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News > Alumni Stories > Anna Warnaby (Class of 2015)

Anna Warnaby (Class of 2015)

Introducing Anna, an Old Girl whose love of languages has landed her a dream role…

It has been our pleasure to chat to Anna to learn more about her career journey post BGS.

Please let us know what you are doing now and where?

After graduating from my French degree at Kings College London in 2018, I immediately did a Masters in Translation at the University of Manchester, certain that I wanted to be a translator, but not really sure how to get there. As a recent graduate, I struggled to find a language-based job that corresponded to my interests and quickly realised that jobs as a French to English translator did not really exist in the UK. I started a job as a researcher at Moody’s Analytics just before the pandemic hit, and it turned out to be perfect, because the opportunity to work from home allowed me to start freelancing as a translator and building up some experience. At first, I worked for free, subtitling TED Talks and translating for NGOs, and then gradually gained clients of my own and set up my own business. Once international travel resumed, I moved to Luxembourg for a traineeship at the Directorate-General for Translation at the European Parliament, followed by another traineeship at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg. As a result of these experiences, I was lucky enough to get a job as an in-house French to English translator at Luxair, the national airline of Luxembourg. As someone who is almost always on a plane, it feels like the perfect job for me.

What is an average week like for you?

My role is to translate into English all the content for Luxair’s in-flight magazines and brochures. We have a new magazine highlighting different destinations each season, so my work also follows the seasons. I’m currently working on the Winter 2023/Spring 2024 hotel catalogue, and for an airline with over 90 destinations across Europe, North Africa, the Mediterranean and Middle East, it can be quite a lot of work! Sometimes I also get to work on translations of marketing content for billboards, which is particularly exciting when you get to see your words in huge font all across the city!

What did you study at BGS, and later at college, university?

My A Levels were French, German and Philosophy, and I studied French at King’s College London with 6 months abroad at the University of London Institute in Paris.

Are there any particular skills that you find are essential for your job?

As a translator, it’s essential to have good writing skills and a good understanding of your target audience. In Luxembourg, almost half the population are people who have emigrated there, so it’s a highly multicultural and multilingual environment (the average number of languages spoken by a resident here is 3.4). This means that most of the population have a very good grasp of English but would not necessarily understand the idioms and idiosyncrasies of British English – or use language in the same way a native speaker would – so I have to adapt the way I write accordingly. On top of this, as I am the only English translator in my company, proofreading is extra important as there’s no second pair of eyes on my work!

Do you have any advice for current students thinking of following your career path?

Brexit has changed everything for young people in the UK studying languages. From the outside, it seems as though so many doors have closed for new language graduates looking to build a career in Europe. When we still had the right to live and work freely in 27 countries, the possibilities seemed endless (the film L’Auberge Espagnole, a favourite of GCSE French classes, attests to this). Now, our options as UK citizens are more limited and – unless you’re a lucky holder of dual nationality – you might feel discouraged from pursuing a career in languages.

However, I want to assure young people with international ambitions that everything is still possible – it just takes a bit more determination and planning now! Visas are required for any stay of over 90 days in Europe, and the processes for obtaining them differs from country to country. Some can be quite complicated, and all will require the sponsorship of an external body (university, employer or family member abroad). It can sometimes be hard to find a company that is willing to sponsor a visa, but as a native English speaker with multiple other languages, you are an asset to any European company, and you will eventually find one that will value your talents.

There are a range of (paid) 5-month traineeships that will sponsor visas and encourage ‘third country nationals’ to apply – notably the European Union (Brussels and Luxembourg) and the Council of Europe (Strasbourg), which are a great steppingstone for those straight out of university and provide invaluable experience of working in a world-renowned international organisation. They are very similar to the recently scrapped Erasmus programme and are sure to be a life-changing experience full of new friends, cultures and adventures.

Ultimately, I would warn any students considering a career as a translator in Europe that the UK no longer being in the EU will undoubtedly pose challenges to their career path and the administrative burden of this move cannot be sugar-coated, but it is a hurdle than can be overcome and, I promise, it is 100% worth the effort!

I would also encourage learning as many languages as possible, as young as possible. My brief time learning German (from age 13 to 18) is proving to be an enormous help in learning Luxembourgish at the moment – a language I never had any intention of learning (or had even heard of) at the time. You can never predict the ways these things will come back to help you later in life…

What do you hope to do in the future?

It has always been my dream to work at the European Parliament, and after doing a traineeship in the Clear Language & Editing team there in 2021, I am keen to return. Whilst the EU welcomes third country nationals from all over the world for its traineeships, its permanent positions are reserved for citizens of EU Member States only. When I first learnt this after the Brexit referendum took place in 2016 – the end of my first year at university – it was a huge blow to my career plans, and I felt so angry that my dream job was no longer within reach because of the actions of the government. That being said, I haven’t let it stop me, and I am currently working towards acquiring Luxembourgish nationality. So, with a bit of luck, I will be able to re-join my former colleagues at the EU in the next few years… even if my country won’t!

When you look back at your time at BGS, what are some of your fondest memories?

I looked at some of the other alumni responses before answering this, and the most universal BGS experiences seemed to be singing in the Roger Kay Hall and making friends for life. For me, too, it was In The Bleak Midwinter with falling-apart hymn books, and my group of 5 best friends who I first met in Year 7 form class in 2008. I asked them what their fondest memories were too, and we came up with this non-exhaustive list: school trips to Russia, Berlin and the Italian Alps, chatting on the tennis courts in summer, cross country club runs on a Friday afternoon and eating a whole plate of chips for lunch afterwards, the canteen with its big Millenium patchwork, congregating at the ice cream van after school, graduating from pleated skirts to straight skirts in Year 9, school productions (particularly Jesus Christ Superstar), the French exchange to Dijon, free Fab lollies on sports day every year and prizegiving at the Bridgewater Hall.

Are there any teachers who helped to shape your career choice?

Madame Melia and Frau Livesey were inspiring French and German teachers who first got me interested in languages. I remember Frau Livesey showing us the film Lola Rennt, which is still one of my favourite films, and Mme Melia’s cool stories of working in France and enviable shoe collection!

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