The Translator Diaries: Ana Naletilić

The Translator Diaries is a series that looks at how current freelance translators made it into the career. In this second set of interviews, we will learn what makes them so passionate about translation, how they established themselves, and what obstacles they have overcome to succeed as a translator.


Ana Naletilić (@an1606) is an English-Croatian translator. Hailing from Bosnia and Herzegovina, she has a BA in English and Comparative Literature, and an MA in English (Translation Studies) and Comparative Literature from the Zagreb School of Humanities, Croatia.

Ana, at what point did you know you wanted to become a translator?

I became interested in translation during my third year at university, when I did a Translation Workshop course. I liked it, and it turned out I’m good at it, so when the time came to decide upon an MA specialist course, I chose Translation Studies.

The other choices were Linguistics, Literature and Teaching. I crossed Teaching off the list straight away – I never wanted to be a teacher (and we all know that people who went into that profession without really wanting to make terrible teachers). I didn’t want to do Literature since my other major was Comparative Literature, so it didn’t make much sense to do two literature courses if I wasn’t going to work at the university later on. Linguistics seemed very interesting, but the job prospects are not very bright for linguists in this part of Europe.

So, Translation Studies it was. One of my professors remarked, upon my saying I was going to specialise in translating, “A pragmatic choice”. I answered that I chose it because I actually liked it, but pragmatism certainly influenced my decision.

How did you specialise during your education?

At that time, I was interested mostly in literary translation; I had no idea about all the sub-specialisations possible in translating. Curiously enough, the course in literary translation was the one I did worst at. During those two years I found out that I liked terminology work very much – that became my favourite part of translation process. We did Translation Workshops in humanities, economy, medicine, literature (fiction and non-fiction) and translation for audiovisual media.

Would you say that a postgraduate qualification is critical to succeed as a translator?

All things considered, a degree a Translation Studies isn’t essential, but it does give you solid foundation for your future as a language professional, especially if, like me, you weren’t a professional in some other line of work.

True, most translation buyers prefer years of experience to a degree in Translation Studies, but I think the two years I spent specialising provided me with some skills that people who translate “on the side” (i.e. non-professionals who do translations because they happen to speak two or more languages) don’t have. The business side of translating wasn’t among those skills, so I’ll have to learn that one on my own.

What was the most beneficial aspect of your translation studies?

The best thing I got out of it was the importance of preparation. “Double-check your terminology resources, no making things up, that’s just laziness”, was what our teachers kept saying. I’d say that’s one of the differences between a good and a bad translator. Good translators do the homework before they start translating because they care about quality, while bad ones simply don’t care (I’m talking to you, Google Translate crowd).

Have all of those years of perseverance been worth it?

If I had to choose a profession all over again, I think it would still be translating. The situation in the job market isn’t bright, but I don’t regret becoming a translator. I hope our profession will get the respect it deserves, and in time people will no longer think that knowing one foreign language is all it takes to be a translator. If you’re passionate about what you do, and if you really make an effort to be good at it, others will recognise it. So, stick to your (translation) guns and love language!

Next week, Marie Jackson (@lookingglassxl8) talks about falling in love with translation at the age of eight, how we can legitimise our industry and how networking can bring better clients.