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Practitioner Spotlight: Faiza Syed

NAATI bringing me into spotlight – asking me to share my experiences as a translator and interpreter with the world – what an honour!

So, what can I share?

My mind immediately flew back to 25 years ago when I had my first taste of translating and interpreting. As a young migrant from Pakistan who was studying at the University of Oslo and had been happily married for just over two years, I had decided to change course after studying philosophy and psychology for two years. I took a foundation course in phonetics and linguistics and enrolled in English literature. I didn’t quite know where I was going with this but teaching English at a school was a possibility.

As a student, I would occasionally get some translation work through a friend. I needed and wanted to work in a more structured manner. So, when I saw a newspaper ad from Oslo Municipality looking for interpreters, I turned up for the test. The written test and interview round went well and I received basic training in interpreting and ethics. It was a great start; it showed me how valuable language skills are – how much people appreciate competent and ethical services (although no service user deserves any less).

Back in those days, large sections of the Pakistani and Indian community in Norway needed interpreters in all types of settings, especially for medical appointments. I had to learn a lot, and quickly. Having an aptitude for languages since my early years and being the child of literary people, I found myself in just the right spot. Besides interpreting, I got some practical training in translation from Oslo Municipality – and the internet also arrived at the right time for me.

I wanted to be a young professional mother who was always there for my children– yes, I wanted it all and I feel that I did get it all. Close to the birth of my first child, I started working from home as a translator for my initial employer and other major private T&I agencies. I am happy to share that I still work for them, all the way from Australia.

Once the youngest of my two kids got a place in day care, I started self-prep for the Government Authorised Translator examination which was held annually by the Norwegian School of Economics in Bergen. The seven-hour long gruelling examination from Norwegian into Urdu was quite an experience. An oral exam at the University of Oslo followed. I came back for the next exam session and also passed the Urdu into Norwegian direction.

Being the only Government Authorised Translator into and from Urdu, I was now being contacted by more and more agencies. Learning through these work opportunities and undertaking some short courses helped me acquire useful skills. In 2016 while living in Australia, I completed a Norwegian-to-English online legal translation course over two semesters from the Norwegian School of Economics. Ongoing learning is at the core of this profession, so being a natural bookworm comes in handy.

Seeking a warmer climate and better educational opportunities for our children we decided to migrate from Norway. Australia became the destination of choice, and we entered Australia as skilled migrants in April 2004. We were all so excited and thoroughly enjoyed life in Australia – quite a change from Norway. I was fortunate that all of my governmental and private agency contacts continued to engage my services even after I moved countries. These days, I also receive some translation assignments from New Zealand, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark. I have been truly reaping the rewards of our global society and my commitment to the profession.

Once in Australia, I sought to sit NAATI’s translation and interpreting tests but I had to wait until NAATI could offer the tests. At the first opportunity, I sat the English into Urdu and Urdu into English translation tests in the same day, and then passed the professional level interpreting test as soon as it became available. Next came NAATI-Recognition as a translator and interpreter into & from Norwegian. I entered the industry in Australia as a self-employed translator.

To help my children ease into their new life, I did not work as an interpreter in Australia until it became a requirement for revalidation. Still not wanting to work away from home, I joined TIS National as a telephone interpreter, a few months before welcoming my third child. Again, I experienced how much one can learn about a country, its systems and its people through interpreting. Many interpreting clients are the most vulnerable people of our society – and playing a role in removing some of their obstacles means a lot to me. Many of us never think how difficult it is for illiterate people from disadvantaged backgrounds to find their way in an advanced, digital and educated society like Australia. Income from telephone interpreting is significantly less than translation assignments – and I get more translations offers than what I can accept. Still, making time for some telephone interpreting is my way of using my skills where they are needed the most.

Translation assignments can become quite monotonous. It was a refreshing change to translate a couple of Thorbjorn Egner’s works for children into Urdu and some educational resources for school children and adult migrants learning Norwegian. This type of work is a rare delight.

Although working from home is my preferred mode of work and I am happy to live the lonely life of a word nerd, I like to volunteer within the Canberran community for various learning activities for women and children, in addition to doing some charity work. It’s always a pleasure to attend AUSIT events and keep in touch with my T&I colleagues. Over the past few years, I was able to do some mentoring and pro-bono work. Being in a position to give is a gift to myself, more than anything else – and I am very grateful for this wonderful journey through life.

Faiza Syed has over 20 years experience as a translator and interpreter. She is a NAATI Certified Translator & Interpreter in Urdu and a Recognised Practising Translator in Norwegian.

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