Meet our new intern: Mieke de Wet

Like most people at school, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. I just knew it was going to be something with languages. I never even considered anything else. I was going to work with language, because what else would I do? What exactly I was going to do with language, however, was another question.

So when it was time to start applying for university, I announced that I was going to study BA (Language and Culture) at Stellenbosch University and no one was really surprised. At that stage I still wasn’t sure what exactly I was going to do. I still just knew I wanted to work with language and a degree that mainly focuses on languages seemed like a good place to start.

Meet our new intern: Mieke de Wet

During my undergraduate degree I chose French as one of my modules, never having learnt any French before. My high school unfortunately did not have the option to learn any other languages besides Afrikaans and English. I always wanted to learn a new language. I found the whole process of learning a new language fascinating. Especially how it felt like I was constantly just translating between this new language and English during the language acquisition process. For a while I even considered taking French as one of my languages in the honours translation course I am currently busy with, but it turns out French is a bit trickier than it seems.

Editing was always something that was in the back of my head though. I was always that person who would fix people’s mistakes, usually unsolicited. I’m definitely that person who will tell you when there’s a spelling error in a text message. And during my years at university, I became the person who always proofread my friends’ essays. So, for a while I was only interested in editing. I thought about translation, but it always seemed like something that was out of reach for me.

It was only in the second year of my undergraduate degree when things became clearer for me. In our Afrikaans and Dutch module we did a component which focused on editing and translation. We had the same component in my third year and there we had the opportunity to translate an extract from Harry Potter, which I was particularly excited about. I applied to be part of the Afrikaans and Dutch department’s Penseel Committee (responsible for compiling an anthology of students’ poems and short stories) and during the interview I learned about the honours in translation and editing which immediately piqued my interest. At the end of my second year I also applied for Die Matie, the campus newspaper, as an Afrikaans proofreader.

It was as a proofreader at Die Matie where I expanded upon my skills. It was really a wonderful opportunity to proofread and edit in practice. Sometimes we also proofread the subeditor’s translations for the newspaper. I learnt much more in that office than I ever would have in a classroom. It is there where I really discovered my love for editing. There is nothing quite like the joy of finding a mistake in someone’s article. So, at the end of my third year I decided to apply for the position of Afrikaans subeditor. In this position I didn’t just edit the Afrikaans articles, but I also translated some articles from English to Afrikaans.

At that stage I did not have a lot of experience with translation. I had that component of translation and editing in my second and third year and I had minimal experience of translating articles for Die Matie. And now as I am completing my honours in translation, I still haven’t got that much experience translating. The bulk of our first semester was focused on the theory and methodology of translation rather than doing practical translations.

We have only been practically translating for a few weeks and I am still figuring out which field of translation I’m interested in. In my June recess I did a short course on literary translation so that is definitely something I would one day like to try, but really the field is quite vast and there are a lot of options available.

So when the internship at Folio became available, I grasped the opportunity. It would allow me to build on my practical skills and observe how a language service provider operates. Thus far I have already learnt a lot and I really believe this week will be beneficial for my career going forward.