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First steps into translation world
Thread poster: Soledad Azcona

Soledad Azcona  Identity Verified
English to Spanish
+ ...
Sep 12, 2007

Hi there!

Today talking with Kaltya about how confusing might the situation turn when one is attempting the first steps in this profession, I remembered something I read when I was a student. It was a paragraph by Lanna Castellano quoted by Mona Baker in her book "In other words". I found it again, and I would like to share it with you:

"Our profession is based on knowledge and experience. It has the longest apprenticeship of any profession. Not until thirty do you start to be useful as a translator, not until fifty do you start to be in your prime.
The first stage of the career pyramid –the apprenticeship stage– is the time we devote to investing in ourselves by acquiring knowledge and experience of life. Let me propose a life path: grandparents of different nationalities, a good school education in which you learn to read, write, spell, construe and love your own language. Then roam the world, make friends, see life. Go back to education, but to take a technical or commercial degree, not a language degree. Spend the rest of your twenties and your early thirties in the countries whose languages you speak, working in industry or commerce but not directly in languages. Never marry into your own nationality. Have your children. Then back to a postgraduate course. A staff job as a translator, and then go freelance. By which time you are forty and ready to begin."

I remember that when I read it I felt relieved in a way..."the clock doesn't have to tick so fast!" . Still, when one graduates or is about to graduate, it seems as if "the world" -parents, why not? - is expecting us to hit a job right if one could get a diploma one day and be working at the UN the next one!

I know this transition to professional life is very difficult in any career, but sometimes it seems as if in translation it were twice as difficult! In any case, how do you see it?


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Kaltya  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:23
English to Spanish
+ ...
How to starttttt? Sep 13, 2007

I have just finished my studies and I am taking serious the quote of Mona Baker. I may start podology next year in order to specialice in this area. In my family there doctors, lawyers, pilots... and then... me, "the black sheep", the translator who has not found a good job jet...

This year I have some projects to develope myself; e.g. taking seroius to get certificates of my English, Portuguese and German knowledge with the idea of improving them as much as I can. I have enrolled a course to get a diploma which allows me to became a secondary school teacher... and at present time I am fighting to get my driving licence.

I need to keep on learning because I feel kind of empty and I am ungry of knwoledge!!!!I am trying to help my friends translating them web pages or things like that... but unfortunately not very often...

On the other hand, I would like to start working as a freelancer... but the point is that I don't really know how. I guess I have the thought in my mind but I am too shy and afraid of face it.

Right now I would like to help people with voluntary trabslations but I may not offer my services to the right ones... so no work, no job, no nothing... Any ideas??????

Some day I will set up my own translation business... but that is gotta be later on...

So everybody, please let me know what do you thing about this matter!I will be waiting for your opinions


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Manuela Mariño Beltrán  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:23
French to Spanish
+ ...
Complexity Sep 14, 2007

Hello everyone,

I think that one has to have in mind that most of the translators have not studied translation at university... They have become translators by "accident". Most of them are people who speak at least two languages and who started to translate documents because they were the only person who could do that work (not everyone is bilingual or knows a second language). Afterwards they decide to dedicate their life to that, and they do it very well, because they perfectly manage the subject (as engineering, medecine, etc.). And by the way, not because you speak two languages you can be a translator...

Translation schools, at least the ones considered as "the best ones", do not accept people who have never been to university. At leat two years are mandatory in order to be able to be in those schools (and, by the way, that is not enough, as you have to pass a difficult exam to be accepted).

Having that in mind, it is obvious that becoming a translator is the job of a whole life. When you have decided to become a full-time translator, it means that you have taken a hard decision, as living exclusively doing that is really hard work.

First of all, there are so many people who say that they are translators that you have to try to get into the race, with the disadvantage that you are new in it. The problem is that people do not know you and it is difficult to prove that you are good in what you do (you are the first one who has to believe in that, otherwise you will never get anything).

Secondly, for getting into the race, you have to be able to adapt yourself. Maybe you want to translate literature or History, or whatever, because you love that, because you have studied that... But, if you manage to do that from the very start you really are a lucky guy (or girl). Because you will probably have to translate about ships, finance, car engines... And if you know nothing about that, well, you will have to roll up your sleeves and put your hands in it (meaning that you will have to search, ask and find the information somewhere)... And maybe, in the end, you will become an expert in engines, something you would have never imagined before!

The third problem we have to deal with, is the market. For me, it is the worst part. I have a very romantic idea about translating, and when it comes to talk about money it just makes me sick. The problem is that I have to eat, and all the things I have studied have cost me a life... and that counts. The problem is that you have to sell yourself, and try to prove that the price you are offering is fair... But you will find dozens of translators who will say that they can do the same job for less...

Well, having written this, I can only say: good luck pals!

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Laura Collins  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:23
Spanish to English
Wow, good news for me! Sep 28, 2007

Well, you have made may day by providing this quote. I have experienced a lot of life already, much of it in the way that you describe, and am now studying translation in my mid-forties. Yes, I am definitely feeling better now : )

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xxxDiana Haret
Local time: 10:23
Romanian to English
+ ...
So I am not the only one feeling this way!!! Hyu, what a relief! Feb 14, 2008

My name is Diana and I'm supposed to be a translator and interpreter in a paper factory. You are right, in my case the thing with "translator by accident" is true. I'm still a student, but I had the feeling that I should start to fend for myself and I took a chance going to a job market...just to amuse myself). I've found this translator job and I said to myself that this is what I was looking for because my highschool specialization was "philology" (under this pompous title there's nothing much but two foreign languages ). So here I am, a shy girl trying to play the translator in a world of engineers, mashines and other technical stuff. There's a paradoxal thing in this situation: I find that the most difficult part is when foreign visitors come. I love meeting them, talking about their lives, countries, but I'd just like to vanish when I have to translate during the meetings, the managers on one side and the foreign visitors on the other side . And, as if my lack of experience isn't enough, some business e-mails are simply terrifying: it's like learning another type of English) So thank you for your encouragements: that text about the art of translating has made me realize that I'm not alone, that this is the way things go and that I shouldn't have too high expectations of myself. I'd like to join your community, but I haven't managed yet to puzzle out this site. So, if you have any suggestion, I'd be glad to read your reply.
Thanks again and...bon courage! We are one of the chain rings that bind the world!

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Virginia Vigara Puerta
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:23
English to Spanish
+ ...
It is so hard to start, isn´t it? Mar 3, 2008

Hi everybody,

I am just new in the translation world and I am really excited about it!!!!

I am an English teacher in Spain, a Primary School teacher in the UK and now I am just in the middle of doing my Dip Trans Course.

I suppose I am just like anybody else who is starting in translation: a bit lost!! I think this web site is great for people like me, though!

I will keep my fingers crossed for every and anybody!

Good luck!:p


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Magdalena Brzózka
Local time: 09:23
Polish to English
+ ...
Belief and reality ;) Mar 11, 2008

I wanted to be a translator since I was 14. I thought then that when I finish my studies I will know what's next to do. But I don't. Everone asks me about my expierience... but how can I have one, if noone gives me any job to gain it on? the paradox of living huh But I shall not giveth up I keep on sending my CV to everyone in the range of my eyesight, someone will trust me eventually.
PS. there is a lot of truth in what Manuela Mariño Beltrán said about believing in yourself. I've lately mad a mistake of not arguing for my translation when I competed for a translation job. It was a mistake to think that the person who was checking me knows what I wanted to convey. I should've argued my point, but I didn't. I'll do that next time!
GL translatorZ!

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