Extend my Masters to learn more skills before I graduate or develop a specialisation later on?
Thread poster: S_89
S_89
United Kingdom
Jun 28

I'm choosing which MA to embark on and painfully aware that although I wish to be a translator, I do not have a specialisation.

I've been given the opportunity to take a 2 year rather than 1 year MA in which I would have more time to develop professional practice and learn/gain experience in valuable area of specialisation.

Obviously this 2 years would cost more money and as I'm already a mature student having done my undergraduate degree in my mid-20s, I'm aware of being a perennial student, but I'm wondering, from a translator's perspective, whether this would really be worth it, which I think it may.

There is much uncertain in the job market generally today and although I am very good in my translation pair and have prior experience before I completed my degree, I am completely aware that this is not enough in today's market and the area of specialisation is paramount (also my language pair is German -> English so pretty common, although still sought after as far as I'm aware).

I thought I could develop it later on, but at that point I will already need to be paying bills and won't have the internship etc opportunities that are easy for me to take now being a student.

Any thoughts?


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:25
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
We have so little to go on Jun 29

S_89 wrote:
although I am very good in my translation pair and have prior experience before I completed my degree, I am completely aware that this is not enough in today's market and the area of specialisation is paramount (also my language pair is German -> English so pretty common, although still sought after as far as I'm aware).

It's a shame that you haven't filled in your profile a little to give us something to go on. It sounds as though you must have a fair bit of "life experience" if you will, being a mature student. It could be that that's enough to serve as a foundation for a specialisation. Or do you have an interest that could be turned into one? On the other hand, if one of the specialisations on offer really appeals to you, I'm sure it wouldn't be a bad idea. But I do advise you not to commit yourself to a specialisation too early if you aren't really sure you're interested in spending the rest of your life working in it.

You could also start out as a part-time translator. That would allow you to be more choosy about what "general" texts you accept. Acceptable rates are still possible for texts that aren't particularly specialist. In your pair there's so much volume out there that there's a fair amount of non-specialist work in every market area, from the "put this through GT and tweak it" to "this text is 'easy' but its translation needs to be perfect". It would also allow you the choice of either getting a non-intellectual income-earning job as a respite from the more demanding translation work, or a job that complements it: in a potential area of specialisation; one that actively uses your languages; or one that itself involves some translation. Long-term, being a part-time freelancer and part-time fixed-hours employee has many drawbacks, the main one being your lack of availability to at least respond to contacts from clients at any time. But it has many advantages for those just starting out, particularly if they can make themselves available at weekends and over peak holiday periods.


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
No Jun 29

My feeling is that you will learn more from actually translating and self-study than you will on any university course. One year is ample.

You will probably have plenty of time to study something that interests you during the slow early months of your career.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 14:25
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Whatever you do... fill in yhour profile! Jun 30

Start making yourself visible on this site and generally, so the good clients can find you!

Take part in Kudoz. It might - or might not - show a trend of specialist knowledge you were not aware of, or a field you could build up.

I tend to agree with Chris S - as a translator you are an eternal student anyway, although sooner or later you stop sitting exams and collecting diplomas. A small amount of well-organised course study goes a long way, but once you have learned the methods, self study and self-discipline will keep you going. Real work provides excellent motivation.

A paid job in your field of interest is one way to go. I worked as an unqualified relief/auxiliary in the home-care services for some years, and it brought me into contact with patients, health-services, medical records and a lot more. It was frustrating at times for a would-have been medic, but great training, with hindsight, for a translator!

Hands-on contact with the special language used is worth a lot, and you don't get that at university. Many back-office jobs will fit the bill, though they will limit your avalability, as Sheila says.

On the other hand, an introduction at college to the sources of specialist literature and terminology is useful - my old librarian training has proved very useful with supplements in the digital age.

I agree with Sheila's recommendation to grab 'general' translation when you can - as long as it pays! It also helps you to be visible to clients and gain experience.

In this day and age, make sure you can handle a CAT comfortably and know which you like and which drive you nuts... Spend time really getting familiar with the features, because they all involve a fairly steep learning curve at the beginning.

Don't let clients press you into using their non-optimal solutions if you can avoid it, though it may be hard at the beginning when you need the work. I have grown old with Trados, now Studio, and it has many advantages, but others prefer a leaner and meaner CAT - they don't use all the advanced features anyway. Make your personal choice and learn how to transfer files to your favourite CAT. Good clients respect your choice and will cooperate, because struggling with the mechanics of an unfamiliar CAT will slow you down and distract you from translating. It DOES affect the quality of your work.

If that is included in your course, take advantage of it!

Best of luck!


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S_89
United Kingdom
TOPIC STARTER
Generalist work can pay the bills initially? Jun 30

Many thanks for the replies, much appreciated.

Translation-wise, I have experience translating for retail for a website, although it was part of a much broader role, mainly doing sales and customer service for the German market.

So if I'm right, you're saying that the first few months I should be able to make ends meet financially doing more generalist work whilst developing a specialisation, as German -> English has a fair bit of work?


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S_89
United Kingdom
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the tips Jul 5

Christine Andersen wrote:

Start making yourself visible on this site and generally, so the good clients can find you!

Take part in Kudoz. It might - or might not - show a trend of specialist knowledge you were not aware of, or a field you could build up.

I tend to agree with Chris S - as a translator you are an eternal student anyway, although sooner or later you stop sitting exams and collecting diplomas. A small amount of well-organised course study goes a long way, but once you have learned the methods, self study and self-discipline will keep you going. Real work provides excellent motivation.

A paid job in your field of interest is one way to go. I worked as an unqualified relief/auxiliary in the home-care services for some years, and it brought me into contact with patients, health-services, medical records and a lot more. It was frustrating at times for a would-have been medic, but great training, with hindsight, for a translator!

Hands-on contact with the special language used is worth a lot, and you don't get that at university. Many back-office jobs will fit the bill, though they will limit your avalability, as Sheila says.

On the other hand, an introduction at college to the sources of specialist literature and terminology is useful - my old librarian training has proved very useful with supplements in the digital age.

I agree with Sheila's recommendation to grab 'general' translation when you can - as long as it pays! It also helps you to be visible to clients and gain experience.

In this day and age, make sure you can handle a CAT comfortably and know which you like and which drive you nuts... Spend time really getting familiar with the features, because they all involve a fairly steep learning curve at the beginning.

Don't let clients press you into using their non-optimal solutions if you can avoid it, though it may be hard at the beginning when you need the work. I have grown old with Trados, now Studio, and it has many advantages, but others prefer a leaner and meaner CAT - they don't use all the advanced features anyway. Make your personal choice and learn how to transfer files to your favourite CAT. Good clients respect your choice and will cooperate, because struggling with the mechanics of an unfamiliar CAT will slow you down and distract you from translating. It DOES affect the quality of your work.

If that is included in your course, take advantage of it!

Best of luck!


Many thanks for the tips Christine Andersen! The advice is invaluable


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