By Charlotte Doane
When I found out that I would get to do a translation internship at Cartier et Lelarge as part of my master’s degree at Concordia University, I had no idea that massive global events were just around the corner and could never have predicted how they would affect my work experience. Looking back, it seems like another life, and I suppose this is to be expected when the world turns upside down. But although my internship was different than I had expected in many ways, it was every bit as positive as I had hoped.
The most important factor in this has been the incredible amount of social, technological and professional support—all the more difficult to achieve with everyone working remotely. From day one, I’ve been surrounded from a distance by friendly, highly competent people who have made it clear that help is just an instant message away. And help doesn’t only mean a quick grammar question. The culture here is one in which personal lives and mental health matter, and daily video calls with my reviser have kept me feeling like part of the team. I also find that translating different types of relatively short texts for a handful of clients suits my work style well, giving me the right blend of variety and familiarity and a daily sense of accomplishment. Because of all this, I’ve noticed an improvement in my work and am always looking forward to what each day has in store.
While I’ve always worked with wonderful people in my experience as a translator, I’ve never had so much technological support as I do at Cartier et Lelarge. In my last internship and other previous work, communication was almost exclusively via email. Using tools like MS Teams, I’ve found it much easier not only to take in and benefit from feedback but also to build a relationship with my reviser and other members of the team. I’ve also enjoyed using translation software for the first time outside the classroom, as it makes term research and consistency about one million times more efficient.
Though it’s been by far my most positive professional experience, my time here has brought new challenges, too. I have worked on texts for clients in several industries that are entirely new to me, from agriculture to public transportation. This lifelong learning is one of the factors that drew me to the profession in the first place, and no matter how difficult or mundane a text may be, I can almost always say that I’ve learned something new in the process of translating it. This summer, I’ve particularly come to enjoy working on texts that help people understand COVID-19 and the work being done in response to it.
As I near the end of my internship, I’m struck by how quickly the time has gone by. I suppose this is both good and bad. It’s hard to process, synthesize and take stock of all that I’ve learned, as these three months have felt like three weeks. But it’s also a sign that I’m adapting to the new normal—a phrase I’ve written many times in the past three months. Nearly everything about this experience has been new, but in spite of the health precautions, these are the best working conditions I’ve ever had as a translator.
When it comes to the pandemic, I’ve struggled more off the clock than on. I’ve been trying to apply the things that I like about my work to other areas of my life, like trying to find a sense of accomplishment through short tasks rather than big, overwhelming projects. Through my work here, I’ve learned that I may be far too good at avoiding boredom, and that structure is incredibly beneficial to my mental health. The nine-to-five lifestyle has been a much-needed opportunity to reset my (non-existent) daily routine. That’s still a work in progress. And because this internship has been so great for me on many levels, I was even happier when Cartier et Lelarge offered me a permanent position at this wonderful little firm that has become my virtual home. I’m excited to continue working, learning and growing with these amazing people and looking forward to everything to come with uncharacteristic optimism.