I'm a student -- oh okay, you don't work with students. The university-working life dilemma
Thread poster: Nina Hirvonen
Nina Hirvonen
Local time: 01:39
Finnish to English
+ ...
Apr 18, 2013

Hello, I am new on Proz.com. I am currently finishing up my BA in Translation Studies and am moving forward with my MA. All my teachers are telling me "Get work while you're a student, it pays off to have the experience, find commissions and build your resume and portfolio."
Sounds all sensible and good to me!

Except I have come to notice that so far, all the jobs in my language pair on Proz have a definite "no students" policy.

Is this a simple reality, that there simply is no work available for those currently enrolled in educational institutions? Is there any point in keeping an eye out, or is my time better spent eying the "Help Wanted" section in the paper?


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:39
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I disagree with your teachers Apr 18, 2013

Nina Hirvonen wrote:
All my teachers are telling me "Get work while you're a student, it pays off to have the experience, find commissions and build your resume and portfolio." Sounds all sensible and good to me!


I disagree with your teachers. It may sound nice in theory, but professional translation is a strenuous exercise and you don't have time or energy for that when you're a student. Besides, most of the jobs you'll get will have deadlines that will definitely interfere with your studies.

My advice is to focus on your studies entirely, or alternatively, to do translations for organisations that will allow you longer deadlines. As a student you are in the fortunate position to have class mates who might be willing to help proofread your work (in exchange for you doing the same), and doing such translations can be fruitful for all of you... if you have long, flexible deadlines.

You will miss being a student later, when you had a student mindset and when you had access to all the student resources. Make the most of it while you can.

Once you've graduated with your BA, you can apply for "no student" jobs even if you're studying for your MA, I think, because then you're no longer a child. Besides, many translators return to their studies when they are 30, 40 or 50 years old, and I'm sure they will apply for such jobs.


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Diana Coada  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:39
Portuguese to English
+ ...
It is hard to start out Apr 18, 2013

Samuel, in some countries it is recommended that students graduate with an X amount of hours/days of professional experience. I remember on my year abroad in Spain, some of my Spanish classmates were working sporadically here and there (I don't know how it actually worked).

Nina, very few agencies give students a chance. All work and/or internships are normally unpaid. If I were you I would start looking for NGOs I could help and translate pro-bono every now and then. Another solution is to actually find texts on a subject you want to specialise in (plenty of specialised journals out there!) and translate them in your own time to build up a portfolio. Make sure you ask for permission and don't break copyright law.

[Edited at 2013-04-18 18:00 GMT]


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ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 02:39
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
"No students" Policy Apr 18, 2013

Nina Hirvonen wrote:

Except I have come to notice that so far, all the jobs in my language pair on Proz have a definite "no students" policy.



I have never heard of this before. In my opinion, it is a discrimination to close a particular job for students. At least, it should be so in some countries including the United States. What is important for the employer is the end result, i.e. the job gets done according to the requirements. Therefore, the employer focuses on achieving the end result. Who gets the job is a secondary issue in comparison to the end result. I am curious as to how the employers can have a "no students" policy. In such a case, all the students at ProZ should perhaps question the validity of such a policy.


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 00:39
Danish to English
+ ...
Qualifications versus experience Apr 18, 2013

The trouble is that you don't really become a good translator until you have worked as a translator for several years. This may sound harsh, but I am a language graduate myself, and I know that this is the truth. While I was still a student, I relied on teachers to correct my work, and I was learning from them until my last day at business school. I didn't then become an expert at translation the moment I graduated. I got myself a job where I could practice all that I had learnt and had professional colleagues (in my case, engineers) who were able (and willing) to help me understand the material I was translating. And I kept having to refer to grammar books and other 'student' reference works for quite a while until I developed confidence and competence as a translator. I don't think I am exaggerating if I say that I did more translation work during my first couple of months in my first job as a translator than I had done throughout the entire duration of my BA and MA studies. Working constantly with translation in a job is very different to doing a couple of assignments a week at college.

End clients may not know this about translators, i.e. they may presume that if you offer your services as a translator, then you are qualified to do so. But agencies are bound to know, as they are experts at screening potential translators, and it is a no-brainer that they will (almost) always prefer people who have, at the very least, a couple of years' experience under their belt, either directly as translators or as specialists in the fields that they then go on to translate in. I doubt that there are all that many agencies that are willing to take on a mentoring role with student translators, but some might.

I disagree entirely with Sam about working during your student years. I wish I had worked a lot more during those academic years, it could have reduced my student loans, and it is always useful to gain insight into different professions. In a sense, it doesn't really matter whether you flip burgers at McDonald's or wash dogs at a kennel or sing at a nightclub or whatever opportunities may present themselves, you learn from everything you do, and being a translator is very much about using your knowledge of 'all sorts of things' either directly or as a means of finding information about other subjects that you may come across in your work. (Of course, if you can get language-related work, that would be tops! )

By way of example, I took quite a few 'gap years' before starting at business school. Among other jobs, I worked a number of years at a conference centre, starting as a domestic, making beds, cleaning toilets, doing the dishes and later handling some administrative work and hospitality. I did this in a country where they speak my main foreign language, so I got pretty familiar with that, which was excellent in relation to my later formal language studies. But I also learnt something about staff management, admin, even the names of different kitchen utensils, which you will never be taught at business school, but which I have actually had crop up in translations in my professional work. You never know... Everything you choose to work with may some day come in useful in relation to your future work as a translator.

Good luck with your studies



[Edited at 2013-04-18 17:49 GMT]


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Nina Hirvonen
Local time: 01:39
Finnish to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Kind thanks Apr 18, 2013

I understand where you are coming from, Samuel. Humane sciences is no cake walk (regardless what my biologist sister might think), and university is demanding work in its own right. So I would not be looking to take on work I would not be able to finish within given deadlines. It is better to be sans work than ruin your reputation off the bat with missed deadlines.

I will take heed and make most of the resources available to me now as a student, though! Networking at this point is probably going to be key.

--

Diana, you are quite right. My MA requires an internship, but my university wants nothing to do with it. That is, we must fend for ourselves and find the agencies or other related employment opportunities without help. To help with that I am currently undertaking minors in Communication, and Marketing, hopefully it will give me a boost.

Great ideas! I have done some pro-bono translating before (citizen's initiative, cottage rentals), and will be glad to include that in my portfolio. I'll be sure to follow your advice.

--

Atil, I have looked through all the jobs available in my language pair. While "policy" may be too strong a term, I did not find any jobs that were available to students. I agree that experience should be measured by the quality of the end result: many of my peers have produced and consistently produce higher quality translations than the botched up work I read on a daily basis, and few of them have full BA degrees yet.

--

I agree with you, Gitte. Much like one does not become much of a sandblaster without actually blasting sand, translation can only be perfected through more and more translating. Much like your experience, I don't think my translation assignments altogether amount to more than a few months worth of work in the real working life.

And this is exactly my problem: I have been working for years but have acquired little experience! Should I graduate like this, I will have a MA but not a year's worth of experience relevant to the interests of potential clients.

You have obviously made excellent choices along the way, and I applaud that-- all the while worrying if I have already taken the wrong turn and have missed such opportunity, having gone head first from one educational institute to another with no time for "real work" in between.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:39
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
A job using languages would be more worthwhile, IMO Apr 18, 2013

Nina Hirvonen wrote:
Is this a simple reality, that there simply is no work available for those currently enrolled in educational institutions? Is there any point in keeping an eye out, or is my time better spent eying the "Help Wanted" section in the paper?

I always advise new freelancers (whether or not they're translators and whether or not they have experience in a salaried job) to find part-time work to see them through the first few months, and maybe the first year or more. This is because a freelancer is lucky to get any work at all to begin with, and it can take months to start establishing yourself - even then, there will be periods when you land no new jobs and the existing clients go quiet. I really can't see that freelancing is a terribly useful way for you to either get experience or income in the moments you are free. Not that that should stop you registering and applying if you have a spare minute - it's all good practice and you might land a really nice job.

On the other hand, students get some long holidays, don't they? You could really put them to good use, for your CV as well as for experience and money. I'd advise you to go to the UK or Ireland and find a job where you'll be using English on a daily basis, and hopefully doing some translating/interpreting. I really don't know how much possibility there would be of the latter in your language pairs (much easier for FIGS speakers), but maybe tourist offices, hotline centres, airports... What do Finnish visitors to the UK need help with? I suspect they all get by in English quite nicely.

Another reason why companies might be shy of giving work to students is the need to invoice legally. I don't know what different countries' rules are about students and freelancing, but so many of our jobs are cross-border and money-laundering laws and checks are getting stricter by the minute.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:39
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not a good idea Apr 18, 2013

Nina Hirvonen wrote:
All my teachers are telling me "Get work while you're a student, it pays off to have the experience, find commissions and build your resume and portfolio."

I disagree with your teachers. I am yet to meet a translation student (even last year BA students) who is capable of doing work at a professional level. By trying to work before you have enough experience in real-world translation, you would risk running into trouble with your first customers and the whole experience will be not only traumatic, but also rather unproductive.

What your teachers should be recommending is that you try to get a summer job as a trainee in a company with actual in-house translators. If you land in a sensible translation office, you will be given work of increasing difficulty, starting from very easy stuff, and will be supervised closely by an in-company tutor. The result will nicely complement your university studies and will be a good jumpstart into the professional activity.

[Edited at 2013-04-18 19:26 GMT]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 00:39
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Gitte Apr 18, 2013

Gitte Hovedskov Hansen wrote:
I disagree entirely with Sam about working during your student years. I wish I had worked a lot more during those academic years, it could have reduced my student loans, and it is always useful to gain insight into different professions. In a sense, it doesn't really matter whether you flip burgers at McDonald's or wash dogs at a kennel or sing at a nightclub or...


My comment about working during student years related specifically to paid translation work.

Of course students should try to reduce their loans by doing part-time work, but my experience was that translation jobs that students typically get to lay their hands on don't pay nearly as much as the usual student jobs (flipping burgers, etc), and translation work for students tends to be sporadic.

My biggest concern is that translation work is mentally exhausing, and that is not good for one's studies. Unskilled labour is fine, even if you work very hard, because it doesn't wear out your mind.


[Edited at 2013-04-18 20:13 GMT]


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The Misha
Local time: 18:39
Russian to English
+ ...
Listen to your teachers Apr 18, 2013

Any skill - translation included - is incremental. You may not be able to translate UN speeches right away (though they don't really have much new to say, so it kind of doesn't matter anyway in the grand scheme of things), but you could do simpler stuff and still make a few bucks and gain experience - such as vital statistics records and what not. Trust me, you can teach a monkey do those, no offense to anyone. Yours is a fairly exotic pair and there may be tons of perfectly suitable private situations right where you are that would fit your level of skill and availability. Just do your schmoozing.

That said, do yourself two favors. First, do not, under any circumstances, assume that ProZ or any of its competing venues are THE translation market. They are not, not by a long shot. I personally know quite a few older translators who make way more money than I do and who have never heard of ProZ. Second - again, under no circumstances - do not ever commit to a project without first seeing the text in its entirety. If it looks like more than you can chew, pass it up. It only takes one bad project and a disgruntled client to kill a professional reputation before it even starts. Ditto for observing deadlines as if your life depended on it, but that should be self-evident.

25 years ago, when I was getting started in this business in a certain unhappy place behind the Iron Curtain, a translator was pretty much a 4-letter word and a) a spy, or b) a potential traitor to the Motherland. No one taught translation, except at a very few, elite schools for the top brass' children. There were no translation degrees. Everyone learned by doing and somehow most of us managed. This here is a craft, not rocket science. You cannot learn a craft except by actually practicing it. Don't believe anyone who is trying to tell you otherwise. Good luck to you.


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 05:09
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
There other ways to hone your translation skills than taking up paid translation assignments Apr 19, 2013

Samuel could have an important point, that professional level translation work can be too demanding for students, as their curriculum requirements themselves are quite demanding. In the end, students either sacrifice the quality of the translation work, or their studies, both of which are undesirable. As a student your primary responsibility is to complete your studies and get maximum benefit out of the opportunities that student life offers. If you take up professional work while you are a student, you will not be able to meet this goal.

At the same time, there are several ways to hone your translation skills by actual translation work even while you are a student. There is nothing to prevent you from picking up short story which you enjoyed or a short newspaper article or a small novel (if you want to be more ambitious) and begin to translate it in your spare time just to test to what extent you are able to do it. You could even send the better translations you do (after seeking proper copyright permissions, of course) for publishing. You can even seek the opinion of your colleagues or teachers on your translations. This will give you valuable feedback to improve your skills.

This way the Damocles' sword of deadline won't hang over your head and interfere with your studies.

Looking back upon my own younger days, this is exactly what I did to get the much needed translation experience. I would just pick up a passage or article in English that I liked and translate it into Hindi just to see whether I can do it. I still have those early attempts at translation and I sometimes look them up to amuse myself of the mistakes I used to make and which I have now overcome.


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Texte Style
Local time: 00:39
French to English
internships Apr 19, 2013

Does your course not include an internship? Even if it's not a compulsory component of your course it might be possible to work as an intern in the summer holidays.

At the agency I worked at, students were given the most straightforward translations and then had a seasoned translator proofread their work and go through it with them. This was a first-class opportunity. Many agencies do take on students to cover for staff on holiday, and at other times to perform mundane tasks such as preparing files for use with CAT tools, TM maintenance, database maintenance. It can be interesting to see what goes on in agencies, its a great way to learn how to deal with project managers.


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Spencer Allman
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:39
Finnish to English
Native speaker? Apr 19, 2013

Are you a native speaker of English?

There are many Finnish-English non-native speakers of the target language in Finland, so you will also be in competition with them (as I am).

I know 'competition' is a word that may be looked down upon in the translation industry, but it seems to have become a serious phenomenon.

Perhaps you are truly bilingual, but if not, I am curious why you are not offering ENFI instead - is there not potentially more work?

Spencer


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KKastenhuber  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 00:39
Russian to German
+ ...
... Apr 19, 2013

Spencer Allman wrote:

Perhaps you are truly bilingual, but if not, I am curious why you are not offering ENFI instead - is there not potentially more work?

Spencer


According to her profile, she is offering both FI-EN and EN-FI.


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