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Is a second degree worth it?
Thread poster: katherinehache

katherinehache
Canada
Local time: 19:25
French to English
+ ...
May 5, 2015

Hello,

I recently graduated with a degree in French-English translation, and am considering pursuing a second degree in English-French translation in the fall. Is it worth the extra 3-4 years of school? The majority of job postings I've seen are either English-French or require the ability to work in both directions, and I realize that being able to work both ways will make me more valuable as a translator. At the same time, doing another degree will mean I'll be largely out of the job market (aside from smaller freelance jobs) for another 3-4 years.

Context: I am an Anglophone Canadian. I did my first degree at the University of Ottawa (English stream), and would do my second in Montréal (French-only) - partly for a change of scenery, and partly because I feel that being in a Francophone environment would help offset the fact that French is my second language. Because French is my second language and I'm currently not using it as much as I'd like, I wouldn't feel comfortable offering translation services towards that language without some formal training.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:25
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Would you be better qualified than a native speaker? May 5, 2015

I accept that many people are a lot more bilingual than I am - French will always be a foreign language to me. But there are so many professional translators in each pair who are native speakers of the target language that it seems inappropriate to me to do both unless you've been bilingual from birth.

OTOH, studying a specialisation in the target or both languages must give you an edge. There's a lot of work out there in each pair - far more than 35-40 hours a week. You just need to find a niche.


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 07:25
Chinese to English
Don't do a degree to get more work May 6, 2015

My feeling would be that a second degree can be worth it, but you shouldn't imagine it's going to fix your business. If you can't build up a business translating in your strongest pair, an additional pair isn't going to help you.

If you're a recent graduate, then don't worry if it's taking a while to get going. Most people take at least a year to build up a solid client base. I would recommend that you use any spare time learning more about a specialist area, and finding out how best to market yourself. After you've got some experience, if you want a second degree, you will have a better idea of what subject to do, and how it will help you.


 

Verlow Woglo Junior
Brazil
Local time: 20:25
Member (2014)
Portuguese to English
+ ...
It depends! May 6, 2015

Will a second degree help you? It is nice to study and have diplomas, but...

I am pursuing a second degree now, and I am frustrated, because my clients don't even ask about my first, don't care if I have a second degree...

I am thinking that it is better to pursue language courses, obtain international certifications, and take some technical education courses in areas of interest.

But then again like I said, it will depend on what your clients ask for in terms of qualification.



Cheers!


 

ATIL KAYHAN  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 02:25
Member (2007)
Turkish to English
+ ...
If you will enjoy it, go for it. May 6, 2015

I think any degree is worth doing it. However, I believe you should approach it from the point of whether you will enjoy doing it or not. If you will enjoy studying for your second degree, then it is definitely worth it. Whether the clients will value a second degree or not, is really irrelevant. You are the only one that matters here, not your clients. Therefore, I suggest you weigh your chances of being successful in your studies for a second degree, and decide accordingly. Best of luck.

 

Jeff Henson  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:25
Member (2015)
French to English
A second degree, sure! but... May 6, 2015

Phil Hand wrote:
...I would recommend that you use any spare time learning more about a specialist area, and finding out how best to market yourself. After you've got some experience, if you want a second degree, you will have a better idea of what subject to do, and how it will help you.


I agree with Phil. On today's market, I think having a second degree showing your potentiel clients that you are an expert in a certain field is a much better selling point than proposing translations into a language that is not your mother tongue. Believe it or not, the fact that you refuse to work into any other language can actually be a strong selling point and many translators seem to underline this fact on their websites and profiles. I think it shows potentiel clients that you set the highest standards for your work and refuse to take the slightest risk that what you return to them will be anything less than perfect.

I was asking myself the same questions not so long ago and even had the opportunity to do a degree in translation to work into my B language (French), but I decided instead to do a Paralegal certificate so that I could offer my services as an expert in legal translations, still working only into my mother tongue. My advice would be to pick an area where you see lots of work (legal, medical, financial... whatever, just as long as it interests you!) and specialize. And if you can study that specialist field in your B language and at the same time immerse yourself in a French-speaking environment, all the better! That doesn't mean that you wont also be able to work in other fields, but having a specialization will at least give you a foundation that will hopefullly allow you to build up a solid client base.

Best of luck to you !

[Edited at 2015-05-06 07:02 GMT]

[Edited at 2015-05-06 07:09 GMT]


 

Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Spain
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Enhance your target language skills, no matter how good they already are. May 6, 2015

It is our responsibility to keep our target language (for some it is "languages") up to date, sharp, versatile and reach. It is hard to overestimate this point.

Your source languages are important too, no question about that, but bear in mind that you have to understand the source (passive knowledge is good enough), while you have to produce the text in your target.

Long argument short, I would not invest time or money in doing a course to translate into my source language, ever. I still cannot understand why the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs certifies Spanish translators to do sworn translations into all languages the translator has (source and target).

I simply just guess that English speaking translators will always produce better translations into English than Spanish translator into English.


 

Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:25
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
I wouldn't May 6, 2015

I'm currently doing a second degree, but in engineering rather than languages. I'm nearing the end now and whilst it has been incredibly interesting and also useful for my work, I'm not sure that it will turn out to be "worth it" in strictly financial terms (it's cost me a fortune in fees and lower earnings while studying). Time will tell.

I'd caution against doing a second language degree if your reason is lack of work. There should be plenty of work in the French-English combo and if you are not getting any of it you need to think about why. I personally think that focusing on specialisation will help you more than further language study.


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 01:25
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Perhaps take another degree through French May 6, 2015

Living where your source language is spoken is really an advantage, especially when your target is as 'inescapable' as English. You have to work on it anyway, but you know that.

I did some elementary training in translation from German to English back in the 1970s, but my 'real' training was designed for Danes. However, they translate both ways, so the course was very useful for me. Translating out of your native language is a very healthy exercise too, even if you only regard it as an exercise.

I also worked for many years in jobs that had nothing to do with translation - and the experience was extremely useful.

I have found that studying comes with the territory if you want to be a translator, but there comes a point where you don't actually need any more diplomas and certificates.

Having said that, a good teacher who organises the material for you is an enormous help, and there is so much available online and as distance teaching - you can take a module at a time as you work. And of course, take the certificates that come with the courses!

Spending time in Montréal will certainly be a good idea, but maybe you should find some work - any work that brings you into contact with people and preferably a subject area you are interested in, or study the subject rather than English-to-French translation.

Best of luck!


 

Richard Foulkes (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:25
German to English
+ ...
I strongly disagree with this statement: May 6, 2015

"I realize that being able to work both ways will make me more valuable as a translator".

Having two combinations doesn't increase your earning capacity. You will still have the same number of hours in the day. You will also have tens of thousands of competitors in each direction on this site alone. Will being 1 of 50,000 in both pots rather than just one really make you more valuable? No.

The way to make yourself more valuable as a translator is to specialise in order to differentiate yourself from the competition and to make your work less replaceable by CAT and MT (these will only take more market share going forward).

Are you familiar with the term 'opportunity cost'? In my opinion, there are far better things you could be doing with years of your life and thousands of dollars rather than another language degree. If you're hell bent on doing another degree, I would do something that helps you to specialise and/or gives you a foundation to change career or start a second business if you subsequently decide translation isn't for you or doesn't give you the income you want (e.g. business, marketing or whatever else interests you).

Good luck.


 

katherinehache
Canada
Local time: 19:25
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks May 6, 2015

Hi all,

Thanks for your feedback! Just for clarification, I'm not asking because I'm having trouble finding work (although I am, but that's mostly because I've only been in the market for about a month). It's more that I want to give myself the best chances for success. I would also eventually aim to become certified to work in both directions, and having a degree would make that process somewhat easier. I honestly hadn't considered doing a degree (or just training, for that matter) in another field, but you're right - that probably does make more sense.

I suppose the next question, then, is "how do I figure out what to specialize in?" I've been exposed to a wide variety of fields (everything from 19th-century magic tricks to aquaculture to recipes), but I wouldn't really call myself a "specialist" in any of them. Is it just a matter of educating myself more in a given field and possibly finding related work experience? Is there anywhere I can go to gain experience in, say, financial or travel translation as a newbie?


 

Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:25
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Specialisation May 6, 2015

There are loads of good resources out there for learning more about a specialist field: Open University (expensive), MOOCS (free), webinars and events for translators ... or just head to your nearest bookshop and come back with some reading material! The first step is deciding what interests you.

 

Reed James
Chile
Local time: 20:25
Member (2005)
Spanish to English
+ ...
What about hedging your bets? May 6, 2015

I think the worst thing that could happen is that you could regret your decision, whichever it may be. If I were you, I would give myself a few years of breathing room before deciding to continue my studies. That way, you could potentially have the best of both worlds.

You could continue working at your present pace, but prepare for your second degree program by obtaining the syllabus and studying some of the texts on that list. Can you audit the courses? Are any of them recorded in some way and posted on YouTube?

In short, I think you should have a few drinks or taste the appetizers before you order the main course. It could be a way not to regret anything later on…


 

philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Don't work in both directions. May 6, 2015

Many people do, but the majority do it badly. Stick to what you're good at.

 

Andrea Halbritter  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:25
Member (2014)
French to German
+ ...
Specialize but do not translate into French May 7, 2015

If your native language is English you should not translate from English to French.

If you want to offer better quality specialize in a field and do e. g. a degree in law, architecture or whatever you are interested in and where there is a need.


 
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