Changing Careers
Thread poster: plynngaines

plynngaines
United States
Local time: 23:42
German to English
May 28, 2014

I have always been interested in becoming a translator but I studied to be an elementary teacher. My degrees is in Music Education but I also have a BA in German. Since I am now in my fifties and have not worked as a translator I wanted advice as to where I could begin or if I should begin. I have worked in the past for a major credit card company taking calls in German and translating documents but that was about ten years ago. Since then I have been teaching. I constantly think about becoming an interpreter/translator. How could I get work with essentially no experience? Can anyone give me some feedback?

 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 05:42
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I'd advise you to start by having a look around here May 28, 2014

plynngaines wrote:
Can anyone give me some feedback?

It's certainly a profession one can turn to in later years, if those years have been spent working/living with a second language. Many of us have done that. Speaking two languages doesn't necessarily mean you are able to translate or interpret, but it is obviously a prerequisite for both jobs. But first you do need to decide which you want to do - there are some people who do both but they are very different disciplines and I doubt you have the time to learn how to do both.

Talking about translating (and I can't talk about interpreting because I gave up at that after a few very stressful assignments), you will need to have very good writing skills in your target language (normally your native language), plus very good comprehension of your source language, backed up by tip-top research skills and entrepreneurial skills (remember, a freelancer is running a business). Then, in a common pair such as yours, you will need to specialise, which means having in-depth knowledge of your chosen sector(s) in both languages. The two specialisations you note on your profile seem very close but I suspect they are in fact worlds apart. Music involves some very specialised terminology and a great deal of knowledge about the music business, whereas poetry and literature require a great flair for reproducing the author's message and style. Of course, you will also benefit from some training in the techniques of translation: how to deal with acronyms and untranslatables; appropriate register; how closely to stick to the original structure, etc.

Has that given you some food for thought? What I'd advise you to do now is to scour this site for all the information it has to offer. This particular forum is clearly the place to start, but there's useful information in the others. There are also the Wikis and other articles under the Education tab and, very importantly, the Site Guidance Centre: http://www.proz.com/guidance-center. Feel free to come back with specific questions.

Happy research!


 

plynngaines
United States
Local time: 23:42
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the Guidance May 29, 2014

Thank you so much for responding. It sounds very hopeful to me and I do love the information I have gotten so far on this site. So I will begin and hopefully we can chat again.

 

Vladimir Pochinov  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 06:42
Member (2002)
English to Russian
Take the plunge, but don't plunge headlong! May 30, 2014

Hi,

First, I fully agree with Sheila's advice above.

I have always been interested in becoming a translator but I studied to be an elementary teacher. My degrees is in Music Education but I also have a BA in German. Since I am now in my fifties and have not worked as a translator I wanted advice as to where I could begin or if I should begin.


Second, it's never late to learn... and/or start a freelance translator careericon_smile.gif

I have worked in the past for a major credit card company taking calls in German and translating documents but that was about ten years ago...


Your prior experience with a credit card company is a valuable asset indeed... I lacked such hands-on experience back in 2005 when I first thought about tapping the market for English-into-Russian translation for oil & gas companies.

I constantly think about becoming an interpreter/translator. How could I get work with essentially no experience? Can anyone give me some feedback?


1. You may start by brushing up your knowledge of the credit card industry (and any other subject domain you may be interested in), and collecting and compiling relevant monolingual and bilingual glossaries, etc.

From my experience in entering the oil & gas translation market, I spent eight months reading up on oil & gas industry. I started with "for dummies" literature, then gradually switched to specialist material, such as product booklets, operation & maintenance manuals, reference books, course books for college students, etc.

I read all these in both Russian and English, e.g. I might download English and Russian versions of an operation manual for the same well drilling equipment.

Well, eight months later I felt confident enough to apply to a Houston, USA-based translation agency focusing on English-Russian-English oil & gas translations (they cover all aspects of the oil & gas business - legal; environment, health & safety; exploration, production, delivery and processing, etc.). I did a test translation and succeeded.

This initial contact grew into a 3-year relationship with a steady inflow of translation requests. I had to discontinue this collaboration soon after I took a salaried position with a major international law firm in mid-2008, just because I was unable to cope with all of my then-existing clients (about 35-40 of them), being available when they needed me and keeping them happy each and every time...icon_smile.gif

2. Learn some state-of-the-art productivity tools and techniques, e.g. computer-aided translation (CAT) tools, client and project management tools (e.g. Translation Office 3000)...

3. Don't plunge into it headlong. You may consider doing freelance translations on a small scale in your spare time, switching to a part-time job when you generate some repeat translation business, and making the big jump at an opportune time. Make sure you have enough money in your bank account to keep you alive and kicking for at least 3-4 months even if the inflow of translation requests dries up temporarily for any reason.

4. Finally, don't sell yourself cheap, even at the very outset!icon_smile.gif I am sure you will be in a position to secure well-paying clients as soon as you have acquired necessary knowledge, expertise and skills.

Personally, I won my first overseas client back in 2002... and I quoted US$0.06 at that time. Given the average annual inflation rates, this may well be equal to at least US$0.08-0.09 now.

Again, before I even started to offer my services to potential foreign clients I spent 6 or 7 months trying to figure out how the global translation industry operates and, in particular, what I need to know and be able to do in order to deal with foreign clients, which was an absolutely unknown area for an ordinary Russian guy at that time (not for me, though, because my prior experience included working in a foreign relations department of a microelectronics research facility, and a two-year stint as a sales and marketing manager with an importer of hair and skin care products).

--------

Well, hope it helps. Don't be afraid of taking the plunge, but don't act with headlong haste either. Good luck to you, and take care!

[Edited at 2014-05-30 22:54 GMT]


 


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