Knowing Russian, Norwegian, and English, what fields should I specialize in?
Thread poster: Michael Marcoux

Michael Marcoux  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:31
Russian to English
+ ...
Oct 30, 2013

Hey guys!

I created an account ages ago, thinking maybe someday I would dabble in freelance translation. But now that I've graduated from college almost two years ago and can't find a full-time job in my field, I'm starting to reconsider this route. The good news is that my aggregate monthly expenses are only $800, so I'm able and willing to start out slow.

So a little about my language experience: I started teaching myself Russian when I was 16 from library books. Got a major in Russian in college, finished 4 years of Russian in only 2 and studied abroad for a year in Russia on a Fulbright grant. I lived non-stop in Russian, and still speak and write and acceptable levels for translation and interpreting. I also took a host of translation courses there and at University of Maryland. I also have a degree in political science.

I also lived and studied a semester in Oslo, but I'd feel more comfortable translating between the two since Norwegian has a more "intuitive" grammar for native English speakers. I still speak Norwegian with friends and keep up with newspapers. I took a translation test with the federal government and got a 98% in Russian and a 99% in Norwegian.

Anyhow, what I think I need now, aside from to start marketing myself (not sure about how to get direct clients exactly- do you just find international firms and cold call them or?...), is get a specialty; from what I gather, without one, you're just a bilingual who will rarely if ever find work. I see so many conflicting answers about what to specialize in, and my greatest fear is that I'll sink a lot of time into, say, learning science terms and then find there's little if no translation work in that field.

So for anyone who's familiar with state of the industry in Russian -> English and/or Norwegian English, what should I concentrate in? And how much time should I expect to spend becoming a master of those terms?


 

LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:31
Russian to English
+ ...
You should specialize in whatever you have interest in Oct 31, 2013

and know something about. For such specializations as legal, technical and medical it is not enough to know both languages well--you need to know the whole systems related to these types of translations. If you want to specialize in electronic equipment manuals, let's say, --you would need to study some books that the future engineers use in college, both in English and Norwegian, or Russian. Good luck. There is not that much work in the, so called, "general translation" It is better to specialize.

[Edited at 2013-10-31 15:09 GMT]


 

ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 19:31
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
You should specialize in whatever you have interest in. Oct 31, 2013

I agree with Lilian. Your areas of specialization should really be based on your interests, your hobbies, etc. You may or may not have some formal training in such areas. The key thing is that you are INTERESTED in those subjects.

 

nordiste  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 18:31
English to French
+ ...
Fishery, oil and gas Oct 31, 2013

Fishery and oil and gas are 2 major industries common to Norway and Russia.

Specialising in a sector is more than just "learning some science terms". You need to know your business : read magazines, follow the news, know the names and actual directions of the major actors, both people and organisations, know the relevant regulations (not in detail of course), visit some fairs or industry shows. Your degree in political science should help you to start.

You can start working with agencies before looking for direct clients when you feel more confident : fishing companies, oil companies, international organisations, regulatory bodies.

Of course you have to feel comfortable with your specialisation.


 

Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:31
Member
French to English
+ ...
What's in demand Nov 1, 2013

nordiste wrote:

Fishery and oil and gas are 2 major industries common to Norway and Russia.

Specialising in a sector is more than just "learning some science terms". You need to know your business


I agree wholeheartedly with this.

What you're interested in and what the market wants are not necessarily going to be the same thing. In terms of what's in demand, I agree with nordiste about oil and gas in particular for Russia (I wouldn't know about Norway), and would add business and contracts as other in-demand fields, but understanding specialist subjects in depth takes a very long time, and it's not something you can set a time-limit on. While you're learning, treat each assignment you're offered on a case-by-case basis (documents can vary a great deal in terms of their level of technicality), scan the document to assess how difficult it will be for you, and turn down anything you think you're going to struggle with. This is one of the most difficult things for a new translator, I think - knowing your limits and being careful to stay within them.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:31
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You could pay a specialist to proofread difficult texts Nov 1, 2013

Peter Shortall wrote:
turn down anything you think you're going to struggle with. This is one of the most difficult things for a new translator, I think - knowing your limits and being careful to stay within them.

I agree wholeheartedly that you shouldn't take on work you can't do expertly. Research into terms can only go so far and mistakes can be very costly to the translator, the client and sometimes to the person using the equipment, following the guidelines etc that you've worked on.

However, you can sometimes find that a higher quote will be accepted, particularly from a regular client who trusts your work. Those few cents per word extra can then be used to pay a specialist in the area to proofread your translation and ensure that the correct terms are used. That way, the client gets your translation with guaranteed terminology, and you get your normal rate plus some education. Beware though that many translators don't like proofreading translations (aka fixing an abysmal translation for a measly few cents per word because the client tried to cut costs or chose poorly), so find one before you quote.

Of course, you could also take the view that education is worth something to you, so you might quote your normal rate (as long as it's a decent one), and earn less per hour on that job.


 
The most important is curiosity Nov 4, 2013

Hello, Michael
I think it is great that you want to start marketing yourselves. You have the curiosity and you can do it. It is great that you know these languages. It can help you in future. You just have to decide in what sphere you are more interested or what sphere is close to you.
Michael Marcoux wrote:

Hey guys!

I created an account ages ago, thinking maybe someday I would dabble in freelance translation. But now that I've graduated from college almost two years ago and can't find a full-time job in my field, I'm starting to reconsider this route. The good news is that my aggregate monthly expenses are only $800, so I'm able and willing to start out slow.

So a little about my language experience: I started teaching myself Russian when I was 16 from library books. Got a major in Russian in college, finished 4 years of Russian in only 2 and studied abroad for a year in Russia on a Fulbright grant. I lived non-stop in Russian, and still speak and write and acceptable levels for translation and interpreting. I also took a host of translation courses there and at University of Maryland. I also have a degree in political science.

I also lived and studied a semester in Oslo, but I'd feel more comfortable translating between the two since Norwegian has a more "intuitive" grammar for native English speakers. I still speak Norwegian with friends and keep up with newspapers. I took a translation test with the federal government and got a 98% in Russian and a 99% in Norwegian.

Anyhow, what I think I need now, aside from to start marketing myself (not sure about how to get direct clients exactly- do you just find international firms and cold call them or?...), is get a specialty; from what I gather, without one, you're just a bilingual who will rarely if ever find work. I see so many conflicting answers about what to specialize in, and my greatest fear is that I'll sink a lot of time into, say, learning science terms and then find there's little if no translation work in that field.

So for anyone who's familiar with state of the industry in Russian -> English and/or Norwegian English, what should I concentrate in? And how much time should I expect to spend becoming a master of those terms?


 

Michael Marcoux  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:31
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for all the comments guys! Nov 12, 2013

I guess I should feel lucky to already have "general" translation work then! I have learned the hard way before not to take on projects that were too hard, the first translation/proofreading assignment I had was a 2000 word document on soundboard technologies. Suffice to say I didn't get any follow up work. But I'll definitely keep your advice in mind. Especially since, as they say, the more you know the more you realize that you know little at all...

I also appreciate working in fields I'm interested in, but being out of college for 2 years without real work, I'm not in a position to work in something I would personally likeicon_smile.gif Which would be political translations, which I do a little bit of now, but I need something more than that. I may be getting my insurance licence soon, and was thinking that insurance may fit under the business rubric. I don't know too much about B2B insurance though- would that be a good Russian-English field?

I've seen some translations in the oil field- now THAT is some technical stuff. I think it would take years to master that...


 


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