Question: How to find an interest if you don't have one
Thread poster: Michael Manion
Michael Manion  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:26
Russian to English
Jan 9, 2014

Hello,

I want to be a freelance translator and have been learning about what it requires. One of the things that came to my attention was finding an interest or topic in translating (like business translation or sports). I have a few in mind but to be sure, what is the key in choosing a field of interest in translating?

Regards,
Dobr0dn0


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 21:26
English to Polish
+ ...
Choose something you like or are good at Jan 9, 2014

Dobr0dn0 wrote:

Hello,

I want to be a freelance translator and have been learning about what it requires. One of the things that came to my attention was finding an interest or topic in translating (like business translation or sports). I have a few in mind but to be sure, what is the key in choosing a field of interest in translating?

Regards,
Dobr0dn0


Choose something you like, something which comes easier to you than other things, don't chase illusions of this or that being more profitable than something else, within reason, of course, as you need to know how to gain access to clients in narrowly specialised fields that don't get much circulation. Fields where there's always some work include medicine, tech, law and finance. Agencies will typically tend to have such jobs, unlike e.g. literary translations or even marketing translations.

Find a field where you can realistically hope to excel, a field that won't get you bored, a field that won't be hit or miss unless you take a degree course in it (taking a degree in a non-translation field isn't a bad idea, actually; some translators even have such a degree but no translation degree).

Perhaps sign up for an internship with an agency where you'll be supervised and have all your translations revised by an a more experienced translator (so that you aren't responsible for the final outcome) and see what you like best.

Alternatively, if you're bold, you could pick up a couple of short excerpts from Wikipedia, translate them as best you can and post them in the forums. The practicing translators will tell you which of your texts has the most potential.

[Edited at 2014-01-09 23:58 GMT]


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 20:26
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Need for specialisation Jan 10, 2014

Dobr0dn0 wrote:
One of the things that came to my attention was finding an interest or topic in translating (like business translation or sports).

To some extent the need to specialise depends on the language pair. A translator in a rare pair can't afford to specialise, or rather s/he certainly would do better to tackle anything and everything, making use of subject matter experts where necessary. Rates will generally allow for this expense (and more), although even for a generalist a steady flow of work may be a problem.

So, it will be very important for you to specialise in the ES-EN pair. A generalist in that pair can probably do little better than 0.06€ per source word due to the flood of amateur "translators" willing to work for a pittance. Maybe specialisation won't be so important from Russian - I don't know.

Try to at least decide on broad areas: specialising in medical, patents, advertising and poetry would send a very confused signal to potential clients. You would also find it extremely difficult to constantly switch between such specialisations.

As Łukasz says, make sure you can excel in your specialisation(s) and enjoy the challenge of the subject matter.


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 04:26
Chinese to English
Specialisms often evolve Jan 10, 2014

You don't necessarily have to consciously choose your specialisms at the beginning of your career. Often people with specialisms are those who came into translation from another career - an engineer who becomes a translator has a natural specialism in engineering.

Translators who are translators from the beginning often start out as generalists, and then through a combination of circumstance and luck and interest find themselves doing more work in one particular area. They build up a level of knowledge, maybe get a qualification in the area, and then that becomes their specialisation. It's a process that can take years or decades.

If you want to specialise early, then you really have to get cracking now. Pick a field and read everything you can about it in all of your languages. Watch talks and TV shows about it in all of your languages. Read industry journals as well as consumer-oriented writing. In a specialist area, you will be expected to know *a lot* and you will be competing with people who have worked in that industry before. You'll have to show that your understanding and your writing skills in the relevant areas match theirs. Practice, practice, practice.


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Texte Style
Local time: 21:26
French to English
Why do you want to be a translator? Jan 10, 2014

If you want to be a translator primarily to earn money, maybe you should aim for the most lucrative sectors like finance, and read it up or maybe take a course.

If you want to be a translator because you love working with language, teasing meaning out of an obscure or cleverly worded text and finding the best possible way of saying it in your native language, you might enjoy marketing or academic translations.

If you see translation as a bridge between cultures, maybe you'd be happier doing tourism or working for UNESCO.

I only do stuff I'm interested in (being rather indifferent to money except as a gauge of what my talent is worth). One of my clients is a dance school. They used to send their files to the agency I worked for, then stopped when I left because the person who replaced me was no good at that type of text. They then tracked me down via LinkedIn and were delighted to see that they could outsource stuff to me as a freelancer. Luckily the "non-compete" clause didn't apply and I was able to accept their work. They wanted me because I love ballet and this shone right through my work. For this type of translation, passion counts for a lot!


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:26
Russian to English
+ ...
If you don't have an interest in anything, it may Jan 10, 2014

take a few years, or more, before you find one in a natural way. In the meantime you may try doing something else, what interests you even to some extenty, or perhaps is just less demanding.


[Edited at 2014-01-10 16:41 GMT]


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 14:26
German to English
+ ...
Is it really necessary? Jan 10, 2014

The material that I translate does not necessarily reflect my interests. In fact, usually it doesn't. It also doesn't really matter, because the client wants the material to be translated properly whether or not the translator finds it interesting. However, if you have expertise in certain areas, then you can specialize. For example, an accountant become translator will be good at financial translations.

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KKastenhuber  Identity Verified
Austria
Local time: 21:26
Russian to German
+ ...
not necessary, but useful Jan 11, 2014

Maxi Schwarz wrote:

The material that I translate does not necessarily reflect my interests. In fact, usually it doesn't. It also doesn't really matter, because the client wants the material to be translated properly whether or not the translator finds it interesting. However, if you have expertise in certain areas, then you can specialize. For example, an accountant become translator will be good at financial translations.


In my opinion, it's not really necessary. Many translators who are translators from the beginning and didn't come into translation from another career start out as generalists, and I don't think there's anything wrong with continuing as one, as long as you know to say no to projects you're not qualified to take on. However, finding projects that match your interests (or specializing, whatever you understand by that) is useful because it allows you to work faster, deliver better quality, face less competition and enjoy your projects more, all of which ultimately means that you should be able to make more money, at least if you market yourself well. Now, defining "generalist" and "specialized" is opening a whole 'nother can of worms ...


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Texte Style
Local time: 21:26
French to English
interest Jan 11, 2014

I'm not saying that I've never translated a text I haven't found interesting, but certainly I have never gone for a week without translating a fascinating text.

I find the idea of just churning out what the client wants without being in the least bit interested in the text so chillingly dire I wonder how you manage it, Maxi Schwarz.

If I'm not interested, I'll just take the first term to crop up more than once on Linguee. If I am interested, I'll maybe spend an hour or so reading up websites that use the term in both source and target languages. I'm sure anyone familiar with the subject matter can tell the difference: my text will ring true and sound authentic when I've put in the necessary time researching the subject, whereas if I've just cobbled something together it'll just about be readable and certainly won't engage the readers the same way.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:26
Russian to English
+ ...
You absolutely have to be interested in whatever you are doing, if you are to be doing it everyday- Jan 11, 2014

ten, or more hours a day. Otherwise, your life will turn into a torture, or the material you will produce will be of a very mediocre quality, based on my experience.

Interest is absolutely essential. You must at least love the words you are translating, and the sentence structure.

[Edited at 2014-01-11 14:37 GMT]


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 21:26
English to Polish
+ ...
Moar Jan 11, 2014

Texte Style wrote:

If you want to be a translator primarily to earn money, maybe you should aim for the most lucrative sectors like finance, and read it up or maybe take a course.


Also, you'd better really like translating or interpreting. Sometimes the kind of qualifications you need to acquire to become really good or even deliver acceptable performance (some fields are really difficult) is such that you'd basically earn more money in the other profession. It's possible for a young legal translator to make more than a lawyer in his age group, or for a medical interpreter to be a higher earner than a doctor who doesn't own/co-run a large practice, or for a business translator/interpreter to outdo junior VP's, where the same person doing non-translation work in the same field wouldn't be paid so well, but this is all gamey and risky and all. After going to law school and translation school, you just might be better off manning the Foreignian Desk in a reasonably forward-looking law firm. If you complete med school and a heavy-duty interpreting course, you just might be better off as an academic sort of superdoctor who thrives in international research teams, conference settings etc. Same goes for MBA-holding translators.

If you want to be a translator because you love working with language, teasing meaning out of an obscure or cleverly worded text and finding the best possible way of saying it in your native language, you might enjoy marketing or academic translations.


Or even literary translations if you can manage to enter that field, which is not an easy feat to accomplish.

If you see translation as a bridge between cultures, maybe you'd be happier doing tourism or working for UNESCO.


Yeah, again, like just about any job where you need to be somewhat competent at the substantive stuff in addition to being a translator.

I only do stuff I'm interested in (being rather indifferent to money except as a gauge of what my talent is worth). One of my clients is a dance school. They used to send their files to the agency I worked for, then stopped when I left because the person who replaced me was no good at that type of text. They then tracked me down via LinkedIn and were delighted to see that they could outsource stuff to me as a freelancer. Luckily the "non-compete" clause didn't apply and I was able to accept their work. They wanted me because I love ballet and this shone right through my work. For this type of translation, passion counts for a lot!


Just like me and litigation! (Seriously, mediation is better.)


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 14:26
German to English
+ ...
answering Jan 12, 2014

Texte Style wrote:

I find the idea of just churning out what the client wants without being in the least bit interested in the text so chillingly dire I wonder how you manage it, Maxi Schwarz.

If I'm not interested, I'll just take the first term to crop up more than once on Linguee. If I am interested, I'll maybe spend an hour or so reading up websites that use the term in both source and target languages. I'm sure anyone familiar with the subject matter can tell the difference: my text will ring true and sound authentic when I've put in the necessary time researching the subject, whereas if I've just cobbled something together it'll just about be readable and certainly won't engage the readers the same way.

What I am interested in is producing a good translation. The process itself is interesting. I supported a family as sole provider through freelance translation for around 25 years. I can't relate to the idea of grabbing the first term that crops up on Linguee for lack of interest. You have a process and routine, so that what you produce is good.

This is backward actually so I'll start from the beginning. First you have to make sure you can handle the material. There are a lot of things that don't need research in the first place. Being well read and knowing things in a broad range of areas helps. You stay away from absolute specializations.

I HAVE translated fascinating material. There was the diary of a half-orphan who wandered through what was then the Austro Hungarian Empire just as the world was changing - found in an attic. The study of what happens microscopically in the blood when persons go into shock. Loads of things like that. But as a Canadian certified translator I also get piles of certificates, divorce judgments, university transcripts, letters of recommendation. These are NOT fascinating! But if you put your pride into each and every one of them, then that engenders a different kind of interest.

I don't know if any of this makes sense.


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 14:26
German to English
+ ...
another answer Jan 12, 2014

LilianBNekipelo wrote:

ten, or more hours a day. Otherwise, your life will turn into a torture, or the material you will produce will be of a very mediocre quality, based on my experience.

I don't see torture or mediocrity. But.....

Interest is absolutely essential. You must at least love the words you are translating, and the sentence structure.

[Edited at 2014-01-11 14:37 GMT]

There is the answer! That's it right there.

[Edited at 2014-01-12 01:10 GMT]


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