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Getting started ? That's the point !
Thread poster: Lyne

Local time: 05:36
English to French
Jan 29, 2004

Greetings everyone

I am quite sure you have all read that kind of post thousands of times, and I have spent the last 3 hours going through this board, finding questions, and sometimes answers.

I have come to you, isn't that obvious : for help

Background :
I am French, a lover of the French language, and I have a degree in English, not in translation mind you. 6 months ago I moved to Belgium and I thought that was -the- occasion to finally work as a freelance, as I've been wanting to for years.

I'm starting. Today actually.
I have already worked as a translator, but never ... hmm officially.
Thus, I have no Translator Degree, no experience on CV, but I am a translator.

I love both languages, I usually don't make grammar or spelling mistakes in either language, I love to translate, and I know how to. But there it is : where shall I start?

I registered on a few websites but I feel so lame compared to multi-degrees translators, that I feel no one will trust me and give me some work to do.
And I am totally lost on what to do, where to register, where and how I can get work ... that kind of things.
Yeah, you can say it, pure and total n00bie.

Any help, of any kind, will be great.

Thank you

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Henry Dotterer
Local time: 23:36
Try KudoZ Jan 29, 2004

First, welcome.

If you have looked through the forums already, you have seen my usual suggestions to new freelancers. Given that you seem to have a way with words, I would particularly emphasize dabbling in KudoZ. Great way to network, and as people get to know what you and what you are good at, who knows, you may form relationships that lead to work. You might learn something, too.

Best of luck.

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Gayle Wallimann  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:36
Member (2001)
French to English
+ ...
Welcome, Lyne Jan 29, 2004

This is a great place to get started. Do follow Henry's suggestion, come help in Kudoz. And then, when you see a job to bid on, go ahead, give it a try. I'm sure you'll learn here, help here and make friends here. I have made excellent contacts through the job offers. Although I don't have a translation diploma, I am a linguist and teacher. Three and a half years ago, two agencies accepted my bids and they have kept me working ever since! So don't feel discouraged, jump in, join the band and above all, be happy, polite (I don't think I need to say that) and have fun too.:-)


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Bob Kerns  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:36
Member (2002)
German to English
Welcome Lyne Jan 29, 2004

Hi Lyne,

We translators all started somewhere, some of us with a translation degree and many of us without a translation degree but with lots of experience in a specialist field, combined with a very good knowledge of and a love for a second language.

Without wishing to offend translation graduates, and without wishing to start a long discussion of what makes a good translator, I can only suggest that you offer your services in the subject area(s) in which you are proficient.

I personally don't have a degree in translation but I have a degree in electronics and a second degree in IT (although the term IT wasn't even coined when I studied). Despite the lack of a translation degree I have been making a good living as a translator for over 10 years.

If you have specialised in a subject area, then look for work in that field. In my case I started out by looking though the job ads in computer magazines, not because I wanted to work for a computer company but because it was a good way of finding potential customers who in my case were based in Germany and expected their staff to be fluent in English. I then wrote to lots of them, politely pointing out that their staff should stick to computing and I would translate their documentation.

It worked!! I am now overloaded with work.

Good luck !!

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Paul Lambert
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:36
French to English
+ ...
Agree with Bob Jan 29, 2004

I started off as a fresh-faced Interpreting and Translating Graduate, with all the hope in the world of becoming a translator. I soon found out that a degree was far from being enough! I moved to the states, worked in-house for a while, and still found it hellishly difficult to get freelance work. So.....I went away, worked in the travel industry for a while, worked in Marketing and PR, and instantly had 2 areas to specialise in - so that's my advice: get a specialist area to work in, and the offers should start to flow in!

Good luck!


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French to English
Congratulations on getting started, but... Jan 29, 2004

One thing you should consider: offering translation into your first language only, which appears to be French. The fact that you admit making errors is good, but the errors themselves are not. Errors in a translation mean one thing - that client won't be coming back. As the others have pointed out, stick to what you know, particularly in your choice of language combinations.


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Todd Field  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:36
Member (2003)
Portuguese to English
Agree with Flossie Jan 29, 2004

You will actually benefit from focusing your efforts in lieu of trying to do too much. Your written English is very good (better than my written French by far!), but a native speaker will always be able to detect some subtle faults...

It's a big world out there, and English to French is one of the most sought-after language combinations, especially in EU circles. Demand for good translators is very high and there is lots of work to be had.

Pick your shots carefully. The less you claim you can do, the higher your credibility. Focus on translating only into your native language in a focused subject area where you feel at home with the terminology. With a little bit of patience and elbow grease you will undoubtedly find your niche and a steady flow of work as well.

Welcome to Proz and good luck!


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Local time: 05:36
English to French
Thank you ! Jan 29, 2004

I was on this board all day but did not dare to reply sooner, or I would have spammed the post after each reply

First, thank you all for your kind and warming welcome, and for your answers.

Henry : I have been all day on the Kudoz I am trying to answer and found Kudoz to be a great idea. Thank you

Gayle and Bob : your experience as a translator without a degree warms me up ^^

As I have been a teacher in both languages, and have a strong experience in computers and literature, I shall follow Paul and Bob's advice and specialize in this.

Flossie, Tod and Monica : Aye, I have felt that too, and you just confirm it. I will stick to English => French translations then. Better a refused translation than a poor translation given back.

Thank you all for your help, my fears are starting to wash away

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Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:36
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Language and philology are good qualifications Jan 30, 2004

Just think:

Some of us were born when translation schools were only to be found in exotic places like Geneva...

The best legal translator I know (method-wise and thoroughness) is a retired Bundesgerichtshof judge (so tell him to go back to school, it's like teaching your grandmother to suck eggs)...

I got started in this because the local state convention bureau was short of translators from French (I had just graduated from Fine Arts and passed the screening exams)...

I'm sure there are a lot more out there...

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Kevin Fulton
United States
Local time: 23:36
German to English
Put up a web site, join an association Jan 30, 2004

Once you've gotten a little experience, you might want to put up a web site advertising your services. Joining a local translators association is also a good idea if you want to develop contacts and expand your knowledge of translation techniques.

It's going to take a while before you start to make any money, but don't sell your services too cheaply, as you'll get fall into a rut that's hard to get out of.

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