poor at that time – got us out of some pretty dire situations in Belarus and Ukraine on the way back!

Now living in Regina, I fill my free time by taking classes in French and Spanish, a welcome change from geology. But why now?

As I mentioned before, I was fairly shy and timid as a child, and being able to understand and communicate with other people was fascinating for me. Learning a new language is relatively easy for me and like everything that comes easy, you tend not to give it too much importance.?

In Regina, after I was married, my husband and I started the process of adopting two children from Romania, which required compiling a number of documents. We desperately needed a translator for it all. We obtained some amazing support from a translator in Canada, and my husband and I will be forever grateful to this amazing lady! That experience put another seed in my mind. If I could use my language skills to help somebody else, why wouldn’t I? I therefore registered to write the Associate-level exam at the very last minute since the exam was the following day. I passed and became an Associate Translator with no clue about what to do with my certificate or where to start building my client base. Over time, I slowly began to learn the ropes of the business. Later, I wrote the certification exam and here I am now, a Certified Translator.

How long have you been working in your chosen profession?

I have been a Geologist for about 20 years and a language lover for almost 40. Officially, I have been a Certified Translator for a little more than a year.

Are you currently working in-house or as a freelancer? If you have had experience in both types of employment, which do you prefer?

I have been working as a freelancer only, so I can’t really talk about any in-house experience. I think, in a way, I would prefer to have an in-house position as it would offer me more stability. However, for the moment, it’s only a thought.

Where do you currently exercise your profession?

I currently reside just outside of Regina, Saskatchewan. As a Geologist, I offer courses in laboratory work at the University of Regina.

Are you certified in your profession? If so, by which certification organization(s), and for how long have you been certified now? If you are certified, once you became certified, did you notice your income increase slightly, moderately or substantially?

Yes, I am certified. I have been a Certified Translator since 2019, so really not that long. The irony is that the very day I received my result, I also received some work. Overall, for me, translation work has been fairly slow. Not a lot of people are looking for translations from English into Romanian, except perhaps my sister. She has been studying Management and Nursing, so I had the opportunity to translate numerous articles in both domains. It has been a pretty steep curve for me as a Geologist to learn the scientific terms used in management or nursing, but I love challenges and I consider this volunteer work for my sister as an intensive training workshop!

What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?

Which career are we talking about? My two careers are more intertwined than it might seem at first glance. As a Geologist some of my highlights have been study trips to some amazing places: China, Iceland, Colombia, Italy, Austria, and Canada. I used my language skills to communicate with people so as to reach out and understand their culture. As a language lover, I have used my languages skills to translate and interpret for people I did not know before but got to know through their stories. I suppose, too, that being able to help others in some way is what I love most about my translation career.

Have there been any particular challenges in your profession you would like to share with our readers?

Not really. So far, my challenges are all related to running ATIS. But those are stories for another time.

What advice do you have for colleagues who are just starting – or thinking of starting – today?

Advice? I look at my profession and I love the helping aspect, which alone makes it worthwhile for me. For my colleagues thinking of starting, I would tell them they need to be patient. Work won’t come their way all at once, especially if you translate in a rare language combination. It takes discipline, good ethics and a high quality of work, in addition to a great deal of luck. My advice would be always to do your best, take pride in what you do, and accept the huge responsibility of keeping all information confidential.

How do you combine your work as a Translator/Terminologist/Interpreter with that of Geologist and University Professor? What advice do you have for others who are juggling two or more careers at the same time?

So far, it has been relatively easy for me to combine my two loves. As I mentioned before, there are not a lot of people requiring translation from English to Romanian. This means that most of the time I am a Geologist and practicing this field and being an instructor at a university laboratory keep me pretty busy. From my own experience, I would say that if you are juggling two or more careers at the same time, it’s very important to set realistic deadlines to avoid burn-out. Make time for yourself and do something that makes you happy. In my case, it would be learning a new language!

As current President of ATIS – Association of Translators and Interpreters of Saskatchewan – could you please tell us a little bit about the association – i.e. how many members it has, when it was founded and please feel free to mention any particular achievements made during your time within the board of ATIS to help it grow and what challenges, if any, still need to be met.

ATIS was founded in 1980 with the aim of fostering the professional development of translators and interpreters in Saskatchewan. At present we have 33 certified members, 46 associate members and 3 affiliate members.

I was elected President of ATIS in November 2020 and we have a very ambitious plan to help it grow. In actual fact, the new board actually had a very challenging start. To start the year with a bang, we lost control of our email account due to some internal issues. Then, while we were dealing with that, we decided not to offer any associate-level exams in order to channel our energy into creating an association that our members could be proud of belonging to. So far, I am happy to say we have almost managed to get ATIS through these challenges. We can finally see light at the end of the tunnel, but we still have a great deal of work to accomplish to become the professional association we all wish for. For now, we have resumed offering exams and we are starting to work on our more ambitious plans to grow our association.

One of the challenges we still need to deal with is encouraging members to become involved. If you have any ideas on how to get people involved in deciding the fate of their professional association, I would gladly listen to them.

Is there anything I missed that you would like to add?

Thank you for this opportunity to share my story. I am happy to belong to this big family and I am grateful for the tremendous support received from everyone at CTTIC and our sister associations while I learn the ropes of running ATIS.