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Question about your experience....plz help
Thread poster: Lena P J
Lena P J
United States
Local time: 00:02
English to Russian
+ ...
Apr 13, 2007

Hello everyone!
I'm getting my Bachelor's in English-Russian translation next year. I've heard that some people get a job as a translator/interpreter without a degree in a related field. I was wondering if it is true and also, how did you personally become a translator?
Thank you so much for you help!


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Deschant
Local time: 06:02
Quick reply Apr 13, 2007

Similar debates have been already held in ProZ, and if you do a little forum search you will find testimonies of translators who have no university degree at all. However, I think that nowadays there's a trend towards the regularization of the professions and I think it will be more and more difficult for translators without a degree to get established. I am currently trying to gain new customers, so in the last few weeks I have sent a lot of résumés and filled forms for a number of agencies, and I have noted that for almost every of them it is a prerrequisite to have an university degree (not necessarily in translation or languages). Some of them accept to replace the degree requirement for several years' experience, but, if you are new to the business and you have no degree, I guess it would be very difficult to get an agency to trust you (it may be different, however, if you choose to work for direct customers). It is already difficult with a degree, actually.

Personally, I do not think that having a degree is an absolute proof of good quality (although it is not completely useless either) and I'm sure that most agencies know that. I think it is rather a way of doing a first selection among the thousands of applications they receive or just preventing these applications to be sent.


[Editado a las 2007-04-14 15:13]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 07:02
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Start applying and mention that you are studying Apr 14, 2007

While it definitely is an advantage to have a qualification, there are plenty of excellent translators who have learnt their skills in 'the university of life'.

Even with a degree or diploma, there is often no substitute for solid experience and help from colleagues who have gathered different experience.

But the only way to get experience is to 'jump in' and start! If you mention that you are studying, agencies and clients can see that you have resources available, a qualification on the way, and have seriously thought about what translation is all about. Those are strong points in your favour, and there are plenty of jobs that beginners can do well too.

Best of luck!

PS I trained as a technical librarian with German-English translation as a b-subject, then married a Dane and moved to Denmark, worked in lots of odd jobs and brought up my son for nearly 20 years, and was finally lucky enough to be employed in house by by a translation agency. I had studied languages and Danish at night school along the way, and the agency sponsored my postgraduate diploma, which exempted me from the Dip. trans.



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Lena P J
United States
Local time: 00:02
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Apr 14, 2007

Christine Andersen and Emoreda, thank you for your help! Your message really ecouraged me to get out there and "jump in".

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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 07:02
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Refining answers Apr 14, 2007

Hi Elena, and welcome!

I can only add that there is a two-pronged entry difficulty in the profession: the fact that some customers prefer a translation graduate with a reasonable amount of experience, and others prefer a specialist with a reasonable amount of translation proficiency. And then, many more will say "both". But we never start out being both: I was involved in some academic debates about setting up translation courses, and the cons against BA translation graduates were the high degree of mortality incurred by those who were attracted to the course at first glance, but switched to something else later on, while those who took translation at a later stage in life (MA) seemed to have clearer ideas about where they wanted to go (besides which, they usually took the higher studies because they already had some experience). So it's really a matter of knowing what you want and going for it, whether or not you have the degree.

Translation is a relatively new degree, anyway. I got my qualifications because I was already working in a related job and wanted more training, and when I took those courses they were still not part of standard academic fare. Today it looks more cut-and-dried, but I believe the quest for maturity is still significant to the process. Whether or not we have the degree, it still seems that there is an age in which we start to "bloom" as translators (almost like being a judge), and which somehow relates to the richness of our life experiences that we did not have when we were fresh graduates.

It's this interaction between academic input and life at large that we have to keep in mind everytime we're tempted to ask for regulation or some kind of numerus clausus. It's for that same reason that Proz.com is an open community.


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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 01:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
combo works... Apr 14, 2007

Hi Elena,
I understand your concern about having or not having the proper credentials or training, and sometimes I wonder how long it takes before any of us think we're completely ready. In translation, in my experience, one is constantly coming across phrases and words which stop us in our confident tracks.
I can only offer my own case, which is something of a compromise. I have a background in academics (Ph.D in COmparative Lang. and Lit's), in which I did a lot of translating for myself and colleagues. This was a sort of trial by fire, and I learned by doing. When I left academics, I began to accept small jobs like documents, until I felt like I could handle something longer and more challenging. Good client feedback is a good way to measure when you're ready.
Honestly, after several years freelancing I thought "maybe I really do need formal translation training", and enrolled in an advanced course at a very good university. This was a bit of a waste, because a) it was too easy, and b) I spent most of my time finding mistakes in the course literature....
So- training is important as long as it truly helps you to forward your career and interest. CAT training comes to mind.
In the end, you are only as prepared as the risks you are willing to take, and the effort to learn which you are ready to put into to your work. Did that dreadfully awkward sentence make sense? I hope so. Good luck!


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 08:02
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Translation studies and practice Apr 15, 2007

There is a big gap between the stuff they probably teach you and what you will do when you work for real customers.
More important than getting a grip on translation theory is to learn some special field well and practice it and at the same time polish your knowlegde of your native language regarding this field and in general.
And much depends on your language combination. With major languages like German/French/Spanish into English and vice versa you'll find it difficult to get well-paid jobs if you are not specialised. With rare languages you'll have to "specialise" almost every time a customer contacts you, because there are no real specialists or they are difficult to find and really expensive.
Regards
Heinrich


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Hilary Davies Shelby
United States
Local time: 00:02
German to English
My experience Apr 15, 2007

Hello Elena!

I did a translation degree, and then took an in-house translation job for a software company. Although I didn't appreciate it then (I wasn't intending to become a translator - I wanted to interpret - and I was bored to tears with the monotony of the in-house work), both of these have since proved invaluable to me in my freelance work.

When I did my degree (10 years ago now!), we didn't get training in things like CAT tools, etc - I'm not sure if they provide that now. Looking back, that would have been very useful, as would some business classes for those considering setting up on their own as freelancers. If your degree offer these options, they would be very useful classes to take!

Having said that, however, I also found my translation theory classes very interesting and useful, and now that I am a freelancer, I find I use certain techniques every single day in my work.

My in-house translation job trained me in the use of CAT tools and gave me my specialisation - software. This can be quite a well-paid area of translation, which is also something that is worth considering when choosing a specialisation! (Literary translation, for example, is a lot of fun to do, but (in my experience anyway!), tends to be at the lower end of the pay scale).

Armed with my degree, my CAT tools training and my specialisation from my in-house work, I have found no problem getting work. I have also found that once you have your techniques and skills in place, you can apply them to any subject you have a little knowledge of, without having to have a degree or training in it! If you like gardening, for example, you can translate gardening texts. I'm interested in alternative medicine, so I bid for jobs on that subject too, and with each job I learn a little more terminology and a little more about the subject. As you progress in your career, you'll add many different "specialisations" - it can be very interesting and rewarding!

I hope this helps - good luck!

Hilary.


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Lena P J
United States
Local time: 00:02
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I appreciate your help! Apr 15, 2007

Once again, thanks to all of you who took time and effort to help me with this question. As a beginner, I'm a little confused, but your replies really encourage me to pursue this career path! THANK YOU!

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Elizabeth Joana
German to English
+ ...
The sooner you start the better Apr 17, 2007

I have got MA in translation studies and when I graduated I thought it meant something, but it didn't:) There are so many graduates now that you need to find your special field and follow post graduate courses to make yourself visible. All the courses I completed taught me something, but experience is the most valuable thing, so the sooner you start, the better. Maybe it sounds unfair, but translation agencies and customers are not impressed by diplomas, but rather experience, so if you have some samples and credentials alongside your diploma you will find it much easier to get started. I am sure there is a field which you are keen on, go for it, start with whatever, even volunteering.

I would also like to ask others how they feel about being tested. I have got a good CV and years of experience, but it seems the agencies disregard it completely, becuase they still want to test me in the same way as fresh graduates. Sometimes I find it really frustrating, especially when they send me long tests and then take ages to answer. Or they approve me for their list, but then send me few texts. Do you think completing those tests is a waste of time? I wish I could co-operate with more agencies, but those tests are really time-consuming, especially that we need to do them for free...


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