Need some guidance:changing career to be a translator with no experience or qualifications (yet)
Thread poster: Nina Clancy

Nina Clancy  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:06
Spanish to English
Dec 7, 2014

Hi everyone
I've been reading through the forums and I see some people in a similar situation but I am feeling a little overwhelmed as I really do want to work as a professional translator but I have three huge drawbacks:
1. I have no professional experience .
2.I have no formal qualifications in my language pair
3. I seem to have the most common language pair in the world: Spanish-English!

For those of you who have dedicated years of your life to your career please don't see me as just " dabbling " in your field as although it is a late change in career for me ( just turned 40) I do take it seriously. I studied Spanish at school ( only to GCSE) and have just spent the past 5 years working in Spain ( predominantly with expats) but honestly that's about it.... I'm not choosing to be a translator because I think it's easy,,, its a huge challenge for me but after spending over 13 years in undergraduate/ post graduate study as a doctor it's time to change direction. So any advice?

I'm believe that in my favour I have
1. A very strong desire to succeed
2. A love of the language and art
3. Realistic expectations. For now I'll be happy to just pay my rent and bills and live
4. Some time...I am able to take a year out (from 2016) to support myself while looking for work
5. I have my medical background so would like to specialize

So my plan so far:
1. I have almost completed an online introduction to translation course (only 2 months) and loved it! First ever translations
2. I am enrolled to do the DipTrans course in Uk starting Jan 2015 and sit the exam in Jan 2016
3. I am planing to take the DELE ( only recognized Spanish equivalent fluency exam at level B2 in May next year)
4. My husband and I go back to Spain to live January 2016 when I quit my current full time job and then its make or break...

So is there anyone out there who can help and advise? I know most agencies want a Masters degree and maybe 20 years ago that would have been realistic but not now. Also I have no references and no work experience. I'm willing to get a mentor, do online training , read, research ... whatever I can ( within reason). I guess I just need some encouragement and practical advice on what and where I should be focusing on...Please be kind! I know its a long hard road but want to stay positive

Many thanks in advance everyone

Nina Clancy


Direct link Reply with quote
 
philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
The great thing about this job... Dec 7, 2014

...is that you can have limited experience and still get work if you have the knack for translation. I started out with just French and German A-levels, doing translations for my girlfriend's dad, who was a magazine editor. That was over thirty years ago.

It hasn't been my experience that agencies want master's degrees - your DipTrans and DELE should be fine. Your medical background will be a big plus. And Spanish-English is a very common language pair, but that also means there's plenty of work around.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2014-12-07 19:40 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Magda Phili
Italy
Local time: 18:06
Member (2013)
Italian to Greek
+ ...
Don't worry too much Dec 7, 2014

I'd say go for it. Succeeding as a translator depends on a variety of factors. However, since there's a huge competition in your language pair you may find yourself discouraged at first. What you need to do is INVEST in building true and powerful relationships with clients. Offer them something that someone else doesn't and not just price wise. I know you might not know what that thing is but you will discover it along the way. That's your best bet (besides being really good at what you do). Of course, this is just my opinion....

All the best!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 18:06
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Don't get discouraged Dec 7, 2014

It is not in fact uncommon to start translating as a second career and at a mature age.

A lot of valuable training is picked up in the 'University of Life', and with your medical training you have indeed a head start in an important field.

Make sure it is bilingual, however. As I am sure you are aware, medical language is sometimes very different from the 'matrix' language.

If you pass the Dip Trans at first shot, congratulations - you can really feel proud of yourself. If not, you will be in excellent company, so keep trying! But it might be an idea to take a course or two as distance teaching and read some practical translation theory. It is not necessary, but I found I could benefit from other people's experience instead of inventing the wheel in every situation. I also started in-house and learnt a lot from helpful colleagues.

Not all translation is rocket science - even in the medical field. Take on any jobs you can do well to gather experience, admit it when you need help, and build up from there.

One of the first paid jobs I did was an autobiography of one of my parents' colleagues - and in fact I discovered specialist knowledge I did not realise I had acquired, simply from growing up in their world. Relatives and colleagues who can help with terminology may be a source of experience too. I worked for a dendrochronologist brother-in-law as well.

In fact there are ongoing discussions about who translates best in medicine: medics who know two languages, or linguists who study some medicine. Life is too short for most people to take advanced university degrees in both, although you do have to keep studying as long as you are working.

There comes a time when you do not actually have to sit exams and show certificates. You have the knowledge and can apply it, or you know where to search for what you need.

I had a training in librarianship and business information management from way back before the days of the Internet and Google... with some 'German for the Technologist' and translation into English. This was in fact a brilliant foundation for translating: text analysis, knowledge of technical literature and studies of target readers from schoolchildren to intelligent amateurs (general readers) to academics and researchers checking out what others were doing in their field. Forty years later, that and my school Latin come in useful every day!

I then married a Dane and had to start learning the language from absolute basics... and had a very checkered career before starting translation in my late forties.

Specialising in a subject is as important as language study, so with your approach, I would certainly not say you were 'dabbling'.

Best of luck!



[Edited at 2014-12-08 19:34 GMT]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Nina Clancy  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:06
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the encouragement!Where is best to look for my first jobs? Dec 8, 2014

HI everyone:
Thanks so much for the encouragement!
I know all of you have oodles of experience though and I'm not sure where is it best for me to start looking for my first jobs?
I won't be looking yet for a while as I'm still taking some advanced Spanish private classes and need to get much more involved in my Dip Tran course starting soon. But looking ahead, where so I start? If agencies aren't necessarily looking for qualifications Phil then I assume they are looking for experience?
Any tips on how to start building a portfolio... even if it means little pay to start with?I've read some people who undercut everyone else's prices just to get work to get started but that doesn't seem like the right way to go about it. Is there any charity work out there or apprentice work etc where I could focus on? Does the mentoring programme on this site maybe help with that?
Thanks again
Nina


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Bernhard Sulzer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:06
English to German
+ ...
Never sell yourself cheap Dec 8, 2014

ninacc wrote:

HI everyone:
Thanks so much for the encouragement!
I know all of you have oodles of experience though and I'm not sure where is it best for me to start looking for my first jobs?
I won't be looking yet for a while as I'm still taking some advanced Spanish private classes and need to get much more involved in my Dip Tran course starting soon. But looking ahead, where so I start? If agencies aren't necessarily looking for qualifications Phil then I assume they are looking for experience?
Any tips on how to start building a portfolio... even if it means little pay to start with?I've read some people who undercut everyone else's prices just to get work to get started but that doesn't seem like the right way to go about it. Is there any charity work out there or apprentice work etc where I could focus on? Does the mentoring programme on this site maybe help with that?
Thanks again
Nina


You should bring a great command of two languages to this job, meaning your native language and your second language. That means you'll be able to provide accurate work from the beginning and need to be paid adequately. Simply trying to get jobs from the job board here will prove disappointing. Here's another thread with some info:
http://www.proz.com/forum/getting_established/278201-how_to_get_started_as_a_translator_what_do_i_need.html#2369905

Good luck!
B


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Tiffany Hardy  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:06
Spanish to English
Contact agencies specializing in medical translations Dec 8, 2014

Contacting agencies is the fastest way to find work.

Since medicine is your field, focus on that. Make a database of agencies around the world that specialize in medical translations and offer your language pair. Your experience and background will be much more relevant to them.

Once you've done that, you can start with more general translation agencies emphasizing your area of expertise. Yes, there is a lot of competition in ES-EN translation but from my personal experience, I have been offered medical translations on two occasions and both times I turned the work down because I didn't feel confident enough to do it. I'm sure there are many other ES-EN translators that shy away from it, and competent PMs out there who are reluctant to offer this kind of work to someone who doesn't specialize in it, if they want to retain their client.

In terms of finding direct clients, you could start at the university level, contacting colleges of medicine in universities throughout Spain and making your services known. You would be a top choice for an academic wishing to publish an article in a highly specialised international journal, or writing a paper to present at a conference. Plus finding contact information to offer your services to is a no brainer - you can usually find email addresses to departmental heads and faculty members listed online. I would be careful not to do this spam style but contact each person individually and ask if they might have an interest and then if so, send a brochure of sorts with rate information. I would definitely include revision rates as well, since a lot of potential clients at this level have a high level of English but would be willing to pay for a more polished publication by having a native English speaking doctor look at it.

Best of luck!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 00:06
Chinese to English
Your medical training is your professional experience Dec 8, 2014

One of the things that you find after translating for a while is just how important non-linguistic factors are. These include background knowledge and research ability. You've got the background knowledge in medicine, so make it work for you.

Obviously you have to make sure that your Spanish is up to snuff; in particular, make sure that you really "get" medical Spanish. But agencies will be very pleased to have you with your experience.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
India
Local time: 21:36
Member (2006)
English to Hindi
+ ...
Also complete your profile Dec 8, 2014

In addition to the good advice given here, you should also complete your profile. A good profile will convince potential clients that you are serious about becoming a translator.

Often clients will directly contact you from your profile, so your profile must be compellingly presented.

You will need to be patient, too, as it might take a while before clients discover you. You could help in this by being more visible on this site by participating in forums, kudoz and other activities.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
polyglot45
English to French
+ ...
direct clients Dec 8, 2014

I have no wish to start a polemic but I am always amazed when fellow translators direct newbies towards translation agencies. Some people on the site work only or mainly with agencies, and it is their choice. They prefer to leave the client-hunting and admin to the said agencies. So it may be but I would simply say that direct clients pay better because there is no agency to take a cut. In the SP-ENG pair, rates are known to be very low and working with agencies will only drive down your income.

The other advantage with direct clients is the possibility for exchange and discussion. If things are not clear in a text, you can ask and get suitable feedback.

Given all the years of medical training that you quote, there is every reason to presume that you have some contacts in the medical field, so you should start networking right now, even if you are not yet really ready to roll.

Contact big pharma companies that you have known in another life or experts recognised in specialist fields that may need help in producing texts in English for publication.

There are many more things you can do to market yourself but these pointers will help for starters.
Whatever you do, do not join those who swim in the murk at the bottom end of the market - for your own sake!


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:06
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You have many plusses Dec 8, 2014

ninacc wrote:
I have three huge drawbacks:
1. I have no professional experience .
yet you say you're 40 and spent the last 5 years working in Spain, so you're no 20-y-o finding your feet in the working world.
2.I have no formal qualifications in my language pair
but you do have a post-doc in medicine and you're currently studying for language/translation certification.
3. I seem to have the most common language pair in the world: Spanish-English!
the greatest number of professional translators, but also the greatest number of words to be translated and the greatest number of "hobby translators" who have no hope of producing skilled medical translations.

I am enrolled to do the DipTrans course in Uk starting Jan 2015 and sit the exam in Jan 2016
Good luck, though I wonder if it's a little soon - they do say you need 2 years full-time professional experience to have any chance. But I haven't done it so maybe that's a bit OTT.
3. I am planing to take the DELE ( only recognized Spanish equivalent fluency exam at level B2 in May next year)
You need to keep studying intensively as B2 is not a great level for a translator, IMHO.

I'd say you have every hope of succeeding, particularly as you have time to study and prepare. There must be cloud-sourced work you could do in the medical field: translations to be used by associations - emails and blogs that don't in themselves have any commercial value but merit translation. I don't know where but they do say you can find everything on the web. That would be far better than working at low rates for profit-making companies.

ProZ.com can help with mentoring if you become a paying member - apply soon as there may be a waiting list. Once a member, you would find the Blue Board very useful, in conjunction with the agency directory, to help you decide which agencies to contact. That might be better than relying on the public job board here - some jobs are really not worth having. Do contribute to the KudoZ part of the site (esp for ES>EN medical terms) as that will be useful for you as well as askers. KudoZ points are fundamental to finding work here, whatever you think of the merits of such a system. Visit the Site Guidance Centre (under the "about" tab) and make sure you attend the free webinar(s) asap to help you find clients here and use the site to your advantage.

But anyway you should be spreading your net wider in your search for clients: how about attending medical events in Spanish/English and leaving your card with attendees? Be present wherever doctors are present and let it be known that you're a doctor cum medical translator.

Do stay positive and believe in your ability to become a medical translator. Stop thinking about what you haven't got and concentrate instead on what you have got (more than you think) and what you're getting. And then communicate that to potential clients.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
xxxtietzes
Japanese to German
+ ...
B2 Dec 8, 2014

B2 is not enough for translation. At least C1, better C2. But after 5 long years in Spain you shouldn't have the slightest problem with a C1 or even a C2 exam.

However, to my mind, you can skip general language exams like the DELE if you sit for the DipTrans.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Nina Clancy  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:06
Spanish to English
TOPIC STARTER
Dele exam and DipTrans Dec 8, 2014

HI:
I am also not sure how relevant the DELE exam is . My current Spanish teacher reckons I am at least C1 level but she told me herself ( and she is an examiner and native Spaniard with a masters in linguistics) that some of the mcq's stuff is really obscure in the written paper so best to stick to the B2 for starters. I can always do the C1 later...Frankly I am just doing it to get some exam experience in Spanish and it never hurts to have something related to the field right?
I definitely feel I could not be an interpreter I panick still when speaking etc but I am far better with the written word.
I have heard the DipTrans is indeed very difficult?Any other thoughts on this? The preparation course I am taking will advise after 6 months if I am ready to consider taking the exam next January. I need to start somewhere though ... any further advice on formal qualifications which don't require me to do a full time degree?

I really do appreciate all the encouragement and tips everyone:)

Thanks
Nina


Direct link Reply with quote
 


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


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

Need some guidance:changing career to be a translator with no experience or qualifications (yet)

Advanced search







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 »
LSP.expert
You’re a freelance translator? LSP.expert helps you manage your daily translation jobs. It’s easy, fast and secure.

How about you start tracking translation jobs and sending invoices in minutes? You can also manage your clients and generate reports about your business activities. So you always keep a clear view on your planning, AND you get a free 30 day trial period!

More info »



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