Interview with translator, interpreter and terminologist Laura Iovanna


Laura Iovanna is a translator, interpreter and terminologist, as well as Deputy Chair of the Italian Association of Translators and Interpreters (A.I.T.I.).She graduated from the Advanced School of Modern Languages for Interpreters and Translators of Trieste (now the Department of Legal, Language, Interpreting

and Translation Studies) and has been working as a translator and interpreter since 2000. In 2008, she started collaborating as an external translator of the European Commission Directorate-General for Translation (DGT) and the Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union (CdT).

She is also registered as a translator/interpreter and consultant with the Civil Court and Chamber of Commerce of Rome.

Since the academic year 2006-2007 and until 2017-2018, she has been working as an Adjunct Professor at UNINT University in Rome, where she has lectured in several translation and interpretation courses and it is also where she has coordinated the terminology research course.

  1. Your career appears to be very multidisciplinary and varied, but the EU carries a lot of weight on your CV. When did your experience within the European Union start?

Even when I was at University, I already had a very clear idea of how I intended to pursue a career as a translator and interpreter. I have always found the European Union fascinating and I accordingly chose to focus my studies on its policies and languages. After graduation, I added one of the 2004 EU enlargement languages, Czech, to my basic working combination (IT-EN-ES), and it was this decision that then paved the way to a series of collaborations with European institutions.

I was first chosen by the Directorate-General for Translation (DGT) of the European Commission for a traineeship and, following this, I began collaborating with various Italian and foreign agencies that had been awarded EU tenders. Having thus accrued sufficient experience to submit my own bids, in 2007, for the first time, I applied for a tender for the supply of translation services to the DGT and the Translation Centre for the Bodies of the European Union. Since 2008, I have worked for them constantly with a series of framework contracts stipulated over the years.

This led me to cease collaborating with private market agencies, instead handling my relations with the institutions directly. Today, around 80% of my work relates to EU policies. I mainly deal with justice and internal affairs, human rights and social and employment policies.

My interest in terminology developed spontaneously during my 2004 European Commission traineeship. At that time, each language department had its own terminology unit. I became fascinated with the care and dedication shown by Daniela Murillo Perdomo, at the time Linguistic coordinator of DGT Italian department, as well as the creator of the network for the excellence of institutional Italian (Rete REI) established over the following years. This was also when I witnessed, from within, the move from Eurodicautom to IATE, which, at least for me, marked a real turning point in my awareness of the importance of terminology. Indeed, it was this experience that helped me truly realise just how important terminology is in the world of both written and verbal communication, and this is why I decided to investigate the matter further, at the same time as pursuing my work.

  1. For a long time, you were responsible for a Terminology Research course which forms part of the study programme of translators and interpreters. How much weight would you give to Terminological research in translation/interpreting study programmes?

How could a Terminology course improve the work of future translators/interpreters?

I believe that aspects relating to terminology are an essential part of any translation and interpreting study programme. Specific terminology and terminography courses are very useful in developing the necessary skills to manage terminology databases, for both translators and interpreters, even if the two professions take a different approach to terminology.

Terminology has now been consolidated as a discipline that deals with the study of terms, i.e. of the lexical units that allow for the transfer of specialised knowledge in one or more languages. The attention paid to the terminological methods and principles during translation courses helps students better understand the importance of the key translation issues related to specialised concepts and their classification. Students can thus improve their capacity to solve these translation problems.

Through terminology management, translators can not only save time but, more importantly, guarantee terminological coherence and consistency between documents. A terminology database provides complete background information on the term, its meaning, context, etc., and this makes for an accurate, consistent, unambiguous, error-free translation, not only within a single translated document, but also between several. From the outset, this saves the professional both time and money, making for a more productive business and greater customer satisfaction.

Clearly, a good translator must be aware of the complexity of terminological aspects and the effective way in which terms “behave”, which often differs from the theoretical principles of the terminology itself. Aspects like synonymy and polysemy will need to be properly analysed and the various levels of conceptual equivalence of terms in different languages, assessed and handled appropriately.

What I have always sought to stress in my courses is that dealing with terminology does not mean simply translating terms and entering them into a database. The pursuit of terminology means having a strategic tool that enables the translator to make the right decisions, thereby meeting the multiple demands connected with the task.

As related disciplines gain ground, such as assisted and automatic translation, terminology and, even more so, terminography, namely the systematic collection of terms that constitute specialised languages, are becoming an increasingly integral part of the workflow of a professional translator, who creates and manages terminology databases to integrate them into assisted or automatic translation tools. Therefore, to be a good terminologist, the translator must also be able to manage the terminology in the databases using the platforms available.

Although terminological activity is generally associated with the profession of translator, interpreters also deal with terminology and terminography, both in order to expand upon their collection of terminology resources that will assist them in their interpreting, but also to integrate them with other related activities they may carry out (such as translation, for example). There are now numerous terminology management tools available to interpreters from various platforms and I believe these will be further developed in the future, hand-in-hand with technological evolutions.

It is my opinion, that future trends will see a greater integration of terminology and terminography with translation and interpreting. Having carefully honed terminology management skills adds value to the CVs of professionals and allows them to better stand out on the market.


  1. Lots of students and recent-graduates are becoming more and more interested in working at the EU institutions. What could teachers and universities do in order to motivate and help their students to reach their aim?

 Seen from afar, the EU institutions can at first glance seem beyond reach. The recruitment process is a lengthy, articulated one, whether looking for traineeship or seeking to embark on a career as a freelancer or official. Applicants must master two or more EU languages, as well as their own mother-tongue; they must have excellent cognitive skills and bring with them the skills developed through their previous experience, successfully showing that they would bring added value to the EU. Above all, however, they must show enthusiasm for the “EU project” and must truly believe in the European Union.

We find ourselves in austere times and institutions are tending to reduce staffing levels. Therefore, to have a chance of being assigned the posts of those leaving, it is essential to offer something more in order to stand out from the crowd.

The figures and statistics surrounding employment at EU institutions may be discouraging but hard work and commitment does pay off. I always urge my current and former students to specialise in an area in which they are interested, to keep on studying and to stimulate their hunger for learning and thirst for knowledge. There is no need, and in fact it would be impossible, to master every single sector in order to stand out. Nor indeed is there any point in accumulating masses and masses of languages without first having perfect mastery of your own mother-tongue; this is the real essence of our work. Although the translation and interpreting market does experience cyclical crisis periods, personally, I firmly believe that excellence will always have a place, as, naturally, will those who stand out from the others by offering a high quality of service. This applies to both the private market and institutions.

According to a recent survey published by the Italian Association of Translators and Interpreters (LINK), only 5% of the 540 respondents declared that they were specialised in the EU policy sector. I believe that if aspiring to work for European institutions, it is essential to start out with an in-depth study of European Union law and functions, as well as of the Interinstitutional style guide and the rules governing the drafting of EU texts.

This, in a nutshell, is my advice. Even if my experience is only as a freelance contractor for the institutions, I do believe that these good practices apply to all contexts.

  1. Which resources/methods do you usually use in your courses to make your students more familiar with European terminology?

The language resources made available by the European Union are extremely important for translation and interpreting students alike, insofar as they offer solid, reliable support and a source of reference through which to solve linguistic doubts. The huge volume of translation that takes place in the EU truly is one-of-a-kind. There is no other international organisation existing today that works in a parallel fashion, in so many languages.

The presentation of the EU’s language resources on the internet and their related use has always been an integral part of my documentary and terminology research course (intended for both translators and interpreters), because knowledge of these gives students access to a wide range of reliable sources


My constant work with EU texts allows me to convey my direct experience with the various sources with which I am familiar, to others, along with the degree of reliability I assign them.As my task has always been that of driving students to reason things out for themselves, the research we carry out in class always starts out from parallel texts and from Eur-Lex specifically. Translating EU texts implies specific skills and research too must take a specific approach. A distinction must be drawn between EU and non-EU terms, as they require different types of terminological work prior to translation. Whilst the translation of non-EU terms takes place through various different conceptual systems, the translation of EU terms is mainly carried out within a single conceptual system, namely that of the EU.

Eur-Lex provides free access to documents in the 24 official EU languages, thus allowing the consultation of EU law (treaties, directives, regulations, decisions, consolidated legislation, etc.), preparatory documents (legislative proposals, reports, green and white papers, etc.), and EU case-law (judgments, orders, etc). It also allows you to follow the procedures leading to the adoption of legal acts, therefore its corpus of texts is an invaluable source of terminology information.

The possibility of displaying documents in multiple languages, simultaneously or separately, makes for an extremely useful resource when launching a terminological research, without starting from a pre-prepared database. This, in turn, ensures that decisions are made autonomously, with a better awareness of the facts.

An analysis of EU terminology must include IATE. The IATE database is an essential tool because it is the most complete terminological resource we have available today and is widely used, not only by translators but also by the general public, and constantly improved and updated.

IATE plays a major role in ensuring the quality of the written communication of the EU institutions and bodies. Offering easy access to validated EU-related terminology, it ensures the consistency and reliability of terminology which is indispensable for producing the clear and unambiguous texts necessary for guaranteeing both the validity and transparency of the legislative process and effective communication with the citizens of the Union.

It covers hundreds of different domains and sub-domains and it is the result of the close collaboration of the various institutions’ terminological coordination units. Over the years, we have consequently seen constant progress and the validation of an ever greater number of terms. It also allows teachers to work effectively with students who, through their terminological works and degree theses, supply material that is then checked and used by the EU terminologists for inclusion in IATE.

Another extremely useful resource is TermCoord, which offers a collection of links to highly specialised themed glossaries compiled by the various institutions, as well as pre-prepared terminology files created on the basis of cooperation pursued with the Parliament political bodies. Its blog has exceeded a million visits and I believe that its success is the proof of the great interest shown in terminology: for the work carried out by the European institutions, the practical examples supplied and the recommendations given on resources and tools. Its constant presence on  social media, with the spread of information about terminology and related events, as well as the idea of publishing a “Term of the week” has helped raise awareness amongst professionals and others, as to the importance of the subject.

For Italian, there is also an extremely interesting blog by Licia Corbolante, which is worth mentioning, spreading terminology points amongst a larger audience.

It gives me great pleasure to note the increased interest in terminology recorded amongst colleagues and which is also reflected in the range of academic and professional training available. Terminology training courses have multiplied; AITI itself, the Association of which I am Deputy Chair, organises them constantly, always filling all places available. Therefore, even those who have not had the chance to acquire terminology management and research skills during university training can do so later with professional training

Interviewed by Flaminia Paternoster

Flaminia holds a Master’s degree in Interpreting and Translation from the UNINT University of Rome, with a research thesis focused on Plurilingual Approaches in teaching languages and translating.
Her research interest include multilingualism, plurilingualism, intercomprehension, translation and terminology. Before joining the Terminological Coordination Unit as a trainee she was teaching Italian in Rome. She speaks Italian, French, Spanish, English and German. She is passionate about words, languages, food and traveling.
You can follow her on twitter at