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Off topic: Self-educated: Do I actually qualify to be a translator?
Thread poster: Raestloz

Raestloz
Indonesia
Local time: 19:10
English to Indonesian
Aug 8, 2010

I've just registered my account in Proz yesterday. At first, I was so excited; you know, getting jobs and all that, but then I saw other translators and began to question myself: Do I actually qualify to become one of them?

Here's the deal: I'm not formally educated in English, nor have I taken a course in English extensively. I did took English course, twice in fact, once when I was a 3rd grader (and I quit about... after 2 years) and once again when I was in junior highschool (and quit because I was the 1st ranker in my class for 3 consecutive times)

The problem being that mostly I educate myself in English, not with books or audio cassette, but simply by memorizing sentences that I read and replicate the patterns, following what others did. For example, I don't actually know why I should put the past form of a verb after 'was' or 'were' but I know it doesn't feel right if I use other forms because all sentences that I read use past form after 'was' or 'were'

To put it in an easier perspective I don't know why should I do it that way, I simply follow the way others do it

Because of this I'm quite prone to grammar or punctuation mistakes (not major as in it destroys the meaning, but nevertheless not professional-like) and - the worst part - I don't have anything to put in my resume

I've seen others either boasting their education (took English for their college) and/or work experience (a translator for officials or something like that) while I, being a 19 years old man, have nothing like that: I'm young, uneducated, and inexperienced

Personally I'm quite proud of my English; I no longer have to study for English tests to achieve flying colors and I've translated my share of texts to test my skills, but I'm a bit worried: can a self-educated person like me call myself a professional?


 

Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:10
English to Spanish
+ ...
More Education Aug 8, 2010

After all, you're only 19, and you do need some further polishing, so keep going to school. By the time you finish a college degree then you can start thinking about calling yourself a professional.

You don't seem to be unwilling to make the effort. Pay your dues and you'll reap the benefits.


 

Inga Petkelyte  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 13:10
Lithuanian to Portuguese
+ ...
Put the question another way Aug 8, 2010

Dear Raestloz,

It was very nice to read your post. And please be welcome to our communityicon_smile.gif

You say: I'm young, uneducated, and inexperienced.
I say: you are young, enthusiastic and keen. And you've got a feeling of the language.

Grammar is essential, that's true, but the feeling is just crucial. Where you feel your grammar is failing you always have a chance to learn more and to improve that. So no problem here.

No CV ? So what ?? No one comes to this world with a nice portfolio of achievements; that's collected on the way. And you are just starting ! I would only advise not to expect too many jobs from this site, or at least not well paid jobs. Maybe I am wrong, but that's my experience. I stopped bidding for jobs here several years ago and instead, I dedicate that time to direct marketing. Pays off much better, at least in my case while other translators might have different opinions.

Now about calling yourself a professional translator. I wonder sometimes what exactly is to be a professional translator ? To have a degree in linguistics and no clue about any field of expertise ? A pity you can't (I presume, but sorry if I'm mistaken) read Russian; there's a great thread of translation "pearls" produced by professionalsicon_biggrin.gif

Thus, I would suggest asking yourself not whether you can call yourself a professional translator (at least at this point) but whether you can deliver a quality service.

And I have a feeling you can. Good luck.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:10
Member (2008)
Italian to English
What you should do Aug 8, 2010

Raestloz wrote:

Do I actually qualify ?



You will note that my language pair only says "Italian to English". I lived and worked in Italy for 25 years, took my degree from an Italian university, etc etc. All the things that a person can experience in 25 years, I experienced, in Italian. I am perfectly fluent in written and spoken Italian.

But I would never offer myself as a translator from English into Italian. That's because I know after 25 years that I could not do it without making mistakes. After 25 years you come to understand that languages are full of nuances that can escape you if you're not careful.

The fact that you say you are " proud " of your English means that it is not wholly natural to you. A truly fluent English speaker is not "proud" of understanding English. They just understand it.

I would therefore advise you to only translate into your native language (i.e. not into English); I would advise you to change your language pair from

"English to Indonesian
Indonesian to English"

to

"English to Indonesian" .

You'll find your work a lot easier and your translations will be more credible.

[Edited at 2010-08-08 18:01 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-08-08 19:19 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:10
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You've answered your own question Aug 8, 2010

Raestloz wrote:
I'm quite prone to grammar or punctuation mistakes (not major as in it destroys the meaning, but nevertheless not professional-like)


Clearly you cannot claim to be able to translate into English. You can only do that if you have native or native-equivalent skills.

Personally I'm quite proud of my English; I no longer have to study for English tests to achieve flying colors and I've translated my share of texts to test my skills, but I'm a bit worried: can a self-educated person like me call myself a professional?


You are right to be proud of your English. Although there are errors in your post and in your CV you clearly have a good grasp of English, certainly good enough to be a source language. This does NOT mean you are a good translator though - translation is a skill that does not depend solely on competence in two languages.

Some people come into translation later in life when they have great experience in their specialist areas. Some never do any formal translation training yet work very professionally. You, however, are coming into the industry with nothing, not even formal translation training. Surely it would be worth your while studying, wouldn't it?


 

Adam Łobatiuk  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 14:10
Member (2009)
English to Polish
+ ...
Study your mother tongue and... something else Aug 8, 2010

I graduated from a decent secondary school and 2 linguistic university departments, and still had to learn a lot about correct Polish usage. Knowing the rules of your own language, including punctuation and style, is as important as your knowledge of foreign languages. It is important in itself to anyone who is into linguistic work, but correct usage is also an important criterion for assessing your work. As a reviewer I've seen many decent translations that failed due to missing commas, for example.
Also, you need to be familiar with the topics you translate, so practical experience and/or formal education in another field would be a plus if not a necessity.


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 19:10
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
I started translation at 16 years old Aug 9, 2010

Adam Łobatiuk wrote:
I graduated from a decent secondary school and 2 linguistic university departments, and still had to learn a lot about correct Polish usage. Knowing the rules of your own language, including punctuation and style, is as important as your knowledge of foreign languages. It is important in itself to anyone who is into linguistic work, but correct usage is also an important criterion for assessing your work.

I started translation service at too young age and it was unsuccessful. But that was my good starting point. I did EN>TH of a bible lesson for a local church. A senior told me to improve my writing styles and I was acceptable for translation on the second job. Of course, that job was a charity.

Go ahead with your dream, Adam!/br>
Best regards,

Soonthon L.


 

Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 15:10
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Look at the market too Aug 9, 2010

In addition to what has been said in this thread I would point out that you should have a good look at the market situation in your language pair EN-Indonesian (is there a language Indonesian?) and decide if it is worth while to dream of a career as translator. I would guess you could make a better living if you invest your time in science, engineering or medicine etc. Because most educated people in your area study English the demand for translations would be limited, and MT is advancing all the time. Who knows where this profession is heading to on a global scale.

[Bearbeitet am 2010-08-09 11:21 GMT]


 

Sawal  Identity Verified
Senegal
Local time: 12:10
English to French
Please continue your education Aug 9, 2010

Hi Raestloz,

I am very happy to see that you are enthusiastic about translation. However as a lot of people said here, you cannot consider yourself as a professional yet. For several reasons.

You need to master more your mother tongue and there is no such a thing as translator that can translate everything.

My advice then, is to go to college and have a degree in a field where you can qualify to work. In the same tie you can continue to improve your mother tongue and your english and even do some translations for some people. After your degree, you will know the vocabulary of your field and be specialized for translation in that field.

By the time then, you will have a lot of experience in translation and acquired a degree you can work with if things don't turn well with translation...


 

Carla Catolino
Italy
Local time: 14:10
Member (2008)
Italian to English
+ ...
Like always.... Aug 9, 2010

Tom in London wrote:

You will note that my language pair only says "Italian to English". I lived and worked in Italy for 25 years, took my degree from an Italian university, etc etc. All the things that a person can experience in 25 years, I experienced, in Italian. I am perfectly fluent in written and spoken Italian.

But I would never offer myself as a translator from English into Italian. That's because I know after 25 years that I could not do it without making mistakes. After 25 years you come to understand that languages are full of nuances that can escape you if you're not careful.


I agree full heartedly with what Tom in London has to say!!!!

I am fluent in Italian as I was brought up in Canada speaking Italian at home! Then I took some Italian courses in University to "polish" my grammar and I have been living in Italy for many years! I can proudly say that I am bilingual. I read, write and speak Italian but like Tom, I would never translate from English to Italian.


 

Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:10
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Uhm... Aug 9, 2010

Tom in London wrote:

I would therefore advise you to only translate into your native language (i.e. not into English); I would advise you to change your language pair from

"English to Indonesian
Indonesian to English"

to

"English to Indonesian" .


Good advice to START with - it's always reinforcing to reap success in one's initial efforts, and hence, direct translation (into one's mother language) has an advantage. But here's another market reality: who's going to do the "Indonesian (Bahasa?) to English" bit over the long term?

For rare combinations (we can't fight statistics), it is also standard practice to have the work from a non-native checked by a native in target against the reading of a native in source.


 

Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 19:10
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Local features come out of the native of source language Aug 10, 2010

Parrot wrote:
For rare combinations (we can't fight statistics), it is also standard practice to have the work from a non-native checked by a native in target against the reading of a native in source.

Agree. I translated many public certificates into English, Japanese, French e.g. birth certificate, driver license, school transcripts, military reports. They are typical examples; these are better done by the native of source language who know local laws, standards, conventions, regulations etc. the foreigner may not know from Internet search or dictionaries. [I reviewed many translations of non-natives of source language and see that those conventions may not be mastered unless spent much time in our local school etc.]

Best regards,
Soonthon L.


 

Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:10
Flemish to English
+ ...
Why not. Aug 10, 2010

[quote]Carla Catolino wrote:


Tom in London wrote:


I agree full heartedly with what Tom in London has to say!!!!

I am fluent in Italian as I was brought up in Canada speaking Italian at home! Then I took some Italian courses in University to "polish" my grammar and I have been living in Italy for many years! I can proudly say that I am bilingual. I read, write and speak Italian but like Tom, I would never translate from English to Italian.



Why not?


 

Alexandra Goldburt
Local time: 05:10
English to Russian
+ ...
Self-education is great, but... Aug 11, 2010

I'm a big believer in self-education. In fact, fanatical about it.

There is a book called "I Learn Better by Teaching Myself", by Agnes Leistico. The name of this book summarizes my life philosophy. All I know that is of any importance I have taught myself. This includes all languages I learned as an adult (and I'm still learning).

I'm a homeschooling mother, an eternal autodidact, and if and when I go to school, I approach school differently. I do not passively expect the teacher to tell me what to do, but rather see the school as simply another resource, something like the library. Last time I went to an interpreting school, instead of taking all "recommended" courses, I took only one course (I had to convince them to allow me to take the course I selected without a pre-requisite), asked the teacher a lot of questions, and then continued studying on my own.

Having said all this, I wish to add: to teach yourself without going to school is a great idea and deserves a lot of respect. Not to study any grammar, however, is a mistake.

Audiotapes, grammar books and, lately, interactive websites where you can do grammar exercise on line and get an instant feed-back were and still are an important part of my self-education. I would strongly recommend that you add grammar study to what you are currently doing (which is a good method of leaning a language) - study grammar in addition to what you have been doing, not instead of it.

As to the strict rule "into your native tongue only, no exceptions, ever" - well, we had several rather heated discussions about this rule here on ProZ. I was among the minority with a dissenting opinion. I'm afraid I'm opening a can of worms by bringing this up, but I am convinced that this rule is simply dogma, not proven by way of evidence (not proven beyond the reasonable doubt, at least).

However, before you defy the dogma and translate into English, I would strongly recommend to work on English grammar, and to work hard on it. You cannot rely on intuition alone - you need to know the rules.

Last word: consider interpreting in addition to translating. I don't know what is the market for interpreting in your country - this is something you can research locally. I am partial to interpreting, because this is something I do and love doing, but you might love it, too.

Good luck to you.


 

Dmitri Lyutenko  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 15:10
English to Russian
+ ...
It's a post with better answer Aug 11, 2010

Tom in London wrote:

After 25 years you come to understand that languages are full of nuances that can escape you if you're not careful.

The fact that you say you are " proud " of your English means that it is not wholly natural to you. A truly fluent English speaker is not "proud" of understanding English. They just understand it.


Tom, I extremely agree with you! You are quite right!

I have been studying and self educating English at least 20 years (almost a half of my life), but I will never say: "I know English well". There are a thousands of nuances and subtleties. English is a most complex language.


 
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