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Do I need to do an MA?
Thread poster: Vanessa Round

Vanessa Round  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:13
Member (2006)
Italian to English
Dec 7, 2006

I've been translating for 7 years and now want to get a formal qualification. I'm thinking of doing an MA at Sheffield Uni. I like the department and staff and the course looks interesting. However, it would be a big commitment: I would have to work only part-time for 2 years and I have two kids as well as the extra workload from studying.
What I need to know is: is having an MA in translation really worth it? Will I attract more/better clients? Will my rates be able to go up? Could I do a diptrans instead and have the same benefits? Is the diptrans course any good? I've read this thread http://www.proz.com/topic/58196 and there was a little negative feedback about the diptrans.

Thanks, all you qualified translators out there for any feedback you can give me.


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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 16:13
Dec 7, 2006

I reckon with 7 years practical experience behind you, you could practically teach the course

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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:13
German to English
Not really.... Dec 7, 2006

I've been translating for 17 years now and occasionally toy with the idea of doing an MA, but then I look again at the courses on offer, and the average quality of the graduates, and get back to work. I'll probably end up doing a PhD once I've (semi-)retired, just for the hell of it.

Putting on my "employer of translators" hat, I really don't think that with 7 years' experience, there's much you can learn from today's translation MAs in the UK. It's very easy to get the impression that in many cases, people pay the PG tuition fees and walk away with a degree certificate after a year. And the 40 hours of classroom translation per academic year that now seem to be typical of UK MAs is simply a frightening figure. I know it's far more difficult to teach people to translate than, say, to teach them about language technology, or to fill unnecessary hours with spurious "translation science", but unless the coursework (and classwork) involves at least 50% practical translation and terminology work, then giving an MA a "translation" label is, I think, very misleading.

Vanessa Round wrote: What I need to know is: is having an MA in translation really worth it? Will I attract more/better clients? Will my rates be able to go up?


"No", is the quick answer IMHO. You will attract better-paying clients by specialising, and a quick look at your profile shows that you cover a hell of a lot of subject areas. Specialising means investing time and money in building up a lot of domain-specific knowledge in both target and source languages, and then applying the knowledge to give you a competitive edge (and thus the prospect of a higher income).

The IOL Dip Trans is certainly a feasible (and I would suggest more useful) alternative to a traditional MA, but it wouldn't really help you on the way to specialistion.

Something you might like to consider is the MA in Legal Translation that City University will start offering in 2007 (and if it's successful, it might be followed by an MA in Financial Translation). As I understand it, this will be a two-year, part-time course aimed primarily at working translators with several years' experience under their belts. It will mainly comprise distance learning, plus several 3-day intensive on-campus sessions per year. Details will probably be published on the City University website in the spring. Worth looking at, I think, and it should allow you to combine family, work and study without killing you.


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Sean Linney  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:13
French to English
+ ...
Diploma a better option Dec 7, 2006

I'd agree that the IOL Diploma in Translation would be a better, more affordable, option than an MA. With seven years' experience, you don't necessarily need to enrol on a preparation course. You could familiarise yourself with the exam by ordering past papers and the Dip Trans handbook and completing some of the papers under exam conditions. Past examiners' reports are also useful in that they give you some idea of the things examiners look for, and the standard you need to reach to pass the exam.

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French Foodie  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:13
French to English
+ ...
Not more, but perhaps better Dec 7, 2006

Hi Vanessa,

I have an MA in Translation Studies from the U of Ottawa. I found it fascinating, and enjoyed it thoroughly. I couldn't say that it got me any more clients, but perhaps a few "better" ones.

Before I did my MA I already had a good client base (I had worked in-house at an agency in Paris that continued to send me work when I went freelance, along with a few other agency contacts). Agencies are impressed by my experience, client refs, and professional certification - I don't think the fact that I have an MA makes much difference to them, to be honest. However, some my *direct* clients (and generally higher paying clients) are very interested in it. Many of them are not familiar with translation and this seems to lend some credibility in their mind. I have also received some absolutely wonderful contacts through the translation school and my former profs (eg editors looking for lit translators often contact the school).

The courses I took were fascinating (I *loved* the history of translating, theatre adaptation, translation and discourse analysis), and really made me explore and think about other facets of translation, but I wouldn't say that they were helpful for my "freelance business" any more than the practical undergraduate translation courses I took years ago, as Robin points out. An MA is not a how-to in translation, but extremely theoretical - the idea, at least at Ottawa U, is that you already know how to translate and are now interested in delving into research and theoretical aspects of the art.

Robin mentions specialization, and I agree that is important. I suppose one thing that did help was that I chose a subject for my dissertation (translating food) that opened doors for my specialization. My research got me in touch with chefs, restaurants, food critics, etc., some of whom I still translate for today. But this is something you can do without the time and expense of an MA.

I don't regret doing my MA in the least. As I said, I found the content fascinating, but I don't think it's something you should embark on with the main purpose of expanding your client base.

HTH a bit.
Mara


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Michele Johnson  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:13
German to English
+ ...
Maximize ROI: Dip. Trans. if anything Dec 7, 2006

With a BA in English and Italian Studies and 7 years experience, I agree with Robin and Orla that you're not going to learn much in an MA program. Especially with 2 kids to support, I would be looking at optimizing the payoff (= qualification) for my investment (= time, lost income, other opportunity costs).

Seriously consider the Dip. Trans. I was in the same boat as you. Some people seem very negative about the Dip. Trans, but I spent a year preparing via City U distance courses (tons of feedback, highly recommended) and passed the exam on the first go. It made a major impact on my translation career - not immediately but certainly within 6-9 months. I attracted entirely new clients at a completely new payment level. As it was very hands-on and practical, I also really learned a lot in the process.

Regarding the thread:
http://www.proz.com/topic/58196

I just don't get it. It looks like the Dip. Trans. exam costs GBP 440 for 2007 and GBP 460 for 2008. Certainly it's an investment, but "very expensive"? Time investment and lost income aside, the MA at Sheffield ain't exactly cheap. As far as I can tell from their website they charge GBP 3240 for "Home" (I assume resident) tuition. Even if you include the costs of the City U courses (a few hundred GBP?), the Dip. Trans is going to be way cheaper (and more useful IMO) than a single semester at Sheffield. Don't even get me started about an MA program with "best of all... no exams..." (!)

I can only re-iterate what Robin says about specialization. I might also suggest you work on improving/streamlining your resume and developing a website. Thse 2 factors alone may improve your business as much as or more than a qualification.

Michele


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Vanessa Round  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:13
Member (2006)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
thanks Dec 7, 2006

Thanks everyone for your replies. It's given me plenty of food for thought.

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xxxLia Fail  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:13
Spanish to English
+ ...
agree Dec 7, 2006

Orla Ryan wrote:

I reckon with 7 years practical experience behind you, you could practically teach the course


Especially if you have kids:-)

Getting better paid/more interesting work is more down to your own approach, reputation and pricing decisions.

That said, I found doing a Master's to be a wonderful experience... The sheer luxury of studying (and I still could work part-time)! And as a consequence, I'm getting more involved in interesting projects and reasearch.


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:13
German to English
Dip. Trans. definitely cheap! Dec 7, 2006

Michele Johnson wrote: I just don't get it. It looks like the Dip. Trans. exam costs GBP 440 for 2007 and GBP 460 for 2008. Certainly it's an investment, but "very expensive"?


That's incredibly cheap, isn't it. Considering that the sort of one-day professional development seminar (finance, accounting, tax) I attend in the UK or Europe costs between GBP 800 and 1200 (OK, including lunch...), it really does bring up the question of whether some translators have any idea of the comparative value of money...

Don't even get me started about an MA program with "best of all... no exams..." (!)


Right. A translation MA course that doesn't confront students with translation tests under real-life, beat-the-clock conditions is a waste of money, whatever it costs. There's at least one university (Grenoble? maybe Rennes II as well) where they basically lock the students in a computer room for a day (no e-mail, no mobiles, but plenty of electronic and paper resources, plus web access), give them a couple of thousand words, and tell them to have it ready within 8 hours, or something like that. I'm sure they sort the sheep from the goats pretty quickly.

Robin


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:13
Flemish to English
+ ...
ESIT Dec 7, 2006

What about ESIT and ETI? Not 40 hours, but 4 years.
Both are the "Insead" of the translation-schools.
Btw, should you ever participate in open competition nmbr. AD, you have be used to translate against the clock. Usually, it is one hour for two pages.


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Haiyang Ai  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 10:13
English to Chinese
+ ...
NO Dec 8, 2006

A friend of mine just got an MA. It doesn't help him very much. He said if he hadn't spent 3 years doing MA, he would have run his own translation agency by now. He just returned to where he was 3 years ago.

Doing research is very different from doing translation business. Pls think it twice before you make your decision. And Good luck!


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Marijke Singer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:13
Dutch to English
+ ...
MA Dec 8, 2006

Hi Vanessa,

I have an MA in Latin American Studies and the only real benefit to my work is that it makes me look more professional/committed but it has not increased my rates nor my workload.

I've been translating for 23 years.

Doing the MA, though, was very enjoyable but I did not have children at the time.

Good luck!
Marijke


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Anna Strowe
Local time: 11:13
Italian to English
Another positive voice for MA, although not in this situation... Dec 8, 2006

I just want to defend the idea of an MA in Translation Studies (which I think most of them are, not in "Translation"). If you are interested in the academic side of translation (linguistics, comparative literature, post-colonial studies) then there are some great MA programs to look at. And I would say that there is no particular reason that an academic course in translation studies should require deadline-oriented, high-stress translations from its students, unless they wanted to have practical translating experience from the course as well. That said, an academic course is, for the same reasons, not the greatest course for someone who wants more experience in actually translating. Not the right choice, it sounds like, for Vanessa, but also not a "waste of money".

Best,
Anna


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Richard Benham  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 17:13
German to English
+ ...
Academic interest vs professional credential Dec 9, 2006

I am all in favour of study for the sake of broadening one's mind and for the sheer enjoyment of it. However, I note that the original asker Vanessa was interested in such issues as attracting clients. So I assume she is interested in the MA as a professional credential.

Let me admit to a personal interest here: I have two DipTrans diplomas and no MA in translation. Having said that, I would now point out that several people with translation-related MAs are quite active on KudoZ, often asking very elementary questions and giving answers that completely miss the point. The DipTrans requires you to produce a translation of 3 actual passages in a limited time, unaided. Apart from the unaided bit, it's a lot like real-life translation.

Also, as has been pointed out, the DipTrans may be expensive from some points of view, but it is a whole lot cheaper than an MA.

Summing up, if you like study for its own sake (which I admit I do), by all means do the MA, but for a cost-effective and targeted professional credential, the DipTrans wins out every time.


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Vanessa Round  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:13
Member (2006)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
replies Dec 10, 2006

I am interested more than anything else in the professional benefits that I can gain from a qualification, so thanks Richard for your reply. I think at this point a diptrans would be better for me, as I don't have the luxury of studying for studying sake at present, although I would love to become a student again for a while, perhaps in the future!

Thanks all of you for your replies.


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