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Self-taught translators
Thread poster: Marco Ramón

Marco Ramón  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:02
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...

MODERATOR
Oct 10, 2007

Anybody here is a self-taught translator?
A never ending study is needed, I presume. But is there someone willing to share her or his experience as a self-taught succesful translator? As opposed to those fortunate ones that owe their hability to schools.

It is a competitive business, and degrees mean a lot to clients I should think. But maybe there are some who managed to build themselves a reputation without degrees. Are they around?

[Editado a las 2007-10-10 18:26]


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Clare Barnes  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 11:02
Swedish to English
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What is it you need to know? Oct 10, 2007

I'm not sure, but I would guess that the majority of translators are "self-taught". Among my acquaintances those who are self-taught outnumber those who have studied by about 10 to 1. I count myself as successful and have never studied translation...

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xxxLatin_Hellas
United States
Local time: 11:02
Italian to English
+ ...
Can you specify, Oct 10, 2007

Marcos,

by degree to you mean specifically a language or a translation degree, or any kind of university degree? For example, though I have credentials in languages, my degrees- and experience - are in other disciplines which have determined what types of translations I do.

In any case, I don't see how anyone can do translations without having studied grammar, whether one has a language/translation degree or not. I have studied many grammars, both with the aid of schools and on my own, and have thoroughly enjoyed it.

Any examples to the contrary? Perhaps a person growing up bilingual with only grade-school level grammar in both languages and translates professionally?

In any case, I think experience, and delivering what is expected, means more to customers than anything else, but of course what is behind that experience certainly counts for a lot.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:02
English to Spanish
+ ...
I am Oct 10, 2007

...entirely self-taught (autodidacta).

I do have a university education, but opportunities degrees in translation were almost non-existent in my day and are not too plentiful now.

I also consider that I have been quite successful, and one thing that helps me a lot is U.S. Federal Court Certification, which was by examination. That was the result of the self-teaching process. I also consider that I have been quite successful.

You don't learn it in school anyway, you learn by doing. A degree is just a start so you can hold your head above water. Plus, when I started I was totally bilingual and well-balanced in both languages, and it is apparent that many people try to translate without ever getting to that point.

As far as sharing my experience, I could write a book on that...


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Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:02
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Practice Oct 10, 2007

Clare Barnes wrote:

I'm not sure, but I would guess that the majority of translators are "self-taught". ..


I agree. I am a self-taught translator too and many other translators I know too. Practice rather than theories are the best way to improve translations


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:02
German to English
Ability... Oct 10, 2007

Marco Ramón wrote:
is there someone willing to share her or his experience as a self-taught succesful translator? As opposed to those fortunate ones that owe their hability to schools.


...can't be taught. You either have it or you don't, and no amount of undergraduate or postgraduate translation courses will make you a good translator if you don't have an innate ability to just do it. At most, courses can teach you techniques and allow you to practice translating without jeopardising the rest of humanity

It is a competitive business, and degrees mean a lot to clients I should think.


Degrees are generally considered to be an important element of the translator profile (because most degree courses will teach people a structured approach to analysing and solving issues), but not necessarily translation degrees. Clients (and professional associations) that equate a translation degree with X years of experience, for example, are intellectually lazy and merely seek to perpetuate an institutional myth (that people with translation degrees are somehow "better" than those without them).

But maybe there are some who managed to build themselves a reputation without degrees. Are they around?


Let me assure you that a majority of the very best, top-flight, first division, world-class translators don't have translation degrees. You won't meet many of them in ProZ, though.

Robin


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Marco Ramón  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:02
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...

MODERATOR
TOPIC STARTER
How about all of the above Oct 10, 2007

I was thinking on someone that started by learning the target(s) language(s) by him/herself.


bale002 wrote:

by degree to you mean specifically a language or a translation degree, or any kind of university degree? For example, though I have credentials in languages, my degrees- and experience - are in other disciplines which have determined what types of translations I do.


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Clare Barnes  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 11:02
Swedish to English
+ ...
Can of worms... Oct 10, 2007

My target language is my native language, so how I learned that is the subject of a great many theories and debates...

As for learning my primary source language - immersion (by moving to the country) but no formal lessons. It's probably not the recommended route, but it's worked well for me - so I have to disagree slightly with a previous poster re the grammar issue. When I was growing up in the UK, English grammar wasn't taught at school, and I have never "studied" the grammar of my source languages. I like to think I have a reasonable grasp of it though (personally, I have found that reading, reading and more reading is one of the best ways of absorbing a language's grammar). I have learnt the theories behind English grammar through having to teach them to non-native speakers - people who won't accept the "it just is that way" kind of explanation.

I have a non-translation degree and obtained my translation credentials and memberships after I became established and "successful" - I don't see the memberships and translation qualifications as essential for my own development, but they help me to choose my customers, projects and prices.


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Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 05:02
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yup, that would be me! Oct 10, 2007

I learned Spanish (my 4th language) by complete immersion, when I lived in Argentina the first time ( we went back and forth for many years). I must qualify this by saying that I have a facility for languages, was living with my in-laws who speak NO English, and already spoke French, so Spanish was not too far a stretch.
If you are wondering about how well I learned it, I can say- well enough that within 2 years of my first contact I was presenting in Spanish at literature conferences at Latin American universities (Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Guatemala), and a year later finished my Ph.D. thesis, which was written mostly in Spanish, and defended in Spanish.
Having said that, even after teaching literary criticism and cultural studies in Spanish for a few years, I spent a lot of time practicing my translation skills on colleagues before I put myself on the market (that sounds a bit sketchy...).


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Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:02
Spanish to English
Self-taught Oct 10, 2007

Marco Ramón wrote:

I was thinking on someone that started by learning the target(s) language(s) by him/herself.


Any translator who translates into their native language learnt their target language "by themselves".

As has already been said, probably most translators are self-taught. I had the good fortune of a fellow translator, also self-taught, who always pointed out where my mistakes were while encouraging me at the same time.

And yes I am mostly "self-taught" in my source language, if I discount all the extremely patient friends I had at the time.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:02
Member (2007)
English
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Depends what you mean by 'learning' Oct 10, 2007

Marco Ramón wrote:

I was thinking on someone that started by learning the target(s) language(s) by him/herself.




I, too, have no real translating qualifications, although I did do a correspondence course to get a bit of an idea of the job and above all to give myself just a little bit of self-confidence.

What worries me a little, Marco, is your reference to learning the target language. My belief is that your target language should have been absorbed at an early age, either from parents or from living in a country where the language is spoken. I settled in France 12 years ago after nigh-on 30 years' formal+informal study of the language, and I'm still struggling to be really fluent, let alone bilingual. On the other hand, like Clare Barnes, I only recently started studying English grammar, so that I could justify to my students why I say "wrong" to them.

If it's a foreign language to you, whether you've learned it formally or informally, it can only be considered a source language, not a target.


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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:02
Spanish to English
+ ...
Target vs. source Oct 10, 2007

Marco Ramón wrote:
I was thinking on someone that started by learning the target(s) language(s) by him/herself.


You meant "source language," didn't you?


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Rui de Carvalho  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 10:02
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Any real translator is self-taught... Oct 10, 2007

... and it seems we still can count a nice bunch of them taking a look at this post. Learning translation is like preparing a good food: you need time and application and, above all, never passing near a cooking school. As I said recently also in a post, translation is not different from any other activity - those who know how to translate, do translation work; those who never heard about translation work, simply teach translation. But those schools produce now a lot of people. As most that people is unable to do any translation, it was necessary to search for an occupation for them. There's were a bunch of iluminated ISO boys came up with a standard to put young people, without any knowledge of either languages or any domain, revising (the so-called proofreading) translation often done by seasoned, experienced translators.
The positive side is we have plenty opportunities to laugh. I bought recently a tractor for my estate and had a splendid laughing day reading the Portuguese version of the manual before downloading the English original.


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Marco Ramón  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:02
Member (2007)
English to Spanish
+ ...

MODERATOR
TOPIC STARTER
All of you could teach... Oct 10, 2007

...translation subjects. If you were not so busy making money translating. And here and there (in the thread) I confirm my suspicions. All of you love words, and you love to convey the right meaning. Thanks for your openness.

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tontan  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:02
Vietnamese to English
+ ...
building a reputation without degrees Oct 10, 2007

Marco Ramón wrote:

Anybody here is a self-taught translator?
A never ending study is needed, I presume. But is there someone willing to share her or his experience as a self-taught succesful translator? As opposed to those fortunate ones that owe their hability to schools.

It is a competitive business, and degrees mean a lot to clients I should think. But maybe there are some who managed to build themselves a reputation without degrees. Are they around?

[Editado a las 2007-10-10 18:26]


Well, I guess I have what you said "a reputation without degrees". Some 23 years ago, somebody came to me with an English immigration form and asked me to translate it in Vietnamese for him. I did and by that , started a career in translation (English, French, Vietnamese) without having any degrees in translation. In my circle, I am now known to be an expert in legal, investment and banking translation. There were documents that you have to make trilingual (English-French-Vietnamese) i.e., translating the source language in the two other ones to make them trilingual. Guess it takes hard, hard work, constant strive for learning and excellence and some liking for languages to make it.


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