Getting certified or not - agencies tests
Thread poster: stephhhhh

stephhhhh  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:17
English to French
Jun 7, 2016

Hello translators!


I am not a a certified translator and I don't have a BA or MA in Translation either. I've been working most of my life in the tourism industry, but would like to live of translation only and not get just a few jobs here and there. I have been accepted at the U of St Boniface for their BA of Traduction English to French. It will take me 2 years to complete it as I got some credits transferred. Do you thing I should go for the BA or I should just get a Certificate? I'm 35 yo.... and feel like it will take such a long time to get the BA then work full time as a freelancer.

I tried passing the tests of some agencies, I failed 3 of them... I am now thinking if this is really for me. Are these tests usually tough?

Bottom line.... I don't know if a degree at a University is really going to give me the level needed to pass the agencies tests and get well established to live of it.

Thanks for your help


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 22:17
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Are you lacking qualifications, or self-confidence :)? Jun 7, 2016

stephhhhh wrote:
I've been working most of my life in the tourism industry

And from your profile "About Me":
I have a Diploma in Tourism from France

And from your CV:
Bachelor of International Tourism, Grenoble France (Graduated 2005)

I also see that you're trained in teaching FLE. I think you need to push those credentials a lot harder. You've already got a lot going for you there. Of course, some basic qualification in translation techniques would be good. But not essential.


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stephhhhh  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:17
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
so cert or degree not required Jun 7, 2016

Hello Sheilla,


Thank you for your reply. So you believe having a degree isn't necessary? But agencies don't take me seriously because I don't have the credentials. It is very frustrating.

I feel like or you are naturally very good at it or you are not.




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John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:17
Member (2008)
French to English
Passing tests Jun 7, 2016

stephhhhh wrote:

I tried passing the tests of some agencies, I failed 3 of them... I am now thinking if this is really for me. Are these tests usually tough?



I think you need to find out why you didn't pass the tests. It's not a question of whether the tests are tough - translations have to be absolutely correct, every time. If you can translate correctly into your mother tongue, every time, then it really doesn't matter if you have credentials or not.


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stephhhhh  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:17
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
can I learn Jun 7, 2016

It's funny, because some employers love my samples and some don't.
How can I improve my writing skills so it is perfect for everyone? University?


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 23:17
English to Polish
+ ...
... Jun 7, 2016

Getting started with zero credentials is possible, but it's not necessarily advisable. Apart from removing barriers to entry, the higher your credentials are the easier it is for you to establish trust and Customer Perceive Value (CPV), as well as establishing a higher profile. And you pretty much have to push for a high profile and move upmarket because conditions in the broad market are decidedly supoptimal.

Speaking of which, you can establish a higher profile more easily in areas you can lay a serious claim to expert status in. In your case, that's tourism. So focus on tourism translation and make sure you're recognized as the goto translator for tourism EN-FR in online translation circles, in your local translation circles, and, even more importantly, among tourism companies close to your physical location. Physical location is no longer a must, but it's still an advantage that's hard to beat and opens up a lot of opportunities.

Seriously, you can't beat face-to-face contact at the client's physical location or a conference location, with someone who understands tourism, talks tourism and thinks tourism and knows how business works, is considerably more experienced in life than most beginners, and has more gravitas and commands more respect than the average twenty-something with a B.A. in languages.

You can translate whatever you want for agencies, as long as you can do it, but for direct clients looking for tourism translation few things could beat a website that's all about tourism translation. Note: not a website that belongs to a translator who has a B.A. in tourism and several years of experience in the field, but a website that really is all about tourism translation (and belongs to someone who very clearly is a tourism professional).

A narrow focus will normally mean a narrow client base in the beginning, but you're supposed to retain them, keep them happy and benefit from the word of mouth. Fewer, but more invested and more enthusiastic about work with you. And paying better rates. Just a like a translator who is an expert in the field can bring in much more value to a client with higher-than-average aspirations, so can a single satisfied prosperous and serious client be more profitable to the translator than an assortment of accidental one-off jobs from all corners of the market.

There is value there, so leverage the heck out of it and don't gimp yourself by trying to become average. Go for your full potential. And it doesn't necessarily take several years. It can be a matter of months only, as long as you make sure you do the work really well and get the testimonials to show for it.

The longer explanation is that specialization puts premium value in your services, so you can claim premium status and rates. It's easier to find new clients than to raise your rates with the old — or even with those new clients who know about your old rates from your old clients, which is going to be quite a few, considering how we all rely on the word of mouth for client intake. So opt for what is a slower but more optimized path, and soon you might notice it's far less slow than the other path. Given the mediocrity and lack of mojo and panache in the broad market, simply daring to be premium could catapult you to higher rates — as long as you can live up to your promises of excellent value and quality.

The catch: You have to work to get those clients, and you want to keep them. Which is also going to cost you a lot of work. But it will likely enable you to work for higher rates and with longer deadlines than the agency sector of the translation market, giving you more room to focus on quality. You will need to put a lot of work there and make sure you keep it up at all times, but that's actually still going to be considerably cheaper than a marketing or advertising campaign would be, with possibly better results.

What you need, recap: Trying to work your way into the agency world as an omnibus translator is not optimal in your situation. Instead, rely on your image and profile as an experienced tourism professional and go where tourism companies are, not where translation agencies are. Always keep a hundred or so business cards in your purse (at an industry conference, you may even need more). Learn your 'elevator pitch' — always be able to explain in under 30 seconds who you are, what you do, who for etc. In keeping with the times you'll probably want to rely on emotions considerably and the 'why' and 'how' of working with you rather than pure facts and boring details.

More than anywhere else, in tourism you'll want to rely on attractive visuals, so preferably skip the do-it-yourself stage and get a professional website from the get go or at least a professional template you can use with engaging high-resolution professional photos, but remember you're targeting tourism companies and not tourism consumers, so it has to be a bit more complex than B2C tourism copy.

Use your best translation samples (make sure you have the copyrights or licences to do so) the same way as you would use a high-definition photo. Basically make it HD text.

Go to Marta Stelmaszak @ WantWords for her 'Business School for Translators' training to get some preparation for working with direct clients. You'll also want to read, watch or listen to materials from Chris Durban, who is the no. 1 advocate of going where the clients are and speaking their language. Check out Websites for Translators too.

Finally, nothing prevents from applying for certification exams, which are not horribly expensive and often mean more than a degree in the field. For example, the British DipTrans is positioned as the equivalent of a master's degree in their national framework of qualifications. But by all means finish the B.A., especially as it's only going to take you two years with transferred credit and will make you properly dually qualified. Just don't advertise the fact you're studying it, as people are going to focus on you being a translation student more than on you being a tourism graduate. Read up on theory if you want — nowhere is it written that you can't do advanced reading during the first year of translation studies as a mature professional from a different field. Due to the nature of the texts you're going to translate, some writing training would help, not just translation. Marketing writing (copywriting), fiction writing, business writing, whatever you can fit in your busy schedule. Not for the credentials but for the skill. Your writing skills rather than terminology will be your core skill in tourism translation.


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stephhhhh  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:17
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Very thorough answer Jun 7, 2016

Thank you for the advice! It makes sense, I thought that translating in the tourism industry wouldn't be lucrative.Maybe i should just focus on what I know rather than what pays more.

I will look at translation certificates as well and see if it can be better than the BA.

Thanks again -


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 23:17
English to Polish
+ ...
... Jun 7, 2016

stephhhhh wrote:

It's funny, because some employers love my samples and some don't.
How can I improve my writing skills so it is perfect for everyone? University?


That's certainly not beyond your power or skill to find out.

You no longer have a boss, there's no red tape, if you can do it, you can do it. You can now do a lot of things that are normally restricted to managers. You don't need a manager to tell you what to do. Set the goal and just do it.

***

Apart from random stuff and the usual big-endian vs little-endian, Oxford vs Cambridge etc., reasons for failed tests include:

punctuation and language-appropriate typography
typos and other sloppy mistakes
number conventions and other relevant localization minutiae
commonly misused words, common grammatical errors etc.
missing content, unwarranted additions, changes of meaning or tone

To get past, you need to make sure you know the rules and preferably also understand them, put in all your creative and analytical effort in rendering the content in the best way possible but without altering it with unwarranted interpretations, and do your QA, always.

There should be enough silly little quizzes online to help you find out if there are any common mistakes you make or any somewhat important rules you might be struggling with. Any experienced, successful translator should be able to give you a roadmap on the basis of no more than 1000 words, so just simply pay someone who is already good to review your translation, just be clear about your educational goal. Preferably get two or three such expert opinions on your translation to compare, so you can avoid personal bias and subjectivity and see what's common to successful translators and what is different.

And it wouldn't be a bad idea to attract the attention of someone older and more established who could be your mentor (such people typically need a trusty sidekick from time to time to handle peak workloads and may already be looking for someone reliable).

***

Okay, one more thing: humility and hard work. To learn and make progress, one needs to accept the premise that one doesn't already know everything (or much at all, as the case may be). You probably know this from sport or games or musical instruments or whatever. You don't seem like someone who would find it hard to be humble and honest with herself, but I think you could be a little impatient and sometimes discouraged. If, after doing a couple of those silly quizzes and getting expert opinions on your translation, you find out that you honestly aren't up to date on some rules of your native language or have got rusty, or that there are some structures or phrases you can't hope to understand reliably in your source language as it is, then you're going to have to burn some midnight oil. Better sooner than later. Question yourself always and be critical of your work. Better you than a dissatisfied client. (Especially as you'll be aiming for close 100% retention of high-quality clients and will be relying on the high quality of your samples to offset the lack of formal credentials or extensive experience in your new profession.)


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Łukasz Gos-Furmankiewicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 23:17
English to Polish
+ ...
More Jun 7, 2016

stephhhhh wrote:

Thank you for the advice! It makes sense, I thought that translating in the tourism industry wouldn't be lucrative.Maybe i should just focus on what I know rather than what pays more.


Above-average rates for tourism could still be comfortably higher than below-average rates for law or medicine. Besides, you work faster and thus make more per hour in a familiar field. Your progress curve is also going to be accelerated, and you're looking at top-grade tourism sooner or later, something that's quite unlikely in fields such as a medicine or law, or even generic business or technical translation.

I will look at translation certificates as well and see if it can be better than the BA.


Definitely, but also stay in the B.A. programme or at the very least read the books. It's easy to function without a translation degree, but the knowledge and training and not the paper are more helpful to have and more painful to not have than most people think. And the diploma probably also, after all.


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stephhhhh  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:17
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jun 7, 2016

I will get to it. I feel much more confident knowing I can just target my pro field. ☺

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Laura Gentili  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 23:17
Member (2003)
English to Italian
+ ...
Polish your ProZ profile Jun 8, 2016

Hi Steph,
I don't know why you failed some translation tests but I think that you should polish your ProZ profile. The fact that you translate from English into French doesn't mean you are allowed to make mistakes in English.

I was born in France, always was passionate about foreign cultures and loved english and spanish.

English and Spanish should be capitalized.


I am fluent in English as I have been living, studying and working in English speaking countries since 2005.

This is too generic and doesn't sound very professional to me.


I have a Diploma in Tourism from France such as Teacher of French as a second language, Personal Trainer and Scuba diving Instructor as well. I specialize in translating anything related to Tourism, Fitness, Real Estate.

I think "such as" is not correct here.


I have been a Freelancer since 2013, I will always provide an excellent work always on time as a competitive rate.

I think it should read "at a competitive rate".


HTH,
Laura


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stephhhhh  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 15:17
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Laura Jun 8, 2016

Thanks Laura. I just realised these mistakes by re reading now... I didn't proof read my profile to be honest. I'll modify my ProZ profile.

[Edited at 2016-06-08 10:42 GMT]


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Ewa Olszowa  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 17:17
Polish to English
+ ...
Certification requirements Jun 8, 2016

Hi Steph,
To get certified in Canada you will still need to provide proof of education/experience in translation in every language combination you apply for. So you may start with checking what are the requirements and calculate if it will be faster to cumulate the experience (if you do not have enough) or to get the degree, or both.
The Quebec Association of Translators and Interpreters separated some time ago from CTTIC and their path to certification is easier than in other provincial associations - I believe they do not have certification exam. They require education/experience in translation only - at least the last time I was checking.


[Edited at 2016-06-08 23:03 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-06-08 23:19 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:17
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Of course it will help you!!!! Jun 9, 2016

It felt a bit funny to add all the exclamation marks, but I mean it!

I am now 49 years old and started my BA in Translation with the University of Alcalá in Spain after working full time as a translator for over 20 years. I just finished my third year of a total of four and boy it is changing me to the better!

When I started with the BA, I had sufficient linguistic knowledge to succeed in the profession and have been doing quite well in terms of work and rates, so for me it was not a matter of getting more work, but to challenge myself to become a better translator and see what happened from there.

After three years, my perception of the work I do has changed completely, I have a deeper linguistic knowledge, have better analytical skills when it comes to the source text (intertextualities, genre, register, skopos, effects of a text), am aware of translation and communication from a more scientific point of view, can even write better in my working languages and within the academic world... I could go on. One funny aspect of taking the BA at my age is that the more I learn, the more I feel I am only scratching the surface and that there is so much more out there to be grasped! I am really looking forward to my fourth year and, if family and work allow me to do so, take a Master's degree later on.

Definitely, definitely, definitely: a BA in Translation will do you a lot of good... also passing tests and certification exams and getting solid work in due time!! "Grab it by the horns," as we say in Spain, and do your best to exploit the BA to the max!!

[Edited at 2016-06-09 05:45 GMT]


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