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Pursuing translation as a career option
Thread poster: charactergirl
charactergirl
English
Feb 1, 2007

Hi everyone,

I would be really pleased if you could offer me some advice. I am currently a second-year undergraduate at Oxford University, studying French and German. I have yet to do my year abroad. I am looking at a career in the British Council, however I would also like to have the option of doing professional translation. What is my best course of action? Should I do a masters in translation at Oxford or elsewhere or focus on increasing my fluency by getting a job in France or Germany after my degree?

Many thanks,

Vicky

[Edited at 2007-02-02 13:49]


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Sarah Appleby  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:50
German to English
Lots of possibilities Feb 2, 2007

Hi Vicky,
There are various routes into translation and doing an MA is certainly a solid option. Working abroad first would however gain you valuable real-world business experience and vastly enhance your language skills, perhaps allowing you to get more out of an MA if/when you came back to it.
Another option (which is what I did) is to take the Institute of Linguists diploma in translation which has the benefit that you can work full-time while studying. You work on your own towards this or take preparatory classes (see www.iol.org.uk for further details).
Hope this gives you some ideas!
Best regards,
Sarah


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charactergirl
English
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Feb 2, 2007

Thanks-that's really helpful.

Best Wishes,

Vicky


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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:50
French to English
+ ...
echo Feb 2, 2007

Hi Vicky,

I did the same degree as you a few years ago (but with only one language) and I'd echo what Sarah said about ways in to the profession.

I would add something, though - apart from qualifications, it is also very useful to specialise in a particular subject area. There are many ways to do this - I used my previous experience as a medical administrator, and the fact that I find the subject fascinating, to make my way in medical translation. If you can find some way of working abroad and developing a real subject specialism (remembering that everyone keeps learning all the time, whatever their area of work), that'll be a fabulous way to start.

I don't know if Oxford does a translation MSt (it never used to), but I would think in any case that if you want to do translation professionally that might not be the best place to go - other courses such as Imperial and Westminster in London, Heriot-Watt in Edinburgh, Aston and Salford have a much more practical approach.

The DipTrans is a very good qualification (like Sarah, I would say that wouldn't I?) and can be done in your own time and relatively cheaply (I paid about £800 for a distance learning course and the exam fees, which is a lot cheaper than an MA - and I had already done an MA, though in a different subject).

The most important thing when considering a qualification is how much practice you get at translating. As I didn't do an MA I can't comment on how much contact time one gets.

Those people I know who did a translation MA all say that it was very helpful to be based in a translation department, because of possible contacts with agencies, clients, professional translators etc. Certainly here in the West Midlands we have links between the ITI translators' group and Aston university, and hold joint events there. Networking is really important in this business and if you do your qualifications on your own, you have to do all your networking from scratch (which is nonetheless feasible).

Anyway. Sorry this was so long, but I hope some of it is helpful!


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Karen Stokes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:50
Member (2003)
French to English
Think about your area of specialisation Feb 3, 2007

Hello Vicky,

Maybe the Oxford course has changed since my day (I did French and German at Balliol, 1982-1986, when the emphasis was very much on literature), but I don't think it would have prepared me particularly well for a career in translation, certainly not straight from college.

Like Angela and Sarah, I'd recommend the IoL's Diploma in Translation as a rigorous and practical qualification, but I also agree you need to build up an area of specialisation. There are an awful lot of us with qualifications in French and/or German and the market is pretty competitive, so it helps a lot if you can market yourself in a particular area. I went into the food industry as a buyer and new product development manager after Oxford, and that's proved very helpful indeed, partly because it means I have detailed knowledge of that particular industry, alongside a wider feel for business. Working for at least a few years will also allow you to build up a network of contacts who can be invaluable in keeping you up-to-date even once you've left whatever sector you've chosen to work in, in order to translate full-time, if that's what you decide to do.

I'd also recommend joining the CIoL (www.iol.org.uk) and the ITI (www.iti.org.uk) - student membership is reasonably priced and you'll get a lot of support and a real insight into the profession.

Best regards,
Karen


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charactergirl
English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Feb 3, 2007

Thanks for the advice. I don't want to go straight into a career in translation but would like a qualification in this skill for career purposes and possibly freelance work later. It seems there are quite a few different options and flexibility, which is really encouraging.

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Kitty Brooks
Portuguese to English
Consider WLS Certificate in Translation Feb 22, 2007

Hi Vicky

You sound a bit undecided as to whether you want to make translation your full-time career. You may want to look at the distance programme offered by WLS in Dublin: http://www.wls.ie. It's very "hands on" and reasonably priced and would give you a good insight into the real world of translation before you commit yourself to MA studies (which you don't need to practise as a translator in any event). See my more detailed comments and those of another poster who took the WLS FR-EN option (I'm PE-EN) at
http://www.proz.com/topic/64404

Kitty


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charactergirl
English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Feb 22, 2007

Thanks Kitty. I will certainly have a look.

Best Wishes,

Vicky


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