Translators in the City: Part 3 – Madrid


Translators in the City (#xl8city) is a series of articles that looks at why translators choose to work in a certain city. Since freelancers can essentially set up anywhere in the world, the series seeks to find out what individual cities can offer linguists, and features testimonies from a handful of translators about how their city can motivate and inspire them in their work.

This week, it’s Madrid, capital of Spain and third-largest city in the EU. Known for its abundance of public squares and architecture shaped by its monarchist history, Madrid’s translators can escape their desks for a stroll along the bustling Gran Vía or absorb the alternative culture in the Malasaña area, the city’s answer to London’s Camden Town. But what do our madrileño colleagues think of their city?

Sara Bueno Carrero (@buenocarrero) has been working as an English, French and Portuguese into Spanish translator since 2011, specialising in creative translation and localisation. To fund her book-buying addiction, she also specialises in not-so-lucrative legal and sworn translation. She writes a blog, La traductora en apuros, where she helps new graduates find their place in the world of freelance translation.

Herminia Páez Prado (@traducinando) is an English and French into Spanish audiovisual translator. Having studied in Barcelona, she moved back to Madrid to work as a freelancer. She is still starting out in the freelance world and recently discovered the joys of working in her PJs.

Ana Rubio (@meowTRAD) is a translator and proofreader working on video games, mobile apps and web localisation. Born in Extremadura on the Portuguese border, she has been living in Madrid since 2008. In 2010, she started running meowTRAD. Ana loves The Simpsons and is interested in gamification, music, social networks and serious games.

Lourdes Yagüe (@LYLtraductora) has been an English and French into Spanish translator since 2010. Starting out as an in-house translator, Lourdes went freelance in 2013. Since 2008, she has also been involved in a dance academy that organises festivals every year with the choreography learned during the year, as well as flash mobs to spice up the streets of Madrid.

Translators in the City aims to gather points of view from translators who were both born and have moved to a certain city. So, let’s first find out what connection our four translators have with Madrid.

Sara was born in Madrid and has been living there for her entire life. What’s kept her there? “With the current bad economy in Spain, most of my family and friends have asked me why I haven’t moved abroad yet. My answer is always the same: I am a freelancer, I can work anywhere in the world and I choose to work in Madrid. It’s true that the tax system for freelancers in Spain is unfair – we pay a lot of taxes and we get nothing – but every country has its pros and cons and I believe that living in Madrid is the best choice I can make.”

Herminia has a lot of love for the region too. “I work in a small city 15 minutes away until I take off as a freelancer and earn enough to live in the city centre. I have been living in Madrid on and off for the past 20 years, and I consider myself in love with the city, having also lived in Paris and Barcelona.”

As for Ana, who studied in Granada, it was Madrid’s industry opportunities that attracted her. “I wanted to continue studying video games, CAT tools and management. I found a postgraduate course in Madrid that I could easily take while working part-time.” Although she found it daunting being in a city known by other Spaniards for the rudeness of its locals, things turned out better than expected. “Fortunately, adapting to Madrid was so easy; people were friendly and made me feel at home from the very beginning. I met many professional translators and realised we are not alone.”

Lourdes, a Madrid native, thought that staying in the city was down to pure laziness, but she’s realised why the city means so much to her. “It’s basically down to my loved ones, comfort and quality of life and, finally, the advantages of being in the nation’s capital. Most of us at some point have felt the need to go abroad or to spread our wings. I was on Erasmus in Finland and also spent a year in France as a language assistant. And although I really enjoyed those experiences, I must admit that part of me has always had my mind set on Spain, longing to return. Because my family, my friends, my boyfriend – essentially my whole life – are here.”

What is it about Madrid that motivates a freelancer? How can they use their urban surroundings to power through the day?

“In Madrid you can find the small town feel in some parts, the busyness of the business city in another one, and also the movement, youth and freshness of cities like Barcelona in others,” Herminia exclaims. “You can also find peace and calmness, either with great views like Debod temple, just 10 minutes away by foot from Gran Vía, or in parks like El Campo del Moro, a Versailles-like garden near Príncipe Pío station.”

Ana lives and works right in the heart of the city, near Atocha, Madrid’s principal railway station. “I can easily take a walk to El Retiro or Madrid Río parks. I take walks every day, I try to do sports, be active and go out. When it comes to traffic, I should say Madrid is a bit chaotic. Biking is not easy in the city centre and we don’t have a public cycle hire service or special routes for bikes.”

Sara lives just a touch outside of central Madrid, but right opposite the River Manzanares. Living in a 7th floor flat, she appreciates the views of the rooftops and domes of the city centre, but this life isn’t set too last long, though. “I’m planning to move soon to a flat somewhere in the Old Town – I love that area because it’s so bohemian and cultural, traditional yet modern, home to actors, writers, musicians and artists. I feel that’s where I belong – after all, translation is an art form.”

With Madrid being such a large city, you’d imagine that there are plenty of corners you can escape to, whether to work in different surroundings or for a change of scenery and some R&R. What kind of places in Madrid can serve as sources of inspiration?

“Madrid is a city of contrasts,” according to Lourdes, “and I have the good fortune to live in a privileged environment where you can enjoy the best of the city and the best of the country as well. I live next to Dehesa de la Villa, a beautiful park bordering the north-west of Madrid. It’s a place where I can find peace and quiet and that helps me through times of stress. What I like the most is how it inspires me; many of the ideas that came to me in 2013 were while running in the Dehesa.”

Does the city have any more hidden gems? Ana tells us, “There are a few special and inspiring places in Madrid that tourists normally don’t visit: Cerro del Tío Pío (a park with seven slopes where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city), Templo de Debod (an Egyptian temple) and during spring and summer many roof terraces are open and you can have a drink or just relax a bit there.”

Madrid sounds like an urban paradise. But what does it offer for translators in particular?

“For starters, there are several universities where you can study for your degree: Universidad Complutense, Universidad Autónoma, Universidad Pontificia de Comillas, Alfonso X El Sabio, and so on, and there are many institutions offering specialised courses,” explains Lourdes.

“Universities are also very active when it comes to organising conferences and events on translation and linguistics,” Sara adds. “But my favourite event is the yearly Book Fair, which takes place every late May and early June (and which coincides with my birthday!) for two weeks in Retiro Park. How couldn’t I love it?”

Even if you’re not a translator but just interested in languages, Herminia says that Madrid offers multiple possibilities to learn and practice different languages. “You can find language lessons even for rare languages, and even if you don’t want to spend much on that, you can also visit one of the pubs where there are weekly free language exchanges, free music or shows in other languages.”

But Madrid also offers something rather unique, as Ana describes. “Public libraries work fine but there are a few bibliometros.” These are free mini-libraries situated in around a dozen Madrid Metro stations. What a fantastic idea – perfect for the translator on the go.

With so much to offer translators, Madrid must surely be a hub for translation events, no?

“There are national and international events every year in Madrid,” Ana points out. “Many of them are organised by companies, translation platforms, universities and learning centres. Networking is easy since we have quite a lot of bars, restaurants and dining options. A few years ago we started organising an open event for translators who use Twitter (#tratuimad).”

“Last year we had (among others) the first edition of TraduEmprende, ProZ regional event and, the first edition of Lenguando,” Lourdes highlights. “All these meetings are really beneficial for everyone because they give us the opportunity to relate to each other and put faces and voices to so many people you only know on Twitter or by email.”

Herminia agrees. “When you talk about Madrid and translation events, you can’t complain. If you want to improve in any of your areas of expertise, Madrid can also help you with that. There are plenty of different translation or linguistic-focused centres around the city where you can improve skills such as proofreading, writing, audiovisual translation, localisation and many others.”

“And when meet-ups like these are held in any other city in Spain, it wouldn’t be a big problem because Madrid is very well connected,” Lourdes goes on. “Connections from Madrid are very fast and comfortable because here we have more of a variety of public transport. It’s easy to get to any city and not only because it’s the capital, but because it’s the geographical centre of the country.”

To try and really bring out our contributors’ passion for their city, there is one question in particular that I’ve liked to ask them: what makes your city better than any other to work from as a translator?

Sara is very humble about Madrid. “I wouldn’t dare to say that my city is the best for translators to set up – but indeed it’s my ideal city. Also I believe that big cities, and that includes Madrid, are the best for translators of any field of expertise: they’re home to publishing houses, international businesses, trade fairs, etc. And Madrid isn’t lacking any of those.”

Equally, Ana has good arguments against living somewhere a bit smaller. “Many people prefer to set up in smaller cities because they have a “biased” opinion about Madrid. Renting a flat is not as cheap as in a smaller town, but you have many neighbourhoods which are quite similar to smaller cities. They have farmer markets, little shops, restaurants, gyms and people are quite nice. Transport is a positive point as well since there are trains, buses and planes that connect you with many cities in the world.” Or a bit farther north. “The climate tends to be better than in northern countries and we have more sunny days and therefore can enjoy more outdoor activities.”

And to tip the scales, Lourdes argues for Madrid’s leisure and entertainment opportunities. “It’s not all about work, right? Gran Vía is full of cinemas and theatres and I can’t go without mentioning the beer and tapas bars. Because here in Madrid (and Spain in general), we love to meet with other people over a beer to relieve tension after work or on the weekend.”

Next week, Translators in the City is hosted by Brussels, the ‘capital of Europe’. With Emeline Jamoul (@EmelineJamoul) and Raphaël Toussaint (@Muelleflupp).