The on-site services we’re accustomed to offering at public offices around Germany have changed for the foreseeable future. Read on to find out what it looks like to take a translator to an appointment with you during the Corona pandemic.
Category Archive: About Red Tape Translation
Is this the 10,000th COVID-19 statement you’ve read today? We’ll try to keep it brief. This is what we’re expecting over the next few months and how we plan to deal with the challenges that might arise in Berlin.
After trudging through Berlin’s grey winter for four gruelling months, Sarah Beaman comes to the end of her internship, and prepares her sunblock and swimming gear for a stint in Italy. We grilled her just before takeoff on the best and the worst of doing time at Red Tape Translation.
Sarah arrived on the scene in rainy November last year to see what it’s like being an interpreter and translator in Berlin. She’s been running back and forth to public and legal offices producing translations at lightning speed, proofreading, taking notes, shadowing and observing the very best and worst behaviour of Berlin’s bureaucratic jungle. Because if you’re going to hang out in the capital during the dark winter months, then you may as well go all out with fluorescent mood lighting. Here’s what Sarah has to say about her internship so far…
What attracted you to the German language?
I always loved how logical German seems, especially in a grammatical sense. Learning about different cases and adjective endings helped me understand this logic more and made me feel like German was an exciting puzzle to be solved rather than just a big jumble that was impossible to wrap my head around.
You’re completing a mandatory year of overseas work experience as part of your degree. Why Berlin?
I’m originally from London, which is big and busy and diverse, so I knew my best chance of getting the biggest variety of German experiences was to head for a big city like Berlin. Although there’s something to be said for the charm of the smaller, more rural areas of Germany, I just wanted somewhere where it was impossible to get bored, and Berlin, with all its diversity, seemed to me like the perfect place for that. I’ve been proven right so far!
What do you want to get out of your time in Berlin?
I’d like to have enough confidence in my ability to speak German that I don’t sweat the small stuff so often. When you’re in an academic environment, you obviously want to do the best you can, but I think there can be a tendency to fixate on the smaller mistakes and overlook your achievements, which isn’t helpful or fun to experience. So, I’d like to get as much experience speaking German as I can so that I’m not so hard on myself when I make mistakes and instead feel encouraged to keep trying. I also still haven’t tried döner, so I’m definitely in the right place!
Describe a typical day at Red Tape Translation
I don’t think there is such a thing as a typical day at Red Tape, and that’s half of what makes it so much fun working here. My day can include shadowing interpreters at their appointments, who each have different interpreting styles (and tips for me to steal). I also help with translations, usually of purchase contracts. Last week, I assisted Kathleen in translating 4000 words of dense legal German into English for a read-through at the notary’s office. It’s tough at times, but it’s rewarding to know that you’ve helped someone take a big step in their life like buying a house or getting married in Germany. It helps you to feel part of something bigger than just you and your German to English dictionaries. I’ve also gotten to research and write blog posts, sit in on Red Tape interviews and team meetings, and observe Skype coachings.
What are you finding fun about the internship?
I would say the variety of the internship has been my favourite part so far. Not just in terms of the jobs I get to do, but the people I get to meet, both clients and interpreters, who all have completely different stories, which I get to have a little glimpse of every time I shadow an appointment. Before coming to Berlin and joining Red Tape Translation, I had no experience in the world of interpreting, or even professional translation, so every day I learn something new that I know I’ll carry with me in the future. There’s also something very validating about seeing people in action in the field in which I want to work one day and getting to see them connect with others and do their jobs well.
What is the biggest frustration you’ve experienced in the world of translation so far?
This is a strange answer given that it’s Red Tape’s speciality, but I’d probably say German bureaucracy. I always appreciate how detailed it is and how it tries to account for basically any situation, but it can definitely be frustrating to have done all of your research and to feel as prepared as you can be for an appointment, only to be turned away because of a technicality! Keeping your head in those situations, and also making sure the client doesn’t panic, can be very tricky.
What is the most significant learning curve you’ve faced?
Learning to tackle legal translation, for sure. Although I’m studying German at university, we tend to focus on translating literature and articles. Purchase contracts didn’t quite make it onto our syllabus, so I felt a little out of my depth the first time I was presented with one. Translating legal documents has taught me that translating is a lot more than just looking up a word and selecting something that fits the context; it can involve researching and teaching yourself legal concepts, so that you can fully understand the English version of the contract as well as the German one. It also doesn’t help that some sentences in these contracts can go on for entire paragraphs, so I’ve had to learn not to run at the first sign of a Bandwurmsatz!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? (The typical interview question)
The scariest question so far! I used to go back and forth a lot due to my lack of confidence, but I think if I’ve learned anything from my time at Red Tape so far, it’s that I definitely want to be involved in the world of translating AND interpreting in some way in the future. Ideally, wherever I end up, I want to be using all of my languages, and I want to keep doing things that push me out of my comfort zone a little bit (like making phone calls!). My year abroad has just amplified my love of solo travel, so I’d love to integrate that into my life somehow, too. I’ll have my degree and a job that I genuinely enjoy, and will maybe even be adding new languages to my arsenal!
The administrative team at Red Tape are taking a well-deserved break from Monday, 23rd December until Wednesday, 1st January 2020. You can expect a response to your calls and emails from Thursday, 2nd January onwards.
We wish you all a wonderful holiday season!
From the moment he graced the Red Tape office with his booming, resonant baritone and unconventional passion for recycling, Thomas brought a particular flair to business operations. He kicked a bunch of processes into shape and was known and loved by clients for his signature phrase, “we will gladly handle that for you”. Here are some things clients say when they rave about Thomas:… Read More
Time flies! 6 months have gone by since Fiona Gillespie started her internship at Red Tape Translation. We asked her to contemplate her time at work, her blossoming relationship with Berlin and of course, her future.
What was the highlight of the internship?
There have been so many highlights in my 6 months with Red Tape Translation. I think the main highlight for me has been the variety of it all. I’ve worked on translations from purchase contracts to cannabis permits, booked swimming lessons and law consultations as well as observed declarations of paternity and many appointments with notaries on the Ku’damm. Oh, and also a trip to prison! I never could have imagined how varied each day would be. The 6 months have flown by and I feel like I will leave with a wealth of experience and good tips.
Which situation really challenged you?
At least to begin with, I think German phone calls were the most challenging. There’s something quite daunting about speaking on the phone in a foreign language and not having the luxury of being able to lip read – I didn’t realise how much we read people’s lips and facial expressions when we communicate. With that being said, no phone call was a failure! I set myself up beforehand with all the vocab that could crop up and made sure I didn’t leave a phone call until I had the answers I needed. It’s important to remember a phone call is just two people on the phone and the person on the other end will more than likely be encouraging and helpful. Mission accomplished!
Which achievement are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the volume of documents I’ve translated (with amazing feedback and support from Kathleen). During my studies at university we normally just translate small newspaper articles or website extracts. This meant that coming from university into something professional was quite the leap! I really feel as though I have learned so much about translation and the feedback is something I will carry through the rest of my studies.
What advice would you give to an intern getting started in the translation and interpreting world?
A few tips:
- Stay organised – sometimes there can be a few different projects overlapping. I am a big fan of checklists and to-do lists to keep me on track.
- Always make some time to go over the feedback given on your documents. Even if it took me a week or so before I got a few minutes to go back over a document, it is really important to try to take in as much of the feedback as you can. Try to apply the feedback to your next documents – I am always working on this!
- Have fun! Enjoy the variety of it all and make the most of observing appointments. Ask the interpreters questions about the appointment and also their interpreting style. Everyone has slightly different ways of doing things and there are always things to be taken away from these appointments. It has been a real joy to be a fly on the wall with so many interpreters.
What’s next for you?
After I finish up with Red Tape Translation in mid-July, I then have five weeks to enjoy the summer in Berlin! I know it will be amazing and I have an endless to-do list of places I want to visit in the city. There are a few trips planned to other cities in Europe and then, before I know it, I will be on a plane back to Glasgow to enter my Junior Honours year of MA German and Spanish at the University of Glasgow. I know I will miss Berlin when I get home, so I need to make the most of my time here. In 2020, I look forward to spending a semester abroad in a Spanish-speaking country to try to brush up on the Spanish I have somewhat neglected.
Overall my experience in Berlin has been incredible and I have Kathleen and the amazing team at Red Tape Translation to thank for that. This city has given me so many strokes of luck and it will always have a piece of my heart! Bis zum nächsten Mal, Berlin!
You have spoken and we have listened. We’re happy to announce we’ve now made it even easier to pay for translation, interpreting, admin and coaching services with Red Tape Translation. Now along with the usual suspects: Paypal, TransferWise and a regular bank transfer, as of April 4th you can now pay with your credit card at no extra cost.
We understand that many of you wishing to take advantage of Red Tape Translation’s services have bank accounts overseas and there are usually teething problems with access to accounts when you move to a new country. With that in mind, we’ve taken this step toward making access to our array of expat expertise simpler and, hopefully, making your transition a little smoother.
Happy shopping and happy Friday!
Katie from Red Tape Translation
The idea of taking on an intern had never even crossed my mind. But Fiona had just the right combination of initiative, drive, skills and impeccable timing to motivate me to find a way to make it work. Mentoring is very rewarding, and having her around inspires me to create all sorts of interesting projects for her: translation, interpreting, shadowing, marketing, translation project management, research, networking and everything in between. So far she’s handled everything from real estate law and finance to custody matters and cupcake toppers and managed to stayed as cool as a cucumber. A short interview with Fiona Gillespie at Red Tape Translation.
Three new helpers and three new honorary Red Tape babies in one year! It’s a big adjustment for any family, but a happy one for sure. We welcomed Thomas to the team in February to help us out with marketing, project management and customer service. In April, Kim welcomed her baby son Evan into the world and Kathleen followed suit in August with the birth of baby Laura, our designated Chief Distraction Officer (CDO). Laura’s incredibly well-defined baby eyebrows and big brown eyes are very expressive and thus very distracting, so she is excelling in her professional role.
Katie joined the administrative team in November just as Pascale’s son Leon made it to the outside. Finally, Liz came on board as a translator and interpreter just in time for the Christmas party. Good timing, Liz.
We bade Claire farewell at the end of 2018 after two years with a “Zimtschnecke” brunch fit for a queen. Life is all the richer once you discover the baked goods from Zeit für Brot. We now welcome Katie Kruse to Red Tape Translation. Katie joins Thomas behind the scenes in billing, customer service and communication.
Katie is British, speaks fluent French and German and has a background in foreign languages, education and organisational administration, which makes her, well, the perfect fit! Katie took a break from the world of traditional work for several years to raise her two children as a full-time Supermama – a job that is all-encompassing and entirely unremunerated. Now that the kids are school-age, she’s keen to be remunerated once again for her professional expertise and managerial skills. She’s also gunning for German citizenship and might have some handy insider tips for Brits contemplating what to do before Brexit closes in in early 2019.
In addition to the general whipping of Red Tape’s administrative processes into shape, perhaps Katie can help us establish some Red Tape Translation services in French in the near future?