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Someone, anyone, please help before I quit! (pulling out hair)
Thread poster: xxxbnchika

xxxbnchika
United States
Local time: 06:27
English to Spanish
Apr 25, 2014

I am new to this but when I stumbled upon it I figured you all would know better than me...given I'm sure most of you are very successful. I have ALWAYS wanted to be bilingual. As far back as I can remember, I only wanted to speak and understand Spanish. My mom would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I would reply "talk like them" pointing to my tv with telenovelas on it. And so I studied it in grammar school, high school, and majored in it in college (The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). However, I have graduated almost 7 years ago and have managed to only end up in very low paying jobs (not careers) that only want to take advantage of my skills and NOT compensate me for them. I have tried the federal and state sectors of the job market to no avail. I've tried in-state and out of state; nothing. I was recently introduced to the world of translation/ interpretation as a private contractor and I feel as if this may be my calling but I need help. After many years of getting rejections, no responses, or no respect for the knowledge and skills that I have acquired through education and experience, I am feeling as if I made a mistake in choosing my passion. Please fellow dual- and multi- language masters of the world, help me to see the light. Was your path to success as trying?? How did you navigate your way to the top?? Where did you start?? I just took an assessment for a Medical Interpretation training course and I'm awaiting my results. Is there anything that I could be doing?? I'm feeling overwhelmed by disappointment and I have thoughts of never speaking one word of Spanish again so I need some additional input from others who share my true passion. I respect all opinions, but only positivity is wanted here. Thanks for reading and responding!

 

Mohamed Mehenoun  Identity Verified
Algeria
Local time: 12:27
Member (2008)
English to French
+ ...
Business is business Apr 26, 2014

While it's really good to have a passion for languages, I think you should approach this as a business and keep in mind that business is business, there is no top and no bottom, only good and bad business...

However, from my personal experience I would advise you to :

1/ You should write your Proz.com Profile and add a CV. You should also get verified, apply for the Proz certification and put on a picture as clients feel safer with that;
2/ Try and find out what field you are really good at and specialize in it;
3/ Try and learn another language as there is a lot of competition in Spanish;
4/ Consider a membership at ATA as it could help you build up a network and they really have a very good Chronicle;
5/ Get yourself the right tool for me it's a combination of SDL Trados, Verifika...etc.

The rest is just up to how good you are at doing business and at marketing yourself.

If you need support or have any queries, I'll be glad to support/help you so don't hesitate to contact me in private...

[Edited at 2014-04-26 22:51 GMT]


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 19:27
Chinese to English
Now then, now then, what's all this shouting? Apr 27, 2014

bnchika wrote:

Was your path to success as trying??

Yes. It took five years and a fair amount of time and money invested in formal training before I got to be reasonably settled in the job.
There's plenty of demand for Spanish-English, but there's also a lot of competition. You'll have to be quite hard-nosed about it, to make sure you get to some of those jobs before anyone else. Skill, qualifications, a positive (not to say aggressive) business approach, and a bit of luck.

Good luck, and enjoy your work.


 

Diana Obermeyer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:27
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Confidence and skills Apr 27, 2014

Mohamed Mehenoun wrote:

there is no top and no bottom, only good and bad business...



I disagree with the statement above. There is a top and a bottom. I'm certainly not at the "Top" of the market. If you browse through the forums, you will get an idea of some of the people who are. I'm merely "comfortable".

I don't know what your language skills are - with a Spanish major they must be at least reasonable, but I gather from your post that you had little opportunity to speak Spanish for 7 years and your confidence and self-esteem is somewhat worn down. In those circumstances, I would suggest that a supportive learning environment is probably a better choice than diving in head first. It is a competitive market.

When you start out on the freelance route, you will be targeted by the "Bottom" - agencies that offer rates that equate to less than you would be earning flipping burgers. Here in the UK, you would often even receive more on unemployment benefits. That's if they pay the full amount of the fee, they may even make arbitrary deductions. It requires confidence and maybe a bit of financial back-up to turn these offers down and focus on winning assignments at a fair rate. Some of these bottom-feeders also take to banging on about how generous they are to "offer you an opportunity", pointing out lack of experience and even becoming abusive when you don't bow to them. It requires confidence and self-esteem to deal with that. I would judge that it is better to pay for training and/or do work-placements than to get roped into this bottom market.

Interpretation and translation are quite different, both the job itself and in their respective market. You can translate from anywhere, but you need to be on-site to interpret. If it is the interpretation side you want to focus on, consider moving to an area with a higher demand. You say that you moved out of state before. Do it for your passion as well.



[Edited at 2014-04-27 04:13 GMT]


 

KateKaminski
Local time: 12:27
German to English
Leave self-employment for a while Apr 27, 2014

I think you should try and get a job in the language industry. You might not earn as much as running your own business, but you will gain valuable experience and improve your CV vastly. Make sure you network in your new job and maintain contact with people in the industry.

Why not move to Spain, Brazil or another Spanish-speaking country to work for a while so that you have a truly in-depth understanding of the language and culture?

Think about getting a master's degree if you can afford it - either in translation or a specialist subject which will make you stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately you work with the most common language pair so you need to be at the top of the game.

Once you have this additional experience and education under your belt, you can get started on your freelance career.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:27
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Specialise Apr 27, 2014

Assuming that your mastery of Spanish (and of English) is at a level sufficiently high to enable you to translate general documents without making any mistakes, what you need to do next is to specialise in one or two specific fields.

Nobody can translate everything. In my own case, architecture and construction are easy but finance and accounting, or medicine, would be completely beyond my possibilities.

By specialising, you are much more likely to be offered translation work in the fields you specify as your specialisms. And don't claim to have expertise in more than a couple, or nobody will believe you.

At first sight my suggestion might seem to limit the range of possibilities open to you, rather than extend it; but this is not the case. In a very busy field like Spanish/English, your specialisms will make you stand out from the competition.

If you have no specialisms, start work on developing one, perhaps by focussing on trying to get translation jobs in subject areas that particularly interest you. You must be interested in particular things yourself: boats, for instance, or accounting; real estate; dentistry, etc. Whatever.

Good luck - you will need patience and it may be slow at first.

PS

Don't bother about investing in any CAT tools until your income from translation has reached a level that would justify it. Or just don't use them at all. I don't.

[Edited at 2014-04-27 10:03 GMT]


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 13:27
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Yes, the route IS difficult, but don't give up Apr 27, 2014

My story is different, but maybe you can use it anyway.

I grew up in a multilingual background with very language-conscious parents, and it took me some time to realise that not everyone has that gift for speaking several languages, and some actually struggle with their own.

My passion was for medicine, and I reached the stage you have, before I actually had to admit that I was NOT going to get into med. school, and that I had to earn a living by other means. I did several low-paid jobs like you, gritting my teeth because my headmistress once said 'You can't do what you like. You have to like what you do.'

Up to a point, she was right. No job, even your passion, is always fun. You have to take the impossible exam questions or the overnight emergencies and the failures, whatever you do. If it is one of those unpopular jobs, then accept that it is your turn this year, but you are going to move on. Meanwhile, do it as well as you can, so at least you have that satisfaction, and collect the positive moments - the helpful colleagues, the time when you did succeed, the times someone actually noticed and thanked you.

Collect the language about the job in all or any of your languages. You never know what will come up in a translation sometime!

I finally dropped out after a period of illness, and had to start over when I recovered. The time in hospital actually cured me, not only physically, but I discovered it was not really my world. That hurt! Still, I had to move on, and almost before I could cope with it, I was back at college studying technical librarianship.

It was in the madly fortunate days when a student in England could live, frugally, but without running up debts, on a student grant in the term time, so I had a break to recover and find my feet. I chose life sciences and medicine for my projects when I had any choice, but the programme covered a wide range of subjects, including technical German. I went on to work with hydraulics and mechanics for my first job, way out of my field of interest, but I also learnt to read highly technical texts and write abstracts. And I had a job on my very patchy CV...

I then took the apparently dubious step career-wise of marrying a Dane and moving to Denmark. I could not speak the language, and unemployed technical librarians seemed to be hanging at every street corner, so I was back to square one.
I started learning Danish, and yes, you CAN start in your late twenties and learn a new language, at least if you are in love, determined, and have good teachers and support from your family and neighbours. It became my 'language of the heart' if not a second native language. I discovered that I could even outdo some Danes at their own language, and began to see it as a job opportunity.

But job-wise I was back to looking after toddlers in day-care and acting as caretaker in our block of flats, cleaning the staircases and clearing away snow in the winter.

As soon as our son was a little older, I took night classes - basic office training, accounts, and worked up to a Business University training. It was still very difficult to find a 'real' job - my son was at university when I made the final breakthrough!

Meanwhile I worked in a factory, in the health care services and at an international museum... There were lots of very good moments and I picked up an enormous lot of language experience along the way.
_________________________

I sometimes thought of a little story. When I was looking after children in Copenhagen, I used to meet up with a couple of other young mothers, and one day we planned an outing with our children to the so-called Hermitage in the Royal Deer Park. We packed picnics, drinks, all the extra baggage small children need, and met at the station. We let the children walk instead of sitting in their prams... My son and the others kept finding things to play with and look at - a black beetle, an exciting stone, wild flowers and other distractions. We were enjoying ourselves, so we took our time.
The children were hungry, so we found a place to sit down and eat our picnic before we reached the Hermitage. And suddenly it was time to go home, before we ever got there! Sitting in the train home, we were disappointed, but then one mother said: 'If we had rushed to the Hermitage, we would have missed the beetle and all the other things we saw on the way. The children have really had far more fun as it turned out. The whole idea was an outing they would enjoy, so really it was a successful day!'
_________________________

I was over 50 when I finally passed my language diploma, and 54 when I added the crown jewel - the module in medical translation with the best grade I have ever achieved in a lifetime with many, many exams. So I can make my little medical contribution after all, and I have finally ended up, not where I originally wanted to go, but in the right place.

And that is really more important.

Life never turns out the way you expect. Make the best of what comes, and good luck!

Another story that inspired me over the years is 'The Fourth Wise Man'.
There is a version of it here:
http://www.ely.anglican.org/education/schools/collective_worship/pdf/TheFourthWiseMan.pdf


 

Sian Cooper  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 13:27
French to English
+ ...
Practice - read up on some theory - improve your skills Apr 28, 2014

Hello, bnchica. Lots of good advice in this thread - even if it may conflict. It conflicts because we are all different and have different abilities, and different ways of approaching this life. Like Christine, I am a late starter - I'm 54 and studying for my MA in Translation now. I'm working as a freelance translator, and am managing to make a go of it now after a couple of years - there are still some hard times, and I would certainly not have survived emotionally, let alone financially, if it had not been for the support of people here and others I have 'met' online.

If you get on to the Medical Interpretation course, I think you will be really well on your way to achieving your dream, and you won't really need to read the rest of this post but hey, go ahead anywayicon_smile.gif

There are three things that drive commercial translation: quality (how well the translation meets the client needs); price (it is a business, yes); and speed. You need to be able to compete, especially early on. Being able to provide quality at speed puts you in a better position to negotiate price.

Quality: how to achieve quality - what is quality?

I recommend finding out some more about the theory of translation - not translation for language learning purposes, but translation for communication purposes. I would recommend Anthony Pym's Exploring Translation Theories. It's short, he has a sense of humour and doesn't necessarily approach everything with reverence, it's clear. It will get you thinking. Also, he posts a lot of stuff on You Tube, you can watch some of that.

If you can, read Fire Ant and Worker Bee stuff: because you have the Flame.

I also recommend practice. It will help you build a portfolio (which helps to show potential clients or agencies your skills), it helps get back in the swing, it helps you to get up speed. It can also help you to identify an area of specialisation. Think about what you have learnt other than languages in your life: your knowledge and experience other than in translation can make you better able to deal with some types of texts than others - having target language knowledge of a field is a big help. Worked at McDonalds? - you have knowledge that could start you down a catering/ food preparation specialisation route... explore your own knowledge. Find texts about it and translate them. Work out what you enjoy over and above languages.

Learn at least one CAT tool. Wordfast has a free online version (not my fave at all, but...). But there are others - read the info on proz, lots of it if you dig.

Join Linked In translation groups, you will find some interesting discussions, you will feel less alone.

Decide whether you are going to work with agencies or whether you feel you are able to go out there and get direct clients. You may have an 'in' already through friends or ex-colleagues or whatever. Again, lots of advice on here about that stuff.

A lot of people will tell you not to accept low prices. Well, I agree - but I also believe in eating. So, at first, when you're still building up speed, you are almost bound to. But I do recommend giving yourself a minimum below which you will not go. Yes, ES-EN is a highly competitive language pair, but it's also pretty busy. I'm doing OK in it, and getting perfectly good rates, specialising in technical work with a contractual bias. You do not actually have to accept the pittance being offered by some people. You CAN say no!

Good luck and keep the flame burning.


 

Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:27
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Do not add your CV! Apr 29, 2014

Mohamed Mehenoun wrote:
1/ You should write your Proz.com Profile and add a CV.

I strongly recommend NOT to add your CV in any downloadable form to a web profile. Scammers grab these CVs and use them to try to get business under your name, using fake contact details.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:27
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Catch-22 Apr 29, 2014

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

Mohamed Mehenoun wrote:
1/ You should write your Proz.com Profile and add a CV.

I strongly recommend NOT to add your CV in any downloadable form to a web profile. Scammers grab these CVs and use them to try to get business under your name, using fake contact details.


You're probably right, Tomás, but not having a CV as part of your profile means that technically, your profile is "incomplete", which I believe can affect your Proz ranking.


 

Emma Goldsmith  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:27
Member (2010)
Spanish to English
ProZ profile completeness Apr 29, 2014

Tom in London wrote:

not having a CV as part of your profile means that technically, your profile is "incomplete", which I believe can affect your Proz ranking.


For what it's worth, my ProZ profile doesn't have a CV and it's marked as 100% complete.


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:27
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Ah Apr 29, 2014

Emma Goldsmith wrote:

Tom in London wrote:

not having a CV as part of your profile means that technically, your profile is "incomplete", which I believe can affect your Proz ranking.


For what it's worth, my ProZ profile doesn't have a CV and it's marked as 100% complete.


Ah OK thanks Emma - I've removed mine straight away !

[Edited at 2014-04-29 07:29 GMT]


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 13:27
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
You do not need a downloadable CV on your profile Apr 29, 2014

Add approprite information, the more the better, in the 'about me' section, and write 'CV available on request' at the point where you can choose to enter a CV (or not).

I have removed the CV from my profile, and it still counts as complete.

Make sure you have a good CV you can send off fast - you will get requests!
A freelancer's CV is not the same as the kind of thing you would use if you were aiming at employment - you can, of course make out two or three variations for different types of clients.

As a freelancer, you are often bidding for one-off jobs.

So emphasise your skills and expertise and never mind the time factor!
Ideally you are hoping for good long-term clients who keep coming back, but there always has to be a first time.

If you have the chance, try attending powwows.
These may be anything from a handful of colleagues meeting for a couple of hours over drinks to a mini-conference, but I have found them a great way to make contact.

Best of luck!


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:27
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Hmmm Apr 29, 2014

Christine Andersen wrote:

---- try attending powwows....
These may be anything from a handful of colleagues meeting for a couple of hours over drinks to a mini-conference, but I have found them a great way to make contact.

Best of luck!


Aren't these just polite sessions where you engage in light conversation with your most threatening competitors? (evil grin)


 

Orrin Cummins  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 20:27
Japanese to English
+ ...
No Apr 29, 2014

Tom in London wrote:

Christine Andersen wrote:

---- try attending powwows....
These may be anything from a handful of colleagues meeting for a couple of hours over drinks to a mini-conference, but I have found them a great way to make contact.

Best of luck!


Aren't these just polite sessions where you engage in light conversation with your most threatening competitors? (evil grin)


That would be meetings between heads of state.


 
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