Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Did you become a translator as a result of having done something else?
Thread poster: Tom in London

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:59
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Sep 28, 2014

There seem to be a lot of threads from beginners who've got their translation qualification, but now don't know what to do, and are wondering how to get some experience. So I'm interested in thinking about these matters in a different way.

I became a translator as a result of having worked bilingually in a particular field (architecture/construction) that had nothing to do with translation. I was so completely focussed on that field that it wasn't until some time later that I realised how interested I was in the linguistic aspects of what I was doing.

Over time I gradually worked more and more on translation, specialised in architecture/construction, and now that's my main activity.

I'd never have been able to do it the other way round: in other words, first qualifying to become a translator, and then learning all the language and terminology used in architecture/construction. I think that would be completely impossible, and very arduous.

I imagine it's the same for many other professions too: surely it would be difficult to first qualify as a translator, and then become a credible specialist translator in the field of cardiac surgery, without ever having been a cardiac surgeon?

Or to take another example, I would imagine that if you're a farmer, it would then make you very credible if you decide to become a translator in the farming sector, whereas if you're first of all a translator, and then you try to become a specialist farming-related translator, without ever having been involved in farming, that wouldn't be so easy.

I'd be interested to hear from other translators who began in a different field, and then became specialist translators in that field.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Thomas T. Frost  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
French to Danish
+ ...
Much the same as you Sep 28, 2014

Much the same here; 20+ years as IBM mainframe specialist first, involving mainly English IT terms and for a few years French IT terms too. I had already been an expat for ten years when I decided to give translation a try. There simply wasn't any more work in my particular IT sector in Europe, and I had also become a bit bored with IT after so many years. It was thus out of necessity that I had to do something else. I've done some freelance writing, relocation assistance and tourism too.

In the beginning, a major problem is of course to convince potential clients that one is adequately qualified in the language combinations one offers, and without being able to produce a stack of language diplomas.

A specific problem is the almost automatic and somehow dogmatic focus on "mother tongue". I know all the IT terms in English but not in my native Danish, and I have 15 years' experience dealing with French administration. I've never used Danish software in my life. Yet, I am somehow presumed to be best at writing Danish, even though I haven't lived in Denmark since 1993, and even though I have primarily worked in English and French since then.

A not too complicated way of validating one's language skills would be handy.

Tom in London wrote:

Or to take another example, I would imagine that if you're a farmer, it would then make you very credible if you decide to become a translator in the farming sector


It would certainly have prepared one for ploughing through huge documents.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 19:59
English to Polish
+ ...
Yeah Sep 28, 2014

As a boy I didn't really know what I would do. It's not that I didn't have ideas, rather, I had too many. Children have an increased capacity to reconcile inconsistencies, so I wasn't bothered. But whenever the time came to choose, that choice was difficult.

When I had to choose my secondary education, I was simultaneously interested in all of: IT (including actually coding), history (such as already absorbing even graduate-level knowledge at the ripe age of 10-12), languages (that weren't actually a huge talent after all, other than being exceptionally good at the grammar and some other rules of my own language but even there not without pitfalls), perhaps something yet else.

Before then, I had been interested in geography as a whole or some areas of it, astronomy, heck, I even netted the max grad available in the practical/DIY/whatever-you-translate-it-as class a kid despite my notorious two left hands. Art history and even art itself was on the table for some time.

I ended up in a secondary school class that taught four languages at a time, half of them dead, which meant such great fun as your weekly test in translating Latin with or without a dictionary (probably only LA-PL but am not sure about the reverse direction), cramming a couple of sheets full of Greek vocab for another weekly fixture, or focusing to stay on top of the funky French accents because losing grip of even one of them meant an entire grade down in dictations.

I still focused my interests on IT a lot throughout that time.

After that I had to decide what to study. It was an awful case of being torn between archaeology and the law, and I've been second-guessing my choice ever since. I barely made it to a free law scholarship, but the bare pass threshold was like 90% anyway, and I made one or two extra. The test covered a heckton of history (down to some battles in 9th century Hungary), some formal logic and a little bit of past and modern cultural knowledge that could be just about anything from popular films to random details of art history (e.g. the date they renovated the façade of the Il Gesù church in Rome because art history course books round here focused on that as a conventional landmark date for the baroque era).

I contemplated psychology at that point, but I knew 22 candidates for every single free scholarship at my uni was above my head, while I didn't want to stake my future on an inferior paid scholarship, forget moving outside my own city to one with a less reputable uni, then what, look for work back here? Forget it.

So I filed my papers at archaeology. The chair at U. of Warsaw is pretty respectable worldwide, so it could have been a great choice. I aced it without preparation, heck, I got 80/100 and the third-best score in a test in which the winner had only got 83 (and perhaps had prepared seriously for it), where only 30 people out of 300 candidates even passed it (free scholarships awaited 100 of them, so they probably came to accept people who had actually failed the entry exam that year). Whatever made me choose law...

I'd also applied for classical studies and got a top-ten score out of those who actually had to take the exam (those who had it waived outranked everybody else), and English studies, which I took without preparation and scored something like top 20 out of 5000 candidates or whatever. I decided I wasn't that much into classical studies — as archaeology would have been preferable to something more philological — and that I wasn't going to learn much in English studies.

Besides, I'd thought a diploma in English studies wouldn't get me any decent job. I didn't really want to be a translator or anything like that. Perhaps I was wrong and actually going there to study would have made me some connections and got me noticed by the pundits and positioned for something more of a translation career worthy of that name, or perhaps not, perhaps it was the law course and degree that did the job and gave me I field I know well enough to translate comfortably in, plus a respectable degree.

While at law school, I usually spent my time on the other side of the street, at the classics, with my pals from secondary school, until I lost both interest and the ability to keep up with their curriculum. And then I became a newsman and then the head newsman on a large gaming portal. I also kept my own gaming website and served as an admin, mod and webmaster for some other communities. As the head news editor I got to interview game developers and do other cool stuff like that, including that night when I got me some beer and wrote a PHP parser to convert an entire section of the portal from ancient to modern HTML because I wasn't gonna be doing all that manually. And that despite not really knowing PHP. Before, I'd learnt programming languages and forgotten them through lack of opportunities to use them (e.g. Perl, VRML, DHTML if you can call that a language, Java in its applet version etc.).

I didn't become a professional player myself because I wasn't good enough, but I was somewhat close to guys who played in tournaments. I even founded a clan once in Warcraft 3 after being the no. 2 guy in one of the best Warcraft 2 clans in Europe. I wasn't all that in Starcraft 2 (my hand-eye co-ordination impairment prevents me from being too fast or agile, nor am I a great multitasker probably for related reasons), but at least I'd tried. I wish I could make a living off of gaming tournaments, you wouldn't see me translating for money.

Heck, I still wish I could get a job in the gaming industry, even though I can't even get translation jobs in that area. They never pick me for some reason. Perhaps they prefer someone with a philological degree? Their loss, my LOL.

I worked as a lawyer for a while between 2007 and late 2008, but I didn't join the bar, I stopped working for law firms, I became a translator in early 2009 and only continued my Ph.D. studies at the law faculty, which I've finished by now but still need to complete the paper and get done with the degree.

I'm happy I no longer have to teach languages because I hated that job, but I don't dislike teaching translation or teaching law for translators or even language-focused lawyers.

My lack of luck with employers is even worse than my lack of luck with girls ever was, so I became a freelancer and technically a sole proprietor after surviving a whole nine months in a salaried position.

My sole proprietorship is the proud proprietor of a broken printer, a handful of classy envolopes of a stack that has lasted me ever since 2009 and some sheets of yellow watermarked paper I'd also bought on the occasion. Oh, and the shredder. And two or three books.

Give me a gaming job and I'm out, forget law and translation, neither of which really interest me as much as a good game or a good book or makes me as happy as when I write a piece of code that works or put together a PC (which also works, preferably). At this point in my life, however, I'll probably never get to get my own dig, though I might yet one day just go and enroll as a student at archaeo. I've never promised I won't.

I'm getting sad because of this thread. I need a beer.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sebastiano Massimo Barbagallo
Italy
Local time: 19:59
English to Italian
+ ...
Yes, I did Sep 28, 2014

One (in)famous Italian Prime Minister once famously said that long term jobs are actually monotonous and boring, so Italians should consider themselves lucky to change (or lose...) their jobs frequently.
Taking a leaf out of his book, I have been a practising lawyer, a University researcher and now I am a freelance legal translator.
In this respect, while you surely do not have to be a lawyer to succeed as a legal translator, a strong legal background is certainly a great advantage.
The other way around would not work that well, in my view. Anyway, I do not know of any translator who has become a practising lawyer.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
Bilingual Customer Service -> Translator Sep 28, 2014

Technically I started interpreting while serving as a missionary, but my first paid jobs took place while working in-house for a large vehicle finance company. I was a bilingual customer service rep, then an interpreter, and finally a translator. I'm still pretty new to translation, compared to most everyone else here, but I'm coming up on my 8 year anniversary.

I really prefer translating video games over lease contracts.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:59
Spanish to English
+ ...
Bilingual Customer Service -> Translator Sep 28, 2014

Double posts are bad.

[Edited at 2014-09-28 15:50 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Platon Danilov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 20:59
Member (2014)
English to Russian
+ ...
Various fields Sep 28, 2014

I've been working as an export manager at steel mill, then an engineer at construction of a steel mill, a SEO manager, an international conference manager, including those related to steel sector, before coming into freelance translation. Almost everywhere I had to use my language skills and occasionally did some translations both for the employers and part-time freelance.

Also I have a strong interest in sustainable development concept and environmental issues, particularly in organic farming, forestation, nature conservation. I feel like it ought to become my core specialization in translation, despite having merely no practice in this field.

Yet I am not sure, if I am going to be a translator till my last days. I dream of subsistence organic farming somewhere in clean woodlands...

[Редактировалось 2014-09-28 16:54 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

njweatherdon
Canada
Member (2011)
French to English
+ ...
Subject knowledge and interest was key. Sep 28, 2014

In the second month of my MA a professor asked me to translate something for someone in the field I was studying my master's in (I was studying in my second language).

It's what I've been doing for work since then, although often people like to get practice and feedback as a part of ongoing foreign language (English) skills development so actually I do more editing now than translating.

I have a lot more freedom as a translator than if I were working as an economist. Also, I can gain exposure to dozens of projects a year rather than only working on one or two long-term projects at a time. This makes it possible to learn ridiculously lots about many methodologies in various subfields in trying to understand how to model how various things in the economy impact each other and how they affect different groups, both in the present and in the longer run.

So yeah, doing something else led to working as a translator.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:59
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Interesting Sep 28, 2014

It's interesting how you all still keep one foot in your "first love". I'm still a registered architect, and people still ask me to do things. I still read all the magazines and books, still study the subject, and pay my annual membership. Still love it. Sounds as if you do, too.



[Edited at 2014-09-28 17:34 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:59
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Yes, translation is the second career Sep 28, 2014

Tom in London wrote:
I'd be interested to hear from other translators who began in a different field, and then became specialist translators in that field.

I did 20 years in international finance, in London and Tokyo. I don't like the way my part of that industry has changed and I got sick of the game. I pulled out, came home to the UK and took some time off. Translation seems to offer the flexibility of self-employment with the ability to generate income by hooking into the global as opposed to the local economy.

Dan


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Yaotl Altan  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 12:59
Member (2006)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Italo Calvino Sep 28, 2014

Tom in London wrote:

There seem to be a lot of threads from beginners who've got their translation qualification, but now don't know what to do, and are wondering how to get some experience. So I'm interested in thinking about these matters in a different way.

I became a translator as a result of having worked bilingually in a particular field (architecture/construction) that had nothing to do with translation. I was so completely focussed on that field that it wasn't until some time later that I realised how interested I was in the linguistic aspects of what I was doing.

Over time I gradually worked more and more on translation, specialised in architecture/construction, and now that's my main activity.

I'd never have been able to do it the other way round: in other words, first qualifying to become a translator, and then learning all the language and terminology used in architecture/construction. I think that would be completely impossible, and very arduous.

I imagine it's the same for many other professions too: surely it would be difficult to first qualify as a translator, and then become a credible specialist translator in the field of cardiac surgery, without ever having been a cardiac surgeon?

Or to take another example, I would imagine that if you're a farmer, it would then make you very credible if you decide to become a translator in the farming sector, whereas if you're first of all a translator, and then you try to become a specialist farming-related translator, without ever having been involved in farming, that wouldn't be so easy.

I'd be interested to hear from other translators who began in a different field, and then became specialist translators in that field.


Exactly.

That was Italo Calvino replied to an admirer who sent him a letter asking "What do I need to become a writer?". Calvino replied that it was quite hard to become a writer from zero. He suggested to get a work and watch life, then stories will flow.

[Modifié le 2014-09-28 18:09 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 18:59
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Archaeology Sep 28, 2014

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz wrote:

...... I'll probably never get to get my own dig....


Sometime ago I was approached by an archaeologist who asked me to translate a rather long document about funerary apparatus found in tombs.

That isn't my field at all, but a cursory glance at the document suggested to me that with a bit of research, I would probably be able to manage it.

What a mistake! In future I will leave translating archaeological documents to people like yourself, who know about archaeology. There seems to be quite a lot of work in that field.

Moral of the story: when you're asked to translate something that is outside your fields of specialisation, don't just give it a cursory glance. Look at it closely. Unless you're careful, you will end up spending many hours on research, without ever being 100% sure that your terminology is correct, will get no pleasure out of the job, and will probably not satisfy your client.



[Edited at 2014-09-28 18:41 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 19:59
English to Polish
+ ...
... Sep 28, 2014

Sebastiano Massimo Barbagallo wrote:

One (in)famous Italian Prime Minister once famously said that long term jobs are actually monotonous and boring, so Italians should consider themselves lucky to change (or lose...) their jobs frequently.
Taking a leaf out of his book, I have been a practising lawyer, a University researcher and now I am a freelance legal translator.
In this respect, while you surely do not have to be a lawyer to succeed as a legal translator, a strong legal background is certainly a great advantage.
The other way around would not work that well, in my view. Anyway, I do not know of any translator who has become a practising lawyer.


I suppose seasoned court interpreters can find it easier to understand what they learn in law school, especially when litigation is involved or points of substantive law that tend to get litigated somewhat more often than the rest. Legal translators should probably have an easier time becoming competent legal writers and may feel more at ease doing legal research than most other law school students. Some translation skill helps comparative studies and generally gives more perspective to your legal interpretation (as in construction, not as in interpreting).


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Andrea Jarmuschewski  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 19:59
French to German
+ ...
Other Sep 28, 2014

I studied translation first (Germersheim School of Translation and Interpretation, Germany), and then worked for 14 years in different capacities in France (customer service, export sales department). I got another degree and started teaching German in public schools in France. After two years of that, I finally went freelance and the rest is history: I very much enjoy translating full time since 2007, I'm able to charge fair rates, and I have more requests for translation jobs than I can accept.

Sometimes, I think that I should have gone freelance much earlier, but then I'm sure that my accumulated professional experience is very valuable for my translation services.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 19:59
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I switched when I was a student already Sep 28, 2014

Tom in London wrote:
I became a translator as a result of having worked bilingually in a particular field (architecture/construction) that had nothing to do with translation. I was so completely focussed on that field that it wasn't until some time later that I realised how interested I was in the linguistic aspects of what I was doing.


After leaving school I had no idea what kind of career education I should get, and my aptitude tests (both public and private) all said I should become a civil engineer, so since my school grades were actually quite good in the required subjects, I enrolled for civil engineering. But three months down the line I realised that this is not me, and by that time a translation course had become available at the same university, and I decided to study that (beginning in the next year). I had already paid (non-refundable) for the first year of civil engineering study, and when faced with the choice of simply dropping out of college or actually completing that year (knowing that I will probably not use any of the credits), I decided to finish the year. I got good grades, too.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Did you become a translator as a result of having done something else?

Advanced search







TM-Town
Manage your TMs and Terms ... and boost your translation business

Are you ready for something fresh in the industry? TM-Town is a unique new site for you -- the freelance translator -- to store, manage and share translation memories (TMs) and glossaries...and potentially meet new clients on the basis of your prior work.

More info »
Wordfast Pro
Translation Memory Software for Any Platform

Exclusive discount for ProZ.com users! Save over 13% when purchasing Wordfast Pro through ProZ.com. Wordfast is the world's #1 provider of platform-independent Translation Memory software. Consistently ranked the most user-friendly and highest value

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search