Post Graduate Diploma in only one language
Thread poster: Chloe Miller

Chloe Miller
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:36
French to English
+ ...
Jul 22, 2017

Dear ProZ community,

I have an offer to study at the university of Bristol, but only for Spanish (I applied for Spanish and French).

My question is - how will qualifying in only Spanish affect my prospects for working with French or German?

I would like to do a Post Graduate Diploma to gain a Translation qualification so I can work with two or three of my languages. I have contacted professional translators who work in government positions or as in-house translators. I have been advised to find a specialism, and I'd like to do a further Masters in International Law or similar so I would be qualified to work with/translate legal documents. I am British and my languages are Spanish, French and German. I originally thought I wanted to do an Interpreting course which would be with two European languages, but after researching my options it looked like Translation would suit me more. My ideal job would be in an international environment where I use two or three of my languages but not necessarily as a translator. I appreciate this all sounds a bit vague and uninformed, but I am finding it very hard to get information on the industry (beyond freelancing) or find people who've done a Post Grad Dip/Masters in the UK.

Many thanks!


LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:36
Russian to English
+ ...
You don't need two languages Jul 25, 2017

one is enough, meaning one pair--mastered to perfection. I know some governmental entities which do not know much about translation or interpreting require two pairs, like the UN for example, which is totally unreasonable. It is better to have an expert in one language pair, than someone with mediocre knowledge and skills in three. You do not really need a Master's in translation--it can be in any other field, if you want a graduate degree (what we call graduate in the US--I know it is post-graduate in Britain). All you need is top knowledge and skills in at least one langue pair, some theoretical background and lot's of practice. Good luck. Some people work in two or more language pairs, if this is something natural, more or less--they happen to know those languages well. I do, but I do not think it is necessary. You may have more work this way, though.

[Edited at 2017-07-25 06:18 GMT]


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:36
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
You don't actually need any qualifications! Jul 25, 2017

My advice would be to go for the one language flat out and a speciality.

It is far more important to be absolutely familiar with all the corners of the languages you work in than to spread yourself thinly over several languages.
Although no specific qualification is necessary to translate professionally, I think those who are entirely self-taught are on the way out. There are far more training options now than there were a couple of generations ago, and many are excellent.

On the other hand, once you have a postgraduate qualification, you have to keep studying to keep up with your language and specialism, but life is too short to keep on collecting diplomas and certificates.

My personal experience is that I actually have qualifications on paper to translate from Danish, French and German. The French and German diplomas are to translate into Danish, and my native language is English, so in practice I only translate from Danish to English. Over the years, I have done quite a lot of work, however, from Swedish and Norwegian to English, entirely self taught!
Like many Scandinavians I read all three languages, but only speak one.

You have mainstream languages, so there will be a lot of competition, and you will find it even more important to concentrate on one language, possibly two, and your specialist subject(s).

I prefer to call human translation a profession, but it's a losing battle! Maybe it will come back to distinguish it from the machine translation industry, which is not going to go away, but is not going to replace humans entirely in the foreseeable future.

It will take over a lot of routine work, where top quality is not essential, but let's hope the most abysmal results will disappear.

You will need to look into PEMT (Post Editing Machine Translation) and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation for websites). PEMT drives a lot of us older translators mad, but there is going to be plenty of work to be done, and it calls for a different mindset, I think. If approached the right way, and if you can make clients pay a realistic fee for the amount of effort it takes, then there may be opportunities there.

I know very little about SEO, but check it out!
Look into CAT tools too. Find one that you like, and learn to use it comfortably, and learn how to transfer files and packages from other CATs. They range from indispensable when you are familiar with them to a real pain ...

Sometimes I am glad I am on the way out, but translation as a profession and an industry is still going to be a wonderful job for the foreseeable future. If machines spoil the fun in the mainstream languages, there will still be plenty of interesting work in the other 5000.

And you CAN learn a new language as an adult. My parents did, and I did... I started learning Danish in my late 20s, and regard it as a second native language, but the official term is language of habitual usage.

Enjoy Bristol! I have happy memories of my great grandfather's house in Durdham Park...

[Edited at 2017-07-25 07:51 GMT]


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:36
Member (2007)
+ ...
If I had my life again... Jul 25, 2017

Of course, if I could live my life again, probably everything would be totally different. I would certainly take up the place I was offered at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London, for example, rather than turning it down to support my divorced mum. That would have given me at least one sought-after combination.

I firmly believe, like Christine, that those of us who want to start a career in translation nowadays have to stand out as true professionals - with lots of proof of ability, whether in the form of qualifications, industry experience, or both. Those who can simply speak two or more languages will be doing PEMT for very low rates - that's the future of the translation industry. But there's definitely a translation profession too and that will continue, with a place for those of us who come from a first career using our languages on a day-to-day basis and/or (preferably and) in our specialisation area. And there's also a place for those who enter translation as a first career, with high-level qualifications.

What to study for a first career in translation? I would say that the best possible course of action would be to first of all do a degree in a potential specialisation subject in your main source language, in a country where everyone speaks that language. Then top it off with some more studies of the same topic in your target language to firm up the terminology. And you'll need to acquire top-level target-language writing skills, basic entrepreneurial knowledge and skills (marketing, negotiation, bookkeeping, business law and taxation...), and fairly advanced IT skills. Oh, and don't forget to do at least a short course on translation, with some theory and a lot of practice. That lot wouldn't take too long, seeing that several could be studied through distance learning while at university or in work.

But best of all would be if we could control how our parents' lives panned out: being brought up in a bilingual household by two (e.g.) medical experts who invariably talked shop in alternating languages at the dinner table would really set you up nicely icon_smile.gif!


Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:36
German to English
If you want a salaried position ... Jul 25, 2017

... this is primarily a site for freelancers and probably the wrong place to seek information. Translation qualifications and multiple languages and the ability to flip-flop between source and target language(s) are all very relevant for a lot of salaried positions, although they are largely irrelevant for many freelancers.

If freelancing is an option for you, then I certainly don't have anything to add to Lilian, Sheila and Christine's comments.

And, at least for Germany, there is hard data (from the BDÜ, Germany's largest professional association of translators) that salaried positions as translators and interpreters are not nearly as rare as it might seem and that the number has been increasing substantially in recent years.


Kay Denney  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:36
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
speaking as a former PM Jul 27, 2017

I liked having people with more than one source. Usually, if they were good in one language pair, they'd be good in all of them.

However, I don't think it necessary to have each one on the diploma. I fostered a trusting business relationship with my translators and if they said their Spanish was as good as their French, I could believe them.

The diploma is a reassuring bit of paper, but your talent hinges more on your ability to keep up to date and in touch with each language.


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