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An Interview with Dr. Iona Italia on Language, a Book, and Conatus News & Uncommon Ground Media Ltd. (Part Three)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/08/15


Dr. Iona Italia is an Author and Translator, and a Sub-Editor for Areo Magazine, and Host of Two for Tea. She discusses: emergent of linguistic talent and capitalizing on it; a book published; and coaching people for writing.

Keywords: Areo Magazine, Book, Conatus News, Iona Italia, Language, Two for Tea, Uncommon Ground Media Ltd.

An Interview with Dr. Iona Italia on Language, a Book, and Conatus News & Uncommon Ground Media Ltd.: Host, Two for Tea & Sub-Editor, Areo Magazine (Part Three)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Let’s take a step back. We have some of the religious and ethnic background – Gujarat, Bombay, Zoroastrianism, Parsi. We also have some of the background with regards to the doctorate level research, earned, we should note, at the University of Cambridge, in English Lit.

Italia: In English Literature, yes.

Jacobsen: If we’re looking at the breadth of background, and a high-level education at one of the world’s most prestigious institutions, you also do translation work from Spanish and German to English.

Italia: That is correct.

Jacobsen: Most people cannot speak two languages or multiple languages, and at the level of translation, in a professional way. When did this talent emerge, and how did you find a way to capitalize on it?

Italia: I did German at school, and French. My French is not so good, though. I can converse in French, but it is not good enough to do translation. Then I learned Spanish when I moved here to Argentina, which was in 2006. I’ve been here, mostly, in Buenos Aires since 2006. I spent two years in India, and I returned in October of last year, from India. Most of the time, I have been here, in Buenos Aires. That is how I learned the languages. I also speak a bit of Gujarati. Those are my languages.

How did I develop the skill? I have had a misspent life in which I have made many bad decisions.

What happened was in 2006, I made this huge mistake. Up until then, I was a respectable member of society. I was married and living in London. I was an academic. I taught at the University of East Anglia. I taught 18th century English Literature at UEA.

2. Jacobsen: You published a book on it?

Italia: I published a book, yes. In 2003, I published my Ph.D. in book form. It was published by Routledge. It is still in print, but it is an academic book, so it is ridiculously expensive. It was mostly sold to libraries. It is called Anxious Employment, which, unfortunately, has become an extremely autobiographical title [Laughing].

In 2006, my then-husband and I both took a year out. I took an unpaid sabbatical from my academic job. Medics in the UK can get what is called a “work-life balance year”. He took a “work-life balance year.” We came here to Argentina because we both danced the tango. We were both passionate about dancing the tango. We came here to do an intensive year of studying tango.

At the end of that year, I really did not want to go back. At that time, I was married, and my husband earned a good income and he really enjoys his job. He works now in neuroscience research. He did some work here, and some in London. He went back and forth. I stayed here. We lived off his salary plus the rent of the London flat, which was also his flat.

I lived like that for a few years, and then, unfortunately, for reasons I am not going to get into, but I got divorced, which I was never expecting. Suddenly, I had given up my academic career, which was totally my choice, but it is almost impossible to go back to academe once you have left. I had no money because the flat does not belong to me. The money did not belong to me. I was in this completely penniless situation.

In fact, my ex helped me out for a little while I had no money and was trying to find my feet, but basically, I had to reinvent myself, so I decided to do something I could do online so I could stay in Argentina. I started doing translation work from German, at that time. I worked for a friend of mine who had a little, small translation company. I worked for him. I also taught tango. That is what happened.

My friend’s company, though, folded, and so I ended up with little translation work. I started also doing professional editing work. I do, now, editing for academics and fiction writers and people, freelance. I still teach a bit of tango. I am also doing the copy editing for Areo magazine. I am the subeditor of Areo. And I have a podcast.

That is what I am doing to try to make ends meet. It is only possible here. I would not be able to live back in the First World. That would be impossible on my salary. Here, it is possible. I am contemplating perhaps going back to India because I do not know that I can financially survive in Argentina. India is cheaper. My life has gone wrong, unfortunately, as far as professional achievements have gone.

I published a book on tango culture, which is called Our Tango World. I published with a small press in the UK, but it is not being marketed well, and so I do not think it has sold so many copies.

I would like to write a third book now. I made a start towards that. I am not publishing it as I go along, but I published a few small extracts. I also read and made a Youtube video of the preface to the third book, which is about mixed-race identities, which I am calling The Half Caste. That is the working title.

Jacobsen: You did some writings in Conatus News, now Uncommon Ground Media Ltd., on some of this.

Italia: Yes. I’ve written about 5 articles for Conatus News, and probably 12 to 15 articles for Areo. Before I had written all academic articles and the academic book, and a lot more creative writing about dance, which is what grew into the book Our Tango World. I write poetry and short sci-fi fiction. I would like to publish a volume of … I have a volume of short stories, which is unpublished.

But I had never written any political commentary at all until about two years ago. Then, Malhar Mali, who was the founder of Areo and the previous editor, was following me on Twitter. That time I had like 40 followers or something. It was tiny, but I used to write these long threads.

He liked my threads and my approach to thinking about things. He asked me to write a film review for Areo, as it was then, under the old gubernatorial period. I did and then I started writing more political commentary stuff. That is what has happened in my trajectory.

Now I try to do little bits of various things to keep body and soul together. I teach business English. I am, once a week, doing that. I have also, recently, been coaching people who are writing essays and dissertations for their MBA.

3. Jacobsen: How do you coach someone in terms of writing for an MBA?

Italia: I do not try to teach them the MBA material. I am not an expert on that; although, I have now read a lot of books about business, so that I, at least, can have some feedback as to what they are referring to. I try to help them organize their thoughts. I do not write the essays for them, but I help them create an essay plan.

A lot of people, first, are not sure what topic to pick. I help them to find a topic. Then I help them to structure it into a plan. I help them to think about what material they are going to use to illustrate their arguments there. Then I polish the prose. That is what it involves. It is essay coaching, but more specialized.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Host, Two for Tea; Sub-Editor, Areo Magazine.

[2] Individual Publication Date: August 15, 2019:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2019:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


© Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing 2012-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Scott Douglas Jacobsen and In-Sight Publishing with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. All interviewees and authors co-copyright their material and may disseminate for their independent purposes.

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