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MA in Translation...any advice?
Thread poster: katherine zawadzka

katherine zawadzka
Local time: 19:24
Italian to English
Jun 20, 2006

I am currently working in France (not as a translator) and am considering applying for an MA in Translation with Italian as my source language. Has anyone got any advice they can offer me on the usefulness(or otherwise) of this qualification? I spent 3 years freelancing in Italy the best part of 5 years ago and would really like to get back into translating as I have a genuine enthusiasm for the work. Unfortunately have gone a bit off track over the past few years and am wondering whether this is the best way to go about it or not? Have done the IOL Diploma but feel it would be beneficial to get some more study under my belt especially as far as CAT is concerned. Any hints?

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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:24
Flemish to English
+ ...
Value : Almost nil Jun 20, 2006

Usefulness on the "normal" job-market : "Almost nil". You can become an administrative assistant of an executive who he himself/she herself has an MBA or you can work in a call-center (in Ireland).
On the language-market, the degree may secure you as job as in-house (localiser) or project-manager. Salary range : in the 30000 euro p.a.
If I were to start studying again, I would choose a preparatory year of math followed by an M.A. Commercial Engineer or law. These studies comprise languages, math, economic sciences, computer programming, law, several sciences topic. Career path assured.

At the E.U. : worth something to participate in open competition number X together with x thousand others.
With a legal degree, you can participate in open competitions for lawyer-linguists. At such competitions there are less candidates, because a degree in law is a first requirement. With a degree in law, you can find a job almost anywhere.

On the freelance market: Nowadays Joe and Jane Doe can enter the freelance market overnight and call themselves "translator". It is not a title protected by law.

It is better to have a degree which is not related with translation, participate in several Erasmus years in different countries. Your language skills will be greatly improved, especially if you read the quality newspapers every day.
Should you wish to try to get into an interpreter training than having a specialist degree is a +.
As M.A. in Translation, you end up being a generalist who knows a bit of this and a bit of that, but who is a specialist in nothing and you become Don Quichote on the job-market.
Believe me, it is a waste of time and money.

Whatever you choose: Good luck.

[Edited at 2006-06-20 17:01]

[Edited at 2006-06-20 17:04]

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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:24
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
+ ...
A hint Jun 20, 2006

. . . feel it would be beneficial to get some more study under my belt especially as far as CAT is concerned. Any hints?

You could do worse than investigate the M.Sc. translation course at Imperial College in London, full or part time. Highly vocational, with a strong focus on CAT tools, and plenty of translation with experienced practitioners. I did the course 4 years ago and found it a very good foundation for starting a new career as a translator. See

[Edited at 2006-06-20 17:20]

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:24
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Quite useful, I would guess Jun 20, 2006

Has anyone got any advice they can offer me on the usefulness(or otherwise) of this qualification? I spent 3 years freelancing in Italy the best part of 5 years ago and would really like to get back into translating as I have a genuine enthusiasm for the work.

If you qualify for entry to the MA in Translation, I assume you already have a BA of sorts. I have no knowledge about the MA in Translation, but IMO any study specifically about translation and/or further linguistics will do you a lot of good. It will not, however, prepare you for the job market, nor will it help land you jobs.

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Local time: 20:24
Member (2003)
English to Danish
+ ...
In Denmark - quite useful, I'd say. Jun 20, 2006

As you can probably already tell, it depends on the answerer and on the MA programme in the specific country.

In Denmark, I have found the MA quite useful. For one thing, you cannot get an authorisation as translator without it, and another - important thing - you cannot call yourself 'translator' (translatør) without it; it's a protected title in Denmark.
Oh, and a third thing - you cannot get an ensurance on your work without it!!!

In Denmark the MA gives you the grand tour of technical, economic and legal translations as well as a great insight in American and British culture (with all this entails...) via cultural studies - both contemporary and historic, including politics, social problems, etc., literature classes where you read and discuss literature primarily from Great Britain and the US from different decades, etc. etc.

All these things are obviously only introductionary in the sense that you cannot become a walking dictionary knowing absolutely everything about everything after the MA, though a lot of people tend to think so ;o).

In Denmark the MA teaches you the different styles in the different text types, it gives you some tools for making proper research without spending weeks on it, when you have to deliver the translation "yesterday", it introduces you to translation tools such as Trados, it introduces you to various future jobs in the form of lectures, where e.g. also being freelance is introduced along with tips and tricks to how to go about it all.

Again, this obviously is not true everywhere in the world, so perhaps you should ask this question in the Italian forum?

Good luck out there ;o)

Oh.....and, in Denmark you can become an in-house translator having this degree. A lot of companies are now using "proper" in-house translators for their translation jobs because of the globalisation, e.g. international companies and lawyer firms.
Obviously you can also become a secretary or an assistant (whatever that means?), because the job descriptions for such jobs nowadays are very broad.

[Edited at 2006-06-20 19:07]

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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:24
not necessary. Jun 21, 2006

Well, if you already have the IoL diploma, you already meet a certain recognised standard? A Masters would only be gilding the lily, so to speak.

It would nice to have a Masters, but it's not a fast-track guarantee for getting work.

I've seen posts from newbies complaining that the world owes them a living just because they slogged for a Masters in Translation, yet they still know NOTHING about the business side of things!

Personally I think you don't need to do a Masters because you already have a few years experience and an IoL diploma. It is a lot more than what the rest of the class would have. All you need is a bit of practise and jump back on the saddle, have some faith in yourself

Some translation agencies or colleges hold CAT courses, maybe you could sign up for that?

Can you get in touch with former clients saying you're available again?

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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:24
French to English
+ ...
Agree with Orla, Jun 21, 2006

it doesn't sound to me as if you need it. The IoL Diploma should help you get clients, and CAT tools can be picked up by spending some time using them (try OmegaT, a free tool, or the demo versions of the bigger ones like TRADOS or Deja Vu, fiddle around a bit) and getting some training - either organised by the software manufacturer (which can be expensive) or through university short courses or translators' institutes (the ITI in the UK is excellent for this).

You could ring some university departments and see what they think, but bear in mind it is in their interests to persuade you to pay the MA fees....

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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:24
Flemish to English
+ ...
Oh, and... Jun 21, 2006

Oh...., and... I got all those topics too. Market-value of these topics on the regular job-market: Considered as a recreational use of your time/youth.
Oh,... and worldwide, you can forget a climbing the career ladder in any multinational corporation with an M.A. in Translation as a basis.
Yes, of course, freelancers are "free" to work whenever they like (round the clock against the deadline), but these corporate jobs on the other hand come with nice salaries and perks. Some can take you very far...
... and it is a fact that management in multinationals work long hours too.

[Edited at 2006-06-21 19:07]

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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:24
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
MA in Translation is a springboard Jun 22, 2006

I personally do have an MA in Translation and think it is a good springboard into a translation career. For me it opened the door into my first full-time job. I felt I could start that job with a good basic overview of the industry and good basic translation skills. Plus I also made useful contacts in the industry. Working full time in the industry then gave me more in-depth knowledge of the technical and business processes involved in translation, as well as advanced translation/research skills.

I was starting from zero, though (BA in German, little work experience). You already have an IoL diploma, translation experience, and non-translation work experience (and maybe a degree in something else?) Could you supplement that with some online classes (NYU, for example) and attendance at seminars and conferences covering the areas you feel you're deficient in? CAT tools can be learned through self study.

I definitely think an MA is worthwhile, but you'll have to do the math and see how worthwhile. I attended school in the US, so I had a large chunk of loans to pay off afterward. However, I did it and still believe this investment has been invaluable for my career.

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