Meet Paula Ianelli: August’s Interpreter of the Month

August 10, 2021

My name is Paula Ianelli and I actually started my journey as a translator and interpreter because of how curious I am. Contrary to many people in this line of work, I didn’t have an opportunity to travel as a kid and nobody in my family spoke other languages. I was born in São Paulo, Brazil and spoke native Brazilian Portuguese but felt an itch to understand the songs that I heard on the radio. What were they saying? Was it a message I could get behind? And most importantly: how could I learn the lyrics to sing along?

So that’s why I started looking forward to the Sunday newspaper and its one song lyric with a side-by-side translation in the Entertainment section.

I would compare the source and the target without knowing this is what I would actually grow up to do. I was also a bookworm at the time, going through hundreds of pages a week and using the rest of my abundant free time to play video games, where I actually started learning English in practice since there were no subtitles or voice acting for Brazilian Portuguese.


Cut to around three years later when I started worrying about my futureisn’t that precious? Sat my mom down and had a conversation about why I needed to start learning English ASAP if I wanted to go anywhere in life. Little did I know that this language would play a much bigger role in my story. I fell in love with it. It felt like a new world was being unveiled to me. I was finally able to understand what they were saying in those songs.


Going to translation school was an easy choice. Where else would I get to read, write and uncover the secret meaning behind foreign words? After four years studying written translation, I started working as a freelance and things happened fast: I attended a lot of events, got certified by the American Translators Association, started delivering talks to my peers, got accredited by the Brazilian Translators and Interpreters Association, got invited to be on their Board, and fulfilled my life-long dream of working in video game localization.


But that’s also when I got an opportunity to try conference interpreting, and I simply loved it. The rush of knowing that stopping is not an option. The safety of our booth in the back of the room. The opportunity to learn about so many different worlds. And the rewarding experience of lending my voice to those who need a seat at the table and helping people understand messages that would otherwise leave them in the dark. I spent another two years learning how to be a conference interpreter and I’ve been doing it ever since. I joined APIC and AIIC and started teaching conference interpreting at Alumni in Brazil. I’ve had the pleasure of interpreting for audiences of thousands of people, but the assignments that make me the happiest are still the ones where I feel that I’m making a difference, which often happens in the field of human rights. And the ones where I get to translate about video games and geek culture, of course, which actually happens quite often due to my personal background.

The pandemic came with new challenges though, and we had to adapt to working from home amidst a lot of uncertainty. Every new job was an opportunity to learn and adapt to the reality of Remote Simultaneous Interpretation. That’s when I first worked with my fellow interpreter (and now dear friend) Tereza Braga, who was featured here last month. We hit it off instantly and started a great collaboration that will certainly outlast this pandemic. She introduced me to INGCO, which has been a wonderful LSP to work with, and we’ve been navigating the new normal together.


I consider myself really lucky. I feel like I have a purpose (at least most of the time), I have a bunch of wonderful people around me, and I have a lot to be grateful for. I certainly look forward to more of that but I also welcome the unexpectedafter all, isn’t that what interpreting is all about?