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Getting started as a young linguist.
Thread poster: Simon Dean

Simon Dean  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jan 8, 2010

Hey all!

I have been trying my best lately to get some sort of experience for Translating, as I am still quite young compared to most of you (I think!) and no one will look at me twice. I have been sending e-mails and ringing agencies and charities up for weeks now, simply for a weeeeny bit of experience that I could gain, and offer my services as a volunteering translator.

Now I know it sounds strange but I haven't been to university yet. Not finished my A-levels until august, but I really want to get the band-wagon rolling. I was wondering if anyone could give me any pointers, e.g C.V tips on how to highlight and show off my language skills, some 'tricks-of-the-trade' from all you professionals out there, or maybe even some anecdotes on how you started out. I'm finding it difficult!

Thanks very much everyone,

Simon.


 

Katia Perry  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 15:26
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Welcome Simon! Jan 8, 2010

Hi,
it´s not easy to get clients at once, really.
But I saw that English is your mother tongue. So, why do not start translating into English? Maybe, it will be easier to get jobs.
Also, have a look at http://www.proz.com/forum/getting_established/154220-how_to_become_a_translator.html. There you'll find some advice on getting established.
Good luck!
Katia


 

Susanna Garcia  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:26
Italian to English
+ ...
young linguist Jan 8, 2010

Hi Simon,

We'll need a little more information to be able to help you - what is your first language, what ALs are you studying, your linguistic background? Do you have any language GCSEs/AS and at what grade?
There is information here on the forum on getting started but I don't think it is currently appropriate to your situation.
I'm not sure if you're also looking for paid work, in which case it is highly unlikely you will find any. The agencies I work with would want a degree, at the very leaast, if not a post-grad qualification. Even voluntary organisations will want a professional piece of work.
Your enthusiasm is great - don't lose it but you have a way to go yet.


 

British Diana
Germany
Local time: 20:26
German to English
+ ...
are you qualified to translate? - the brain surgeon analogy Jan 8, 2010

Without being too much of a wet blanket, I must ask you whether you are qualified to translate or rather, what makes you think you are?

On the German forum there was a thread recently where a young German native lady posted that she wanted to get work as a translator in the GE-EN pair because "she always got good very good marks in her A-level equivalent exams and was keen on English and on writing generally". At least, that's how I remember it.
Well, the ProZ professionals came down on her like a ton of bricks! One even said why didn't she try and get work as a brain surgeon - surely she was qualified enough from studying Biology at school. This sarcastic comment was aimed at showing that there is much more to translating than being good at foreign languages at the school level (rarely above B2 on the GERR scale).

Even if you personally happen to be bilingual, this does not necessarily mean that your written prowess in both languages is at a high enough level. In addition, most translation work is of a technical nature, so you would need detailed knowledge in one or more fields such as Law, Medicine, Engineering, etc.

Get yourself to a good university and take a demanding course leading to a respected degree in translation, spend at least a year in the country where your target language is the vernacular and then you can start your career with flying colours!


 

Jocelyne S  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 20:26
French to English
+ ...
Contact ITI Jan 8, 2010

Dear Simon,

Welcome to Proz.com and good luck getting acquainted with the site.

I believe that there is a "student" forum on Proz.com, which is likely a good place to get started and to meet other translators-in-the-making.

You mention finishing your A-Levels next summer. Have you decided on a university course? I'm fairly sure that, as Susanna mentioned, you're going to need at least one degree (and/or bilingual experience in a specialty field) before you start finding paid work from serious clients.

Why don't you contact ITI (the Institute of Translation and Interpreting), the professional translators' association in the UK. They organise seminars, print bulletins and are quite surely an excellent bet for top-notch advice. I imagine that there is a student branch, too.

Good luck!
Jocelyne


 

Monika Elisabeth Sieger  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Recommendation Jan 8, 2010

I saw that your native language is English. Normally, as a translator you translate in your own mother tongue as you feel more confident in regard to style, cultural differences etc.
When I started as a translator I usually translated into German/Austrian /Swiss German. As I now live and work in England and having studied two postgraduate law degrees plus my current studies for a MA in Legal Translation I feel confident enough to translate into English as well. But this is required for German translators anyway as the German market wants you to translate into both languages.

I think all the others are right: we would need more information about your educational background, i.e. CV to give you more information and help.
You seem quite young. Have you thought of translating for a school project? Your language teachers might be helpful or have you thought of taking on some voluntary courses for translation?
When I started I was a law professional with working experience at the courts and in charities as an advocate in England. And I only translated law and law related documents for the courts in Germany, law practices and medical reports for legal use to name some.
But this was all related to my professional experience and knowledge.
The business is quite hard and to find clients without an agency is quite demanding if not almost impossible especially if you have no translation related experience or education.
Although I have translated for years I have to admit that even in my second year for my MA in Legal Translation I learn new methods of translation every day!
I do not want to put you off but I really want to warn you with my best intentions for you and your future: Think hard of becoming a translator. The business is very hard and to get a foot into the business is very demanding. There are too many specialists with a lot more working experience than me out there and I am now working as a translator for 15 years.

What else? Nowadays, translation means more and more specialisation on one or two subjects or fields of expertise. This means some professional background and intense studies are required on a subject such as law, finances or technical subjects as the terminology is very much specialised in each subject.
And even if you are very good in day-to-day communication you will experience a lot of difficulties when trying to 'transport' a certain register and tone within the same style to your target reader. And this means that you have to be absolutely certain and professionally trained in your working field.
Although I love to read literature I never would dare to translate a poem or a novel.


 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
Flemish to English
+ ...
Do you really want to become a translator. Jan 8, 2010

Gee, I know a bit about aviation, because I worked at an airline and enjoyed a perk of "riding in the cockpit" (almost 14 years ago). I even learnt how to ignite the turbo-engines of an MD11 by watching the pilots do it. That is, I know where the buttons are to ignite them. So, why don't I fly an MD11 and why won't you be my passenger?

Now seriously, get a decent business or other career-oriented education with an Erasmus-exchange programme in another E.U.-country to practise your languages. In your case, instead of in English the courses of your university curriculum will be say in French or Spanish (universidad de Salamanca?) and at your alma mater the marks you obtain will be valid for credits towards a degree.

In this world, it is not about "love" of language, but all about the money: pounds, euros, dollars.

To give you an idea:
Except at international institutions, where there are thousands of candidates, translation will pay you £20000-£max 30000 for an in-house job with no career-ladder at all.
A person working in the City makes three times as much. However, to get there and/or in other financial centres, a linguists degree is a disadvantage and make eyebrows raise and smiles appear on faces.

Take a while, sit down when you have finished your studies and ask yourself if translation is what you want to do for the rest of your days, given the fact that technology (machine-translation, computer aided translation and robotics) will evolve and that by the time you are 35, the task of the translator will consist in rewriting texts, churned out by machine translation or robots.

By that age: How much do you want to earn and what will you do to get that kind of money?

Ever heard of semantics, syntax, interpunction, register of language?? You might start by looking into that?




[Edited at 2010-01-08 16:48 GMT]


 

Simon Dean  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Taking on your advice... Jan 8, 2010

Thank you all very much! Such helpful and nice people here. (That really wasn't sarcasm, by the way.)

I'm not really looking for paid work. I know that no one would hire me if I begged them, I'm still only 17. Many thanks for that link, Perry. I shall digest it shortly!icon_razz.gif

Susanna;

My mother tongue is indeed English. For my A-levels, I am studying French, Spanish and Physics. I received Bs for them in GSCE, (Bar Physics, which I received an A as well as my other sciences) and for my first module in AS physics I received an A - I'm resitting my other AS modules. I took my A-level work experience placement in a Translation Agency. I am currently waiting for a reply asking them if they could give me advice too, but I had a chance to look at how they choose which translators to send their work to, and all of the time they had degree-level or post-graduate qualifications in languages. It's just a case of getting some sort of experience and a taste of what being a translator would actually be like. It's so exciting!

Diana;

Many thanks for those sobering thoughts. Being down to earth is something I really need to do now and again. Rather than being qualified, I think that it's best to get some sort of experience along with qualifications, as I like to think of someone hiring me and not my C.V - in the real world it probably is completely opposite! I am, however, planning on going to Newcastle University to study French and Spanish, if I get in that is! It does have a very good reputation for its language facilities, and I can't wait for my year abroad!

Jocelyne;

Like I mentioned before, I do hope I can go to university. I'm trying my best here, but with my school being shut last week I have hardly been able to see my teachers for last-minute revision. (Exams are next week! Argh!) But thanks for that recommendation there, I shall surely get in touch with the ITI!

Sivara;

Oh, my bad. Thanks for that, I didn't realise you had to translate into your mother tongue, although it does make sense. For the school project idea, it is a good thought, although I am relatively stuck on that one. I wouldn't know where to begin. I go to another school for French as my school didn't cater for it, and I am the only one in my Spanish class. However I am doing a university-style dissertation thing called an Extended Project (from AQA) which is based on the rise of Sarkozy. I would very much appreciate it if you could give me some clues as to where to find these voluntary courses for translation, as I have been searching the net for weeks! However I do find it daunting about the fields of specialistion. Being a 'techy' child, I know more than the average about computers, however I know lots and lots about Physics. I don't suppose I could have a specialised field for Physics?

Wow, that was hard work! Haha, thanks everybody! Hope to hear from you soon,

Simon.


 

Simon Dean  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Sorry Williamson! Jan 8, 2010

Sorry Williamson, I do apologise. I didn't see your reply and by the time I posted my reply before, yours had already been approved.

It is a bit late for me to move in another direction in education. I'm finishing A-levels this Summer, and I cannot do another two years in school for a thing that I wouldn't be interested in doing.

I do love languages, and I do believe - however naïve I might be - that liking what you do plays a major part in how well you do it. I might just be old fashioned there, though.

And to answer your final question, I have heard of syntax....icon_razz.gif


 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Compliment Jan 8, 2010

You write well in English, interestingly, grammatically and with correct spelling. This is not true of all native English speakers planning to go to university, so that's at least one thing in your favour!

 

Simon Dean  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Many thanks to Jack Jan 8, 2010

Hi Jack!

Thank you for those words there. I find myself constantly screaming 'where's the apostrophe?!' at the computer screen when I log onto Facebook or somesuch. I believe if you're going to write or type, then do it properly!icon_razz.gif


 

Amy Duncan (X)  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 15:26
Portuguese to English
+ ...
I don't have a university degree Jan 8, 2010

Simon, don't be discouraged by the comments that you have to have a degree to be a translator. I am living proof that you don't. If you can't get one for some reason, just forge ahead and keep looking for opportunities. You seem smart and talented and there's no reason why you can't succeed. Oh, by the way, I was also a journalist for a major international newspaper for 12 years without a degree and I had never even taken a journalism course.

 

Simon Dean  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
Spanish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Then there is hope yet! Jan 8, 2010

Thanks very much Amy. There still is hope for me yet! The reason I am beginning now is if I don't get into University, I want a head start on other people in the same situation as myself. Taking another four years of education, at degree level too, is very daunting. I want to do it, but it's if I CAN do it that's in question.

So, again, many thanks!icon_smile.gif


 

Claire Cox
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:26
French to English
+ ...
More education! Jan 8, 2010

Hi Simon,

I have a son who's in exactly the same position as you, doing his A'levels (please let the snow abate by next week then he can do his exams!) in French and Spanish amongst others and hoping to go to Bath or Surrey to study French and Spanish. He got A* in his GCSEs and is (fingers crossed) on course for A* in his A's too, but he would be the first to admit that he's nowhere near up to translating professionally or even on a volunteer basis. There's a huge way to go between what you need to know for A'level and what you'll learn at university and particularly on your year abroad. I wouldn't rush it - there'll be plenty of scope for translating at university, although I was slightly surprised that you'd chosen a traditional course as opposed to one of the more applied courses which tend to specialise in translation and interpreting rather than literature. Not that it matters in the long run, as you can always do an MA in translation if you want to, but if you know now that you want to translate, it might be better to specialise as soon as possible...

All the best with your exams next week and with your future career, whatever you end up doing!

Claire


 

British Diana
Germany
Local time: 20:26
German to English
+ ...
translating is about loving correctness Jan 8, 2010

Dear Simon,

You are obviously able to bear being knocked about a bit, so I am taking the liberty of correcting your latest posting. If this had been a translation into English and I had had to copy-edit it, I would have found the following faults:

- Bar Physics - The preposition "bar" should have been written with a lower-case "b", as the phrase in brackets is not a sentence.
- it should be "in which" or "for which" I received an A.
- You should not repeat "received" , find a synonym instead!

- The following sentence does not make sense:
"I am currently waiting for a reply asking them if they could give me advice too, but I had a chance to look at how they choose which translators to send their work to."

The reply was not asking them: you mean you are waiting for a reply to a query you made, asking them...The linking word "but" is not used logically.

- and all of the time they had degree-level or post-graduate qualifications in languages.
The "they" here refers grammatically to the people in the agency. What I think you mean is that the translaters had the qualifications.. This is sloppy syntax.

Well, I could go on finding fault throughout your text, but I suspect you have got the message by now. Any finished translation must be in perfect English, nothing less than that will be acceptable for the client. (Just an example - I spelt this word wrongly recently on a ProZ KudoZ thread (I wrote: acceptible), and immediately several fellow-translators came down on me like a ton of bricks and pointed out the correct spelling! I was very ashamed to have made this mistake, and they were right to tell me off.

What I am getting at is this - if your dream is to spend your working life translating, you must worry about every word you write and get excited about every tiny improvement you can make to every text you work on - and you must ENJOY doing so into the bargain!

Now, after all this schoolmistressy bit, I have a constructive suggestion. Just to show what you can do, translate your Extended Essay into French and send it of to France, to a EU competition or a magazine for young people or something. I live in Germany and the pupils who specialise in a foreign language at our equivalent to A-levels have to write their EE entirely in the target language. So it is not an impossible task for a 17-year-old, and you would definitely start learning how to translate by doing it "on the job", which is what you say you want to do.

I wish you good luck and - keep up your enthusiasm !


[Edited at 2010-01-09 07:10 GMT]


 
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