by Marie Winnick
That John Lennon saying, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans,” is pretty much how I arrived at the front door of audiovisual translation. I could say the trajectory started in 2011. At that point, I was in some very difficult life circumstances and was looking for a lucrative and stable job that I could begin as soon as possible. I considered becoming a cop, but no department around me was hiring at that moment. Then I thought of nursing, but then I remembered how much I had excelled in Spanish while I was in high school. So I googled “professional translator,” and the ATA website came up. I searched the site for translation schools and found that the nearby University of Chicago had a Spanish to English certificate program. I applied and passed the translation entrance test with the minimal academic and in-country Spanish experience that I had, just because I happen to have a natural knack for languages.
Halfway through the program, I decided that I wanted to specialize in subtitling, because I had completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Film and Video at Columbia College Chicago in 2005, but when I graduated a year later and searched for jobs, there were none. The entertainment globalization age hadn’t taken off yet. So I got a job doing bilingual social science research for the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago while doing my best to not be a generalist when accepting jobs from translation agencies.
By the winter of 2020, I had gained a lot of excellent Spanish to English text translation experience, most of it in market research and legal transcription, and had also honed my Italian skills to the point that I was translating many headline articles for Watching America.
That was when a large LSP saw my Linkedin profile and contacted me, asking me to subtitle a bunch of episodes of a Mexican reality show and some telenovelas. They thought that my combined film and translation background made me a good candidate. I said “Sure!” They had me take a subtitling test with their software, which I passed with flying colors, and those were my first jobs in audiovisual translation.
Since then, I have taken on much more artistic and sophisticated film and TV subtitle translation projects in both Spanish and Italian, as well as some dubbing script, template creation, and CC projects, all for major streaming and distribution companies and networks. I’m truly looking forward to doing many more.