Ana: Interpreting a job

Photo © Lea Jaecklin
Photo © Lea Jaecklin
By Diego Beamonte, traduction française Irene Schwieger, traducción española Ana Beltran
05 March 2012

In the ethnically diverse microcosm of Geneva, one becomes accustomed to people of sundry heritage and mixed lineage. Guessing the nationalities of new acquaintances is custom routine for anyone who has lived here for a significant time. But every once in a while, you encounter someone who you just cannot decipher.

Ana Beltran Hetherington would pose a challenge for anyone. Granted, her last name uncovers a mystery which is not so clear at first impression. Her red hair, and unmistakable Scottish looks can keep her hidden in a crowd in the middle of Princes Street, Edinburgh. But her accent, a wild blend of humming Scot intonation and jovial Andalusian liveliness, reflects entirely what this young aspiring mistress of languages brings to the ICV office.

She first arrived in early September 2011, freshly removed from a Master’s degree in Conference Interpreting from Heriot-Watt University. The career services office had let her know about ICV, where she thought to have found a perfect match for her skill set, and future goals. Nonetheless, her expectations of an enormous, effervescently multilingual office plagued the idea of her first labour experience.

She received a grateful surprise, when, anticipating an intimidating atmosphere, she stepped into what she described as “a friendly and close team, ready to help you with any doubt.”

The calmness of her entrance did not last long, as she had chosen one of the busiest periods of the year to begin her experience. Immediately, she began her job as a conference coordinator, leaving no time to settle in properly, or occupy herself with the second and more comfortably relevant part of her job, translating.

Diwen, then coordinator of conference services, assigned her individual tasks in preparation to a nerve wrecking two weeks of conferences (Red Cross, EKTA and EECERA), Ana struggled to find a meaning to her job. “I didn’t know the reason behind each thing I was doing; there was no time to explain the general concept.”

Despite her recent arrival, she got to immediately step into the coordination of the volunteer interpreters at the Red Cross; in her first conference, ever. Although faced with “overwhelming stress”, Ana managed the situation very well, dealing with the pressure and ensuring the proper treatment of the interpreters. “Helped by her training as an interpreter, she understood their needs, and the organizational aspects of the conference, she was excellent” assured Viola, founder and director of ICV.

Her amicable and open personality allowed her to develop friendships beyond the professional field with some of the interpreters, with whom she still maintains contact.

When asked about her time with ICV, she is delighted in the opportunity she has benefited from during the last few months. However, not all stories are positive, even though they are all educative experiences. During an unpleasant encounter with an impolite interpreter, Ana was inclined to disregard her otherwise agreeable character, and let the man know her opinion, in a rather outspoken manner. Instead, as she has learned from dealing with the multicultural environment of the conference world, she remembered to “be nice and smile to everyone, especially those who get on your nerves, rather than kick them.”

Along with that lesson, Ana is enjoying “the chance to live in a cosmopolitan city, learning how to express herself correctly in French, and meeting people from all corners of the world.” Regarding volunteering, she considers it a great way of gaining experience, getting to know people and most importantly, lending a helping hand to a good cause.

Ana looks to the future with anticipation, as she studies in hope of landing a job as an interpreter for the European Union. In the short term, she wants to join a translation agency in London to refine her skills while she waits for a call from the EU. She considers the EU to be more adjusted to her vision of the world, as they have “achievable goals, as opposed to the UN, which is too utopian.”

She describes her experience at ICV, as “an excellent learning experience, with many quality projects” that will help her in the future. We hope so too.

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