Preparing for a career change: launching into translation from editing
Thread poster: Tiffany Hardy

Tiffany Hardy  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:22
Spanish to English
Oct 24, 2010

I'm poking my head in from behind the walls I have spent much time lurking behind to say hello, introduce myself and hopefully get some advice from some of the veterans in the translation world.

My name is Tiffany. I am currently employed with the European Commission as an in-house monolingual proofreader/editor, but I have a keen interest in transitioning into Spanish to English translation when my three-year temporary contract with the EC ends.

I read texts of a highly technical nature related to environmental protection in various industries (glass, textiles, iron and steel, etc.). I do not have a technical background or a background in the Environmental Sciences. (I have a B.A. in Humanities and an M.A. in Sociology ). Thus far this has not presented a problem, as my only task has been to verify that the texts are grammatically correct (they are written by non-natives), and the industry-specific jargon and technical details I leave to the large English-speaking technical working groups that review each document. As to the highly technical terminology that I have never seen before, my modus operandi has been to do Internet searches to verify that the terms indeed exist and are used in the sector and that they are spelled correctly (that is, the fact that I have never seen an 'electrostatic precipitator' and can now only vaguely describe what it is used for has not stopped me from proofreading thousands of pages about it). I'm concerned however that this may not be as easy when I transition into translation, in the hopes of specializing. Will my lack of technical knowledge and/or familiarity with the terminology in the source language prevent me from being able to tackle the translation of similar texts? Is it enough to simply have a passing familiarity with the terminology in the target language?

My other question is, how will my lack of experience as a translator but minor experience (3 years) as a proofreader/editor fare in helping me find work starting out?

My final question relates to training: I still have a good year left with my current contract, upon which I will be eligible for unemployment benefits for some time as well. This gives me a solid couple of years minimum to plan ahead and gather my bearings in this new field, complete any translation courses/certificate programs (online or here in Spain where I reside), learn any specific CAT tools, sit any certification exams, etc. before I attempt to approach any potential clients or agencies to collaborate with. In your opinion, what is the best way to make use of this time? If you could go back to the start of your career and had a couple of years to 'prep up', what would you do with your time?

Many thanks in advance for your replies and for all the valuable information you have already shared in the other helpful posts I have read in the forums.

[Edited at 2010-10-24 15:43 GMT]


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Andres Herraiz Martinez  Identity Verified

Local time: 01:22
Dutch to Spanish
+ ...
the three legged stool: certificates, experience, jobs/rates Oct 24, 2010

Hello Tiffany, my case is more or less opposed to yours: I enjoyed 30 years technical career at several multinationals (Ford, IBM, etc... ) but I lack the language study certificates (University degree, lets say). On the other hand, from what I am observing nowadays as new proffessional in translation (before I translated only vocationally on a volunteer basis) I am afraid that at the end much has to do with your rates, I mean that I think that many jobs go not to the best translator but to the cheapest translator. With this, I hope to have answered your two first questions.
Anyway, answering your last question: I would at least obtain certification for my main source language and preferably follow a translation course. Cat tools you can learn on the fly.
This is just my point of view. ¡Mucha suerte!


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Soonthon LUPKITARO(Ph.D.)  Identity Verified
Thailand
Local time: 06:22
Member (2004)
English to Thai
+ ...
Education background is a plus Oct 25, 2010

As a technical translators for three decades, I find that education background is very positive to start a translation job. For example, to translate automotive repairing documents correctly, jargons of mechanics are demanded (unless you translate into very academic paper.) I see many translators who are successful in translation into many disciplines but they tried very hard to be familiar with new vocabularies. Since you have a BA degree, why not start from your linguistic domains of documents?

Soonthon Lupkitaro


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Catriona Thomas
Local time: 01:22
German to English
Transition from editing to translating Oct 25, 2010

Hi Tiffany,
Yes, the transition from editing to translating can be mastered successfully. The best thing would to start obtaining some translation qualifications immediately after you stop working in your present capacity. There are courses in the UK, at the London universities (City, Metropolitan, Westminster), in Leeds, Salford and in Edinburgh (Scotland) - some of them post-grad. I'm not aware whether they all offer Spanish-English. Some courses are offered in distance learning with limited on-site presence required. You will have to enquire. It might be beneficial to remain in the technical area with which you are now familiar - at least in English. In my case, I moved from mono-lingual legal editing to being a specialized legal translator, attending specific courses at the Sprachen- und Dolmetscherinstitut in Munich on the way and obtaining my qualifications by taking the Bavarian state exams. It took me about 3 years in all, but has been well worth the while. Later on, I qualified as an interpreter in much the same way. I now work as a freelance specialized translator and interpreter, offering editing services as well. Continued professional development is of course essential. Best wishes for your new career.

Catriona Thomas


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Marcia Liddle BA(Hons), MA, ACIL
Local time: 00:22
French to English
+ ...
Market yourself as a specialist in flawless English Oct 25, 2010

Hi Tiffany. Welcome. I think your employment as an in-house proofreader/editor will definitely be a salable plus point to potential translation clients. You might initially get more proofreading work than translation work but it would be a good way to build up a relationship with clients who will consider you for future translation work. Proofreading initially would also give you an opportunity to study other translators' work.

I do think that specialisation is important but that doesn't mean that you have to specialise in the types of text you are currently editing, as a specialisation doesn't necessarily have to be highly technical. I think it could be beneficial to do some kind of translation course but perhaps even better would be to take some sort of course to develop a potential specialisation. For example, I did a course in medical terminology that has been infinitely helpful to me in developing my specialisation in medical translation. Working in a veterinary surgery also helped me to develop my specialisation so you could consider even volunteering or working part time in a different industry with a view to building up a specialisation.

If you have the opportunity to take some time out to "prep up" then I think it is a good idea but I also think that it is important to start trying to build up contacts and edge into the industry as you go along because it takes a long time to build up a client base. I am very glad that I started trying to get into the translation industry from even before the first day of my translation MA because it meant that I already had enough work to live off by the end of it.

Hope this helps in some way. Best of luck!


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:22
Flemish to English
+ ...
Broad view. Oct 25, 2010

If you are already proficient in statistics, why not consider a business-education (takes three years).
In addition to languages specialisation comes handy and with both languages and business, more doors will open in the "normal" job-market.
At the low end, that market does not pay very much, at the high end, the sky is the limit, also financially. Quants earn a better living than word-chrunchers.
Another good combination is law and languages.
With languages only, interpreting is still the best career to follow.
Unless you want to spend the rest of your life in front of a pc, translating texts. Quite a "career".



[Edited at 2010-10-25 16:20 GMT]


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Tiffany Hardy  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:22
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
A lot to think about Oct 25, 2010

Thank you all for your thoughtful answers. It's definitely got me thinking. The idea of trying to take courses in an area I would like to specialize in, in addition to a translation course, makes sense. It's just a matter of choosing the area, but first I need to investigate a little into what the major demand is in my language pair.

Andres Herraiz Martinez wrote:

Anyway, answering your last question: I would at least obtain certification for my main source language and preferably follow a translation course. Cat tools you can learn on the fly.


This is interesting. I had never even considered trying to obtain certification of my proficiency in Spanish. I have lived in Spain off and on for 12 years and my day to day family and social life is in Spanish and for many years my working life was as well. But I suppose prospective clients don't know that. Do others feel this is necessary? I had imagined that since most agencies require a test translation to start, they wouldn't care if you had passed a certification exam.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:22
Flemish to English
+ ...
The DELE and food for thought. Oct 26, 2010

I learnt Spanish by being enrolled in a translator course with Spanish as one of the main foreign languages (and 20 other "general courses"). I learned Spanish through grammatical and syntactical analysis of texts of Francisco de Ayala and by going to the cradle of the Spanish language: Salamanca. At the Universidad de Salamanca you could take the DELE: Diploma de Español como lengua extranjera, (http://diplomas.cervantes.es/index.jsp)
which is about the same as the Deutsches Sprachdiplom.
Why not give it a try at the DELE, superior level?
Salamanca was many years ago.

However, if you try your luck on the normal job market without an additional education, you are destined to become a P.A., a translator, a trainer, a teacher....
As a freelancer, you can earn well if you register in the right (low-taxed) country.
All these professions hover around €30.000 p.a.

However, without an applied knowledge of the figures, you will not run far.
Businesses are all about figures with a touch of H.R.-theory and practice to motivate people to obtain those figures.
If I you already have stats, why not add math for economists and go on to study management, accounting, corporate finance, office tools for economists, finance, logistics, i.e. the content of a basic general management programme. You will be a valuable product on the normal job-market and you will be able to situate yourself in the upper rate-range of the translation-market, because you will have a specialised knowledge, which others do not have. Those techniques can be applied to your business too. It is an advantage if you can interpret your own figures and set your own targets.
Will you be a translator in the first place and businesswoman in the second or vice-versa?
With what will you "move foreward"? With languages? With biz-courses? With law (isn't a degree in law a basic requirement to become a lawyer-linguist at the European-Court)? With I.T.?










[Edited at 2010-10-26 08:39 GMT]


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Andres Herraiz Martinez  Identity Verified

Local time: 01:22
Dutch to Spanish
+ ...
Excuse my error. Oct 26, 2010

Tiffany Hardy wrote:

Thank you all for your thoughtful answers. It's definitely got me thinking. The idea of trying to take courses in an area I would like to specialize in, in addition to a translation course, makes sense. It's just a matter of choosing the area, but first I need to investigate a little into what the major demand is in my language pair.

Andres Herraiz Martinez wrote:

Anyway, answering your last question: I would at least obtain certification for my main source language and preferably follow a translation course. Cat tools you can learn on the fly.


This is interesting. I had never even considered trying to obtain certification of my proficiency in Spanish. I have lived in Spain off and on for 12 years and my day to day family and social life is in Spanish and for many years my working life was as well. But I suppose prospective clients don't know that. Do others feel this is necessary? I had imagined that since most agencies require a test translation to start, they wouldn't care if you had passed a certification exam.


Hi Tiffany, excuse me for my error. I wanted to say four your main target language. Sorry for the confusion. Success.


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Tiffany Hardy  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 01:22
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
thanks for clarifying Oct 26, 2010

Thanks Andres. Glad to scratch something off my to-do list!

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Andres Herraiz Martinez  Identity Verified

Local time: 01:22
Dutch to Spanish
+ ...
No, no, sorry again! Oct 26, 2010

Tiffany Hardy wrote:

Thanks Andres. Glad to scratch something off my to-do list!


Well, I don't know what to say: my first advice was the correct one! (excuse me please )

To clarify this definitively I put an example:

If you are native Spanish and you are good in Spanish that could be your target language and if you know Dutch and want to translate from Dutch to Spanish, then Dutch is your source language and hence it would be desirable that, if you have the possibility, get certified in Dutch. Hope this clarifies my message


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:22
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Language certification Oct 26, 2010

Andres Herraiz Martinez wrote:

Anyway, answering your last question: I would at least obtain certification for my main source language and preferably follow a translation course. Cat tools you can learn on the fly.


You need some way of proving your competence in your source language (i.e. Spanish for you) as you are not a native speaker of the language. I know several English people who have lived in the south of France for the last 20 years but have never got past 'bonjour' and 'merci' - shameful but true - so I don't think that residency is really sufficient.

You may also need some way of proving your competence in your target language (i.e. English for you), especially seeing as you don't live in an English-speaking country. In your case, as your university studies were all in English, I don't think that any additional certification is necessary.

The main requirement for most clients is not a piece of paper but some tangible evidence. Sample translations will sometimes suffice. BTW, although I have done tests, I find that they are by no means widespread and sometimes (though not always) those agencies that require them are the ones that I'd prefer to steer clear of.

Perhaps more important would be to follow at least a minimum course in translating, otherwise you may well find that there are some things that you don't know how to tackle - abbreviations, proper names, etc spring to mind.


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