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Translator Interview with Davide Cavanna

We’re back with another interview for our regular series! Today we’re talking to the very personable Davide Cavanna about his journey from a small town in Italy to the hustle and bustle of Luxembourg, where he now lives and works. Join us as we find out how Davide’s love for languages inspired him to become a linguist translating from German, French, English, and Spanish into Italian!

Davide Cavanna Translator Interview

1:Hello! We are glad to be interviewing you today. Could you start by telling us about yourself and where you’re from?

  Davide:

Thank you, I am very happy to be speaking with TBH today. I was born and raised in a village in Italy, but have been living in Luxembourg for a while now. I arrived here a few years ago to work as an in-house translator and then life led me to stay as an independent linguist as well.

2:How and why did you become a translator? Please tell us about your educational background and experience.

  Davide:

I thought I would be an interpreter right away, so I started pursuing the Baccalaureat en Communication Multilingue at Université de Genève at the age of 19. Later, I became involved in somewhat broader studies, including foundations of law and economics, in a few different places in Europe. I pursued a Laurea Triennale in Studi Internazionali from Università di Bologna, Italy and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of Sussex, UK.

Since then, I have been working on translation services for the legal, financial, business, marketing, and PR industrie

3:What would you have done differently at the start of your career if you knew then, what you know now?

  Davide:

I was lucky to have my parents support me for a few years. Maybe I could have started working earlier, not only in the summer between terms.

TBH

That’s interesting. We would love to know more about your family.

  Davide:

Well, my mum is a primary school teacher in Italy, and my Dad used to be a trade representative, now mostly working on the family farm.

TBH

How nice! Growing up in the Italian countryside must have been a treat to the senses. About your summer jobs – were they also language related?

  Davide:

Yes, my hometown is very different from the cities I’ve lived in after moving from home. My summer jobs were directly language-oriented: I worked at Disneyland, Paris as part of the hotel staff one summer and also at a lake resort in Italy. Those experiences exposed me to people from many different cultures and linguistic backgrounds. For example, the lake resort had several German and Swiss tourists, which helped me practice my German skills.

4:How has being multilingual helped you? Is there one language you prefer thinking in over another language?

  Davide:

Not really. I believe Italian, my native language, remains my strongest despite my several years spent abroad, which is good, as I translate from German, French, English, and Spanish into Italian. A few mix-ups are to be expected, but it would never disrupt my work.

TBH

You’ve travelled quite a bit. What are some cultural changes you’ve noticed from place to place?

  Davide:

Well, people are very similar at their core, but they always say that people in the south are friendlier (laughs) – I’m not sure to what extent I believe in that, though.

5:What does a normal day in your life look like?

  Davide:

After breakfast, I spend a few hours doing translation or marketing work, then get some exercise into my schedule. I then complete some more work later in the day and then meet friends over dinner, cinema or theatre visit.

TBH

That seems like a great schedule but working independently must have its drawbacks too?

  Davide:

Oh, absolutely. Sometimes I miss the company of working with other colleagues, but I try to attend networking events and fairs to stay connected with others from the industry. I was recently at a financial fair in Frankfurt and intend on attending more events in Germany. I am also a part of the Luxembourg Association of Translators and Interpreters (ALTI).

6:What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

  Davide:

Literally translated from the Italian, a tip from my Italian teacher “the important thing is to be convinced”. In other words, our convictions can shape our world. It can be interpreted sarcastically too, meaning that some people are so “convinced” that they get a lot more success and attention than they may deserve.

TBH

Excellent advice. Where have you used this tip?

  Davide:

I’ve often thought of it at several turning points in my life, such as moving away from home, starting my full-time job in Luxembourg and later when starting my own business because the important thing was to be convinced that I could do it!

7:Who are your biggest influences and why?

  Davide:

I would mention my German teacher among my influences for her obvious love of the language and the way she conveyed this to my class. She is probably among the main reasons I went on to study translation and interpretation.

TBH

That’s wonderful. She would be so happy to know she made such a large impact. What was special about her teaching style?

  Davide:

Patience was her biggest virtue. German may appear to be difficult to learn for native Italian speakers, but she made it fun and approachable.

8:What has been your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?

  Davide:

Leaping from my tiny village to Geneva and then other cities have been both a challenge and a blessing, shaping my life and way of thinking.

TBH

And you’ve come so far! We wish you all the best for your 2019 challenge.

9:As a translator, what surprising lessons have you learned along the way?

  Davide:

One never stops learning. Well, not so surprising after all, but worth remembering.

10:How do you want to be remembered?

  Davide:

Rather than being remembered, I would like my work to be appreciated, in whichever context it is required.

11:What has been the most interesting project you’ve ever worked on?

  Davide:

A cinematic script from French into Italian, hopefully going into co-production someday.

TBH

Wow, that’s big! Are you allowed to disclose more details?

  Davide:

So, it’s a film which is set in Luxembourg but about Italian immigration. It needs to be sent to Italian producers which is why the script had to be translated.

TBH

That makes sense – we’ve got our fingers crossed!

12:What has been the most rewarding part of working with us? Could you please describe your journey?

  Davide:

I hope we will have more opportunities to work together in the future.

TBH

Thank you, we value all our language professionals and like to catch up with them whenever we can.

13:Tell us about a funny translation incident that you’ve come across.

  Davide:

This one has to do with me – I remember an incident during my French translation class in Geneva, years ago. I had never lived in France and did not know about the supermarket chain Monoprix. In an article, we ran across the word “Monop’” which I translated as the game of “Monopoli”, which somehow was not so unfitting in the context. This provided some good laughs in class.

14:Teach us some new phrases in your language

  Davide:

“A tutta birra” (lit. “at full beer”) which means that we are driving or otherwise moving at full speed, possibly in a not so attentive way. Not sure where the origin of the phrase lies, but I always found it funny. Another one is “ne sa una più del diavolo” (lit. “knows one more than the devil”). It basically means we’re dealing with a smart cookie, someone we would like to have as an ally rather than an adversary.

15:What advice would you give to an aspiring translator?

  Davide:

Focusing on a subject matter (as I belatedly started to do with finance and macroeconomics) can help.

TBH

Thank you, Davide. We’re sure many budding linguists will be able to benefit from your advice. We’re very glad to have gotten the chance to interview you. We hope you enjoyed getting to know us as well.

  Davide:

I’m very happy to have been a part of this series and look forward to our continued collaboration.

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