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I need help getting started
Thread poster: franistart
Jan 6, 2013

First off, I am new to this site, so if I am breaking any forum rules or something, please direct me on the right path. If this would be better suited to a different forum, let me know. I'll be happy to move to the more appropriate place.

Anyway, I am trying to figure out what to do. I am very interested in translation/interpretation in English>Russian or vice versa. I am an American student, and I just received my Associate's of Art at a small college that doesn't offer any Russian courses. I went there two years because it was local and cheap. Now that I have my AA, I can transfer to a bigger school, but my problem is that I have no idea which school is best.

Does it matter which school I go to so long as I learn the language? Do I need to plan which school to go to in order to be eligible for certification with the ATA? From lurking around on this forum, I've found out that certification is handy, but not extremely unnecessary. Plus, there are more associations than the ATA such as the ITI. (Which was followed with an eye roll in the post I saw?)

I'm not asking for somebody to list all of the steps I need to do in order to start a career in translation/interpretation, but I really need some guidance. I don't know any people around my area that I can get advise from.


So, to review:

Does it matter which school I get into? (Is Ivy League worth it?)

Should I plan my education around a certifying association? (Is there a best association?)

Any other misc. tips/advise I should know? (Things you wish you did, for example.)


Thank you for your time, and again, I will ask another forum if this one isn't the best one.


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Lori Cirefice  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 14:48
French to English
Learn the language Jan 7, 2013

Welcome!

In my opinion, you should apply to universities where you will have the best opportunity to learn your future source language. You can probably search online to find which universities have a good reputation for their Russian department. You might also want to consider which schools have a foreign exchange program for Russia as well, when making your decision.

Whether/where to apply for certification later on is really not of importance in your choice of university. As far as I know for the ATA, it doesn't matter where you got your degree.


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Texte Style
Local time: 14:48
French to English
Russia! Jan 7, 2013

I would suggest a course that includes a stay of at least several months if not a year in Russia.

Or if you find a great course that doesn't include one, take a gap year and try to find work there (not sure how feasible that is for Americans, I have a European friend doing just that)


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:48
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
N° 1 requirement: quality output Jan 7, 2013

franistart wrote:
Does it matter which school I get into? (Is Ivy League worth it?)

Should I plan my education around a certifying association? (Is there a best association?)

I don't think either of those should be a major concern. You should find what you consider to be the best course/college for you, satsifying your educational, professional and personal needs best. There aren't any "must haves" in the freelance translation world, other than ability. Of course, in the early days a diploma from an Ivy League college may be useful for your CV, but it won't guarantee repeat business and it will become irrelevant later on.

Any other misc. tips/advise I should know?
It sounds as though you haven't grown up using two languages at home/school. In that case, there's no way you should be thinking of translating into the foreign language, particularly if you haven't had extended residency in a country where that language is spoken. You may reach a reasonably high level, high enough to translate/interpret from it, and maybe OK for some 2-way interpreting situations. But translation clients expect impeccable texts written in a totally natural style. If you translate into the foreign language you will need to hire a proofreader and that's rarely viable.


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:48
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Help getting started Jan 7, 2013

Hello,

Unlike when I began translating 20 years ago and the only resources I had were a few issues of the ATA Chronicle, today there are many good books out there for beginning translators that will get you started.

First there is my book which is available on-line in electronic format if you have a PayPal account at:
Life with Words: A Practical Guide to Starting a Career as a Freelance Translator

There are also a number of good print books. Some examples are:
How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator, Second Edition
Becoming a Translator: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Translation
A Textbook of Translation

I have some more bookmarked here: Translation Books


And of course, there is all the information available on this site!




[Edited at 2013-01-07 16:04 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 13:48
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Experience! Jan 7, 2013

Qualifications are all very well, but to be an effective and successful translator you'll need to amass a convincing amount of experience in practical translation. If I were you I'd focus on that, rather than amassing paper qualifications.

You will (for instance) need to spend a considerable amount of time living and working in Russia (the country of your adopted language), with Russians and not speaking English. You will also need to acquire highly-developed writing skills in your own language (English).

IMHO this is what you really ought to be aiming towards.

[Edited at 2013-01-07 15:11 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:48
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Tom is right, but formal training helps too Jan 7, 2013

Tom in London wrote:

Qualifications are all very well, but to be an effective and successful translator you'll need to amass a convincing amount of experience in practical translation. If I were you I'd focus on that, rather than amassing paper qualifications.

You will (for instance) need to spend a considerable amount of time living and working in Russia (the country of your adopted language), with Russians and not speaking English. You will also need to acquire highly-developed writing skills in your own language (English).

IMHO this is what you really ought to be aiming towards.

[Edited at 2013-01-07 15:11 GMT]


While those are definitely your goals, choosing a university or college with a good translation course can give you some short cuts and introduce you to people who know about some of the problems and how to find the answers.

Check out CVs of colleagues who work in Russian to English and English to Russian, to see where they trained, and whether you can apply. Finding the right place for you is more important than whether it is famous. In freelancing you find clients are interested in what you can deliver here and now, much more than how and where you acquired your skills.

While practical knowledge is your goal, there is not enough time to invent the wheel yourself these days. If a good teacher has arranged the material logically and is willing to pass on the best of his/her experience, then take advantage of it if you can.

Learning to use CAT tools and technical aids will be increasingly important - they barely existed 20 years ago. They are no substitute for your own skills, but can enhance them.

Build up a network of colleagues, possible associates and clients - and choosing the right place to study may help you there too.


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:48
Danish to English
+ ...
Different approaches Jan 8, 2013

I agree with all of the advice given here, in the sense that they are all right even if they focus on different 'must dos'.

In my view, there are umpteen different ways of becoming a translator, but a number of elements that you will have to include at some stage or another to become a GOOD translator. These include (in no particular order):

Learning the languages you want to work with (pretty obvious, I know)
Learning about the culture(s) of your chosen languages
Spending time living, studying and/or working in both your source and target language areas
Studying translation techniques (yes, go to college!)
Practising translation (working as a translator)

You don't become an excellent translator overnight.
There's no guarantee that you will ever be good at being a translator even if you grow up speaking two languages from an early age.
There's no guarantee that you will become an excellent translator even if you excel at college. The amount of translation work you do in the entire course of a translation education will only be the equivalent of a couple of months' work as a professional translator. College education is only a starting point for a translation career, but it can be a good point of departure.

However, if translation is what you want to do and you have an aptitude for languages, then go for it, work at it, soak up all you can about your languages, and work at it. The more you translate, the better you (will probably) get.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:48
Russian to English
+ ...
Hi. I don't think it matters if you go to Ivy League, or any other good school. Jan 8, 2013

I don't want to discourage you, but it takes really a long time to learn Russian well. To work as an interpreter, you may need to spend something like 5 years in Russia, to be able to do it, but I am not even sure about that. You need to be very close to native fluency in both languages to interpret, plus have years of practice, because it is totally different to speak a certain language well, and to interpret into it, and from it (it has to be both ways when interpreting). To translate from Russian, you really have to know the language well. It may be advantageous to go and study the language in Russia for a year or two, and only then enter a Slavic Department. Good luck. In fact you may really enjoy spending some time in Russia, and learning the language and culture.







[Edited at 2013-01-08 11:49 GMT]


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:48
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
This book could also be good Jan 18, 2013

Introduction to Russian-English Translation: Tactics and Techniques for the Translator (Russian Edition)

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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:48
Russian to English
+ ...
Hi, Franistart. One very important thing. Do you speak any Russian? Jan 18, 2013

If you speak Russian quite well, the approach might be different than what, I at least suggested. If you don't, you really have to become very fluent in that language, and only then approach translation. Then the book suggested in the previous post might be very useful.

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franistart
TOPIC STARTER
So many replies! Thank you! Jan 18, 2013

Thank you everybody for giving me your advice!

I do not speak any Russian, and I am just starting to get the hang of the alphabet. I am using a lot of different sources to learn, from books to websites, and I plan on eventually reading full-fledged Russian sources like VK.com and books written in Russian.

I forgot to mention that I am not only looking at freelancing. I would be alright working for somebody other than myself, but I'm pretty sure the first step is to learn the language fluently. It won't matter who I'm working for if I can't speak a lick of Russian.

I plan on going to University of Texas at Austin because I have a relative who went into Arabic (he is from Illinois, but I have no idea how versed he was in Arabic before he started learning it in University of Illinois) and said that out of the 30 people that got the scholarship to study abroad, 20 of them were from UT-Austin.

What I want to know now is if that necessarily means the same thing for Russian. If anybody knows anything on this, that would be helpful, but I need to research more on my own on this too.

Regardless, I do plan on spending time in Russia to get fluent. My main concerns are how to get there.


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Sarah McDowell  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 07:48
Member (2012)
Russian to English
+ ...
Book Jan 18, 2013



I have this book and it is excellent. However, it is not meant for someone who is just starting to learn Russian. This is a book for translators who are already fluent in both Russian and English and want to improve their translation skills. It is not a language learning resource. There are a lot of great textbooks for learning Russian but this is not one of them.


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:48
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Russian Book Jan 18, 2013

Sorry, I did not catch the fact that the original poster did not yet speak Russian. However, I did read this book as a learning resource even though I do not translate Russian. I'm just weird like that.


Sarah McDowell wrote:



I have this book and it is excellent. However, it is not meant for someone who is just starting to learn Russian. This is a book for translators who are already fluent in both Russian and English and want to improve their translation skills. It is not a language learning resource. There are a lot of great textbooks for learning Russian but this is not one of them.


[Edited at 2013-01-18 22:37 GMT]


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franistart
TOPIC STARTER
That's alright Jan 18, 2013

The more learning materials I know of, even if I can't use them right now, the better.

Mostly I was just curious if it mattered in the long run which school I attended. That, and if there was some place I was not aware of to learn a language, but from what I'm hearing, the best route is to find a way to stay in the target language's country to get fluent before trying any professional translation.

If anybody has any other advice, I'm all ears.


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