Before I enrolled at the University, I had never imagined myself working as a translator. I was always interested in Natural Sciences so I graduated from a mathematical gymnasium in order to study math, medicine, or maybe even one of those in the faculty of science. However, few months before my graduation, I decided I need a change and enrolled in the Faculty of Philology to study Applied Linguistics in the Serbian language. I also took courses in Croatian and Literature, together with very serious 2 years high-level English course. It was then I discovered I enjoy working with languages. I have to admit I was a real nerd who never flunked an exam and was gladly accepting additional papers for extra credit. At the same time, my father (who was an industrial engineer) became interested in hovercrafts. He didn’t know English and there wasn’t any literature about hovercrafts in Serbian, so he asked me if I could translate various articles and manuals that he photocopied from magazines written in English. I borrowed large English dictionary of engineering terms from a public library and started translating. My father was closely watching my work and was giving me additional explanations on how things work. At the same time, he was introducing technical terms in Serbian that were completely new to me. I created table in Excel with original English terms, their Serbian equivalents and detailed explanation with examples. After I started using CAT tools, I realized that that was my first manually created TM. The similar thing inspired me to start translating medical texts. My sister was studying medicine at that same time and was on her way to become MD. She was learning aloud and I was mingling around asking her about terms and diagnosis. She had great handbooks for several medical fields that were written in both Serbian and English. I used that book as a translation workbook – I would translate page from English to Serbian and then compare it to the translation from the book.
After my BA studies, I decided to bring my translation knowledge to a higher level and enrolled in Applied Linguistics Master’s program with specialization in translation theory. At the time, Serbian economy was so bad; there were hardly any jobs for highly educated people. I was lucky enough to get a full-time job as a librarian at National library in Kragujevac. Suddenly, I was granted unlimited access to wonderful world of books and that inspired me to try translating literature. Therefore, I started volunteering as a translator for literature magazines, translating only poems and short stories. At the same time, I continued practicing medical and technical translation. After a while, one of my father’s friend offer to pay me a small amount for a translation of manual for laser cutting machine. That was my first real assignment for a client who was willing to pay not-so-low rate I proposed. I started doing it regularly and, at the same time, started translated medical texts for my sister’s colleagues who didn’t know English. I was so happy at that point. I passed all MA exams with high grades and defended my MA thesis while working and gaining valuable experience in technical and medical translation. It looked like word-of-mouth marketing I had was very useful because it attracted new direct clients.
Shortly after I met my future husband, I got interested in IT translation. He has MSc in Computer Science and is so passionate about software development that he transferred most of his interest on me. I even enrolled in several online programming courses that I finished successfully. In addition, I was learning about hardware and software architecture from the man of my dreams. He is very patient yet demanding teacher who likes to go the extra mile and requires the same from the student. I had a hard proof that I was getting better and better and felt proud about that. In the meantime, I left the job at National library and started teaching Serbian language at International Baccalaureate DP School in Belgrade. Translation clients list was getting longer and I even started working for several translation agencies. I also started working on my PhD Thesis in Forensic linguistics and ended up translating, teaching and writing from dusk until dawn, sometimes even on weekends. It was time to stop and reorganize, so I decided to take a leap of faith and become full-time freelance translator. I quit teaching job and started translating full time. Suddenly, I was able to finish all daily tasks and still have time for family and social life. It’s been a year since I switched to freelancing and I don’t regret my choice. I still have a long run ahead of me to fulfill my goals, but I hope that’s going to be exciting and rewarding journey.
Aleksandra Milcic Radovanovic is English to Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian freelance translator specialized in technical and medical translation.She has a BA in South Slavic languages and literature, MA in translation and is currently working on her PhD thesis in Forensic Linguistics. She is also interested in computational linguistics and natural language processing. You can find her at her blog (http://linguistblog.com/) and on Twitter as@_AleksM