Which qualification to get: (free) university degree vs. C2 level certificate
Thread poster: Emilia Szabo

Emilia Szabo
Local time: 03:29
English to German
Jul 19, 2017


I have to decide on which translation qualifications to get and I would like to ask the experienced people here for advice!

First of all, I'm from Austria and university is free here. My situation is the following: I studied for a bachelor's degree in translation with the languages German, English and Hungarian for 4 semesters, before changing programs to German philology and translation between German and Hungarian, in which I graduated earlier this year. Now, in the master's course I'd like to study all three languages again. To be allowed to study English, however, I'd either have to finish the remaining two semesters of my original studies and obtain a second bachelor's degree OR get a certificate proving my English proficiency to be at C2 level, which - including the preparation course - would take about the same amount of time.

I have two options. First, I could start the master's program right away and only get the degree in German-Hungarian, independently getting a C2 certificate later on to prove my English skill to potential employers. Second, I could delay my studies for another year, get a degree/exam in English and then get the master's degree in German-English-Hungarian. The master's course will focus on specialized translation and the biggest part of it will be language specific courses. They will introduce me to the fields of science, law, economy, localization and technical documentation in the chosen languages, teaching me a lot of valuable vocabulary. I figure it will be harder, but not impossible to study this on my own, though. The big question for me is whether having a university degree in translation with a certain language will look much better on my CV to future employers/customers than a 'mere' language exam. And if you think that studying these fields at uni will prepare me that much better than studying them on my own that it would pay off to lose another year.

What do you industry-savvy people think would be the better choice?

Kind regards from Austria


Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:29
French to English
Comfort and finance Jul 21, 2017

Hello Emilia,

Your post is very detailed, but I think the actual choices you make need to be based on what you feel comfortable with and what you can finance. Studying may be free in Austria, but you still need to live somewhere and keep yourself alive, so there is cost. Time is on your side. There is not necessarily any great urgency to do it all now.

Language ability comes in many forms, firstly your own natural ability in your native language(s). That ability will be your number one commodity. Beyond that, you might need to define areas of special skill and knowledge. There is more to it than vocabulary. You pick that up through hard work, reading, working in a particular field, more reading, more working, more studying. It is endless. You have to enjoy that as it will be a large part of your job. However, don't forget that even if you do a course in medical translation, you will be competing for jobs with people who are qualified in a particular field of medicine and who are bilingual. These people should really know what they are talking about and if they happen to have language ability too, then they are likely to be a first choice.

The great thing is though, that with the never-ending nature of learning, be it language or specialist knowledge, there is always more to be had. Go with what you feel happiest with and something you enjoy.

Read other posts on the same subject here. It is a popular theme! There are translators who have loads of qualifications, including specific translation qualifications, who are frankly not that good. There are others with professional experience and no formal qualifications whatsoever who are excellent professionals. There are some who have both. When starting out, one usually has a lot of one, and a little of the other and in any event, the work to get better is a daily exercise. Go with where you feel it is right. That will be the best way for you.

[Edited at 2017-07-21 15:03 GMT]


Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:29
Member (2018)
French to English
doesn't really matter Jul 22, 2017

Emilia, first of all, your English is already excellent.

I acquired my Master on the strength of my professional experience, i.e. I learned to translate on the job.

Whatever you learn about translating from Hungarian to German will probably be useful for translating from English to German too, except for peculiarly Hungarian twists. The important thing is not to learn every single quirk in the Hungarian language, but to learn to recognise them for what they are and to adopt general strategies. I know that a lot of German translators struggle with the fact that German is a very precise language, so whatever language they are translating from, they need to find a way of expressing much sloppier thoughts. Hungarians may be sloppier in different ways than Brits, but the key is to be able to recognise what's going on, then come up with ways of getting round it.

Potential employers or clients mostly like to see that you've been to uni and learned stuff, the fact that a particular language isn't mentioned on your certificate is not necessarily a handicap. Especially if you've spent a certain amount of time in a country where that language is spoken.

I know several translators who don't use the languages they learned at uni. Those I'm thinking of right now are living in their source language country, which reassures potential clients that they do have a good enough grasp of the language to translate from it.


Emilia Szabo
Local time: 03:29
English to German
The solution presented itself Jul 22, 2017

Thank you for your elaborate reply, Nikki!
I just found out that I can start studying right away, sit the C2 exam during my first semester and then do the English classes in the following semesters. This way, I'll be able to do all three languages without losing any more time. Regardless, hearing these things from a professional put me at ease a bit more. Thank youicon_smile.gif


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