Questions for translators regarding becoming a translator
Thread poster: S_89
S_89
United Kingdom
Jan 22

Hi,

I have a few questions with regards to translation as a career and would be so appreciate if someone with experience of the industry could respond.

First, many people in the industry seem to recommend as a strict rule only translating texts that are within areas of your specialisation, i.e. an industry that you have worked in or a subject that you have studied to degree level.
For someone who has just completed a languages degree, would it then be unrealistic to go straight into doing a Masters and then expect to make a living as a translator without “real-world” experience.

(I have some experience in marketing, but only through internships and from a year working in the country of the languages I intend to translate from – I don’t have a vast career to look back on).

I studied law to A-level and intend to develop my knowledge as my partner studied law at university and still has most of his materials, but I doubt this would make my knowledge sufficient to translate legal texts??

Also, a lot of translators have recommended having at least two source languages, but that one is generally enough and others can be “picked up”.

If you cannot spend years working in the country of the source language, how easy is it to do this to a level that you can translate from?
Is it an attainable goal to "pick up" other languages, even if you are a gifted linguist and good translator?

Thirdly, my primary passion in life is politics and I do have a very good working knowledge of this industry as I have been a member of a major party for 12 years and completed internships with MPs and have a mother who is a councillor. I don’t suppose there is enough work in this area (especially with Britain leaving the EU) to make it an area of specialization?

Many thanks for taking the time to reply.


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philgoddard
United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
I wouldn't worry too much about this... Jan 22

S_89 wrote:

Hi,
First, many people in the industry seem to recommend as a strict rule only translating texts that are within areas of your specialisation, i.e. an industry that you have worked in or a subject that you have studied to degree level.


You have to be a jack of all trades in this business. Some people only translate (say) law or engineering, but many more, myself included, accept most things that come their way. The only things I won't do are highly technical subjects such as medical reports and patents, and my degree was in languages.

If you're thinking of doing law, you may want to steer clear of complex legal reasoning, but a lot of legal translation is contracts and other documents, whose terminology is relatively easy to learn.

Good luck!


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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:09
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
My 2 cents about legal reasoning Jan 22

philgoddard wrote:
If you're thinking of doing law, you may want to steer clear of complex legal reasoning, but a lot of legal translation is contracts and other documents, whose terminology is relatively easy to learn.

Good luck!


Agree with most of your points but I think the text of legal reasoning is not much harder than that of a contract. Legal reasoning is just about logical argument, which doesn't tend to involve terms or concepts that are too hard to translate.

[Edited at 2017-01-23 00:47 GMT]


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Anton Konashenok  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 22:09
English to Russian
+ ...
Specialisation ≠ degree Jan 23

S_89, your situation with law is totally fine. I, too, agree that a translator should stick to his/her area of specialisation - in fact, it's not only a restriction but also a recipe for success. However, specialisation here is not exactly the same as a degree; a good informal background in a given field may not qualify you for professional practice, yet for your purposes may be worth just as much as a degree. Essentially, what you need is neither a formal recognition nor a full body of knowledge in your head; you need the right mindset, the ability to feel your limits, and the knowledge where and how to look up what you don't yet know. If you are diligent by nature, the basic courses you have already had will steer you in the right direction. Start with texts that aren't too complex for you, and keep reading up as needed.

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Texte Style
Local time: 22:09
French to English
there are plenty of fields you can consider Jan 23

jyuan_us wrote:

philgoddard wrote:
If you're thinking of doing law, you may want to steer clear of complex legal reasoning, but a lot of legal translation is contracts and other documents, whose terminology is relatively easy to learn.

Good luck!


Agree with most of your points but I think the text of legal reasoning is not much harder than that of a contract. Legal reasoning is just about logical argument, which doesn't tend to involve terms or concepts that are too hard to translate.

[Edited at 2017-01-23 00:47 GMT]


It may be logical, but you do need a good understanding of the legal systems in both source and target language countries to be able to translate a lot of terms. There will be references to laws and decrees, some may be a transposition of an EU directive into national law, in which case many terms will already have an accepted translation, in which case you shouldn't try to translate it yourself... Improvising legal translations is pretty risky, and if you do it wrong, the client won't be afraid to take you to court.

Similarly, improvising medical translation is risky. Remember those people who died because a translator made a mistake in the instructions for scanning equipment.

If you have experience in politics, and are interested, that is a great place to start. I doubt that Brexit will mean the end of translation in the UK. If anything, the work will shift from the EU-approved translators to others, so it could even herald opportunity for you.
If you have worked for MPs, I expect you have learned a fair bit about various subjects, especially if the MP has a speciality subject, working in a commission or campaigning for a case. You can flesh this learning out.

I never studied my own specialist subjects, I just happened to be interested and was prepared to do plenty of research. I work a lot in fashion, and that started simply because I had learned dressmaking with my mother: I knew a fair number of technical terms, and knew where to find those I didn't know. Then I just sort of branched out into cosmetics and things like that (a PR firm had me translate stuff about fashion, then sent me stuff about cosmetics too), and have now been working for long enough in those fields to name these fields as specialities. I also do a fair amount of stuff in the fields of sustainable development and environmental issues, simply because I met someone at a demo!


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