Help Choosing Masters Courses (EMT / non-EMT; literary vs non-literary)
Thread poster: rmh27

rmh27
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:56
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
May 31, 2013

Hi. I'm new on here but am hoping that this is the right place to get some advice on choosing masters courses in translation. Sorry if I'm posting about something that has already been discussed or am posting in the wrong place.
Basically I have been offered a place on two different translation courses and am unsure on which course would be the most sensible to accept my offer for. I have been accepted to MSc Literary Translation as Creative Practice at the University of Edinburgh and to MA Translation Studies (Distance Learning) at Portsmouth University. At the moment I am leaning towards accepting my offer at Edinburgh as I would actually get to meet people and wouldn't be as isolated as I would be doing distance learning but am unsure if this is the most sensible option for the following reasons:
1. Edinburgh's course is non in the EMT Network (Portsmouth's is) and I'm not sure how important this is in the industry
2. I'm not sure how transferable a degree in literary translation is seen to be in the industry and whether it is just as good for finding all kinds of translation work as a degree in Translation Studies
If anyone has any helpful advice it would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks.


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cranium
French to English
+ ...
Points to consider Jun 2, 2013

Literary translation, although very enticing, is an exclusive niche and it would seem one has to be a published author oneself to break into it. Although that was my initial vision of my career, after a few years of practice I now see that most work comes from industry, logistics, finance, export, etc. Look at the international trade for your country and language pair, and you'll have a good picture of the translation market. For that reason I would tend towards the MA in Translation Studies, myself.
Another possibility you may not have considered is to do a degree abroad in your source language in a non-language field (logistics/international trade/law/finance/environment/etc.) to get a firm grasp of a certain industry - a definite plus when marketing your services directly to end clients instead of working through translation agencies. Just my two cents. Best wishes!


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Peter Linton  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:56
Member (2002)
Swedish to English
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Two types of translation courses Jun 2, 2013

MSc Literary Translation as Creative Practice at the University of Edinburgh
MA Translation Studies (Distance Learning) at Portsmouth University.

The courses you mention neatly summarises a key distinction – broadly speaking, at one end of the scale they treat translation as a branch of the comparative literature, and are therefore much more academic and theoretical. At the other end are vocational courses, which teach you how to be a freelance translator. Sometimes the former calls the course " Translation Studies" or similar and the latter talks about Technical Translation. ( But there is no hard and fast rule – Portsmouth University's course is in fact vocational).

That is neatly illustrated by my experience. I did an MA in Translation Studies, and the first thing we did was to translate a poem. Later I went on a vocational course and the first thing we did was to translate a user guide for a food mixer.

So the problem resolves itself into a simple choice. Do you want to be a literary translator or a technical translator? From what you say, the latter is the obvious choice.

You also raise another point – how to combat isolation as a freelance translator. This is a problem and the answer is to devote time and effort into getting involved in local events, societies, sports, gyms, amateur dramatics etc, or perhaps work part-time in a bar or restaurant.


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rmh27
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:56
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Very helpful advice - thank you (still unsure though) Jun 3, 2013

Thank you both for your advice. It is really helpful to get advice from practicing translators and you both bring up some very good points.
The reason I applied for Edinburgh's Literary Translation course is because I would love to be a literary translator but from what I hear literary translation is very difficult to break into and pays next to nothing. I would therefore need to know that, iwithdid the course at Edinburgh, I would be able to use it to do so-called "bread and butter" translation work. I also do not know whether the course at Edinburgh not belonging to the EMT network would affect my chances of using it to get such work.
As for studying abroad, I would love to be able to do that but unfortunately it simply isn't an option at the moment. In order to be able to study at all, I need to be in Edinburgh right now though studying abroad may become an option in the next few years and if it does I will jump at the opportunity. I also plan on doing more studies in a literary field (Medieval Studies) if I can fund it with translation work which would possibly (?) make it easier to break into literary translation, at least in that field.
By the sounds of it, Portsmouth's course is the best one for becoming a freelance translator but I am still unsure about whether I would want that level of isolation (especially as I am already slightly isolated as a single parent) if the Edinburgh qualification would give me the same, or similar, opportunities in terms of work in the longer term


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Marie-Helene Dubois  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:56
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
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A suggestion Jun 3, 2013

It looks as though you're leaning towards the Edinburgh course and I don't know whether your choice of university is for geographical reasons or otherwise but I do think that you're right about feedback and interraction being important if you have the option to do that.

I think that distance learning courses are there for people who can't (for work or location reasons) do face-to-face learning but that face-to-face is always preferable if you have a choice.

I don't think that the EMT consideration is important. I have never heard of any client/company specifically looking for people with an EMT qualification.

I am sure that you can break into freelance 'bread-and-butter' translation with the MSc but if I were you, I would recommend looking into doing the DipTrans in addition to it.

This is a vocational qualification from the Chartered Institute of Linguists that is highly regarded in the industry, the advantage being that you can just turn up to the exam without the need to do a course in connection with it.

Literary translation pays, depending on how complex the work is and depending on your language pairs. The difficulty with literary translation is often not that the rate is lower than that of a 'normal' translation but that it takes much more time and there is much more editing involved.


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rmh27
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:56
Member (2014)
German to English
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TOPIC STARTER
Thank You Aug 7, 2013

I just wanted to say thank you to you all for all your help and advice on this topic. I have decided to accept a place on the Literary Translation course at Edinburgh University (the choice of university is for geographical reasons) as I feel that having access to face-to-face feedback will benefit me greatly. Hopefully I will then be able to use this qualifiaction to break into more general translation work. If not, though, it is great to know about the Institute of Linguists qualification - thanks for that piece of information. Sorry it has taken me so long to thank you all. I do really appreciate all your input and it helped me a lot in making my decision.

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Ian Giles  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:56
Member (2012)
Swedish to English
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Better late than never Aug 11, 2013

rmh27 wrote:

I just wanted to say thank you to you all for all your help and advice on this topic. I have decided to accept a place on the Literary Translation course at Edinburgh University (the choice of university is for geographical reasons) as I feel that having access to face-to-face feedback will benefit me greatly. Hopefully I will then be able to use this qualifiaction to break into more general translation work. If not, though, it is great to know about the Institute of Linguists qualification - thanks for that piece of information. Sorry it has taken me so long to thank you all. I do really appreciate all your input and it helped me a lot in making my decision.


I though I would chip in briefly and make the point that a friend who is a graduate of Edinburgh's Literary Translation course had little difficulty in securing work in house for a translation company. Likewise, I know that many people with the standard Translation Studies degree from Edinburgh have gone on to do work in the creative sector. So there's no hard and fast rules. EMT/non-EMT simply isn't something that ever comes up, but I think some of the other posters have overlooked brand snobbery. A lot of people know (and appreciate) the University of Edinburgh brand - you're doing no harm to your CV by going to Edinburgh


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rmh27
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:56
Member (2014)
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Good to know Aug 11, 2013

Thank you, Ian. Even though I have made my decision, it really helps to know (as much as I can know at this stage) that it was the right one. It's always good to hear about people having gone down the same path I am about to go down and having success when they get to the other end. So thank you.
Although the choice of university is primarily for geographical reasons, it did occur to me that it being quite a prestigious university might help me out a bit so I'm glad you think so too. It's always good to have your suspicions backed up by someone who is already active in the industry.
I'm quite looking forward to starting my course now! The pre-course reading is proving to be quite interesting.


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Rebecca Hendry  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 04:56
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
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Slightly off-topic, but if you're coming to Edinburgh... Aug 12, 2013

Hi rmh27,

There's a thriving network of translators in Edinburgh so if you're looking to meet fellow freelancers and aspiring freelancers then you should join us at one of our powwows. The next one is on October 31st (http://www.proz.com/powwow/4793).

If you need any Edinburgh-related advice in the meantime then I'd be happy to help!

All the best,

Becky.


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