Is there a place for me in the translation market?
Thread poster: AntonyC

AntonyC
United Kingdom
German to English
+ ...
Jan 26

Hello fellow ProZ users,

I apologise if I've posted this in the wrong area of this website. I have little experience posting on forums; this seemed like the most suitable place to post my question. I also apologise if this question has been asked and answered here many times already.

Having graduated in the last six months, I face the seemingly daunting task of 'finding' a profession. I have considered a career in translation as an option for some time. However, having read many threads on this website, I seem to be a less than ordinary example of a translator. I possess no obvious marketable specialisation. I have a good degree in German and Philosophy. I possess good French skills. I am unable to see where or how I would have a place in the 'translation market'.

Do you think it would be better for me to consider an alternative profession? If that is the case, I would be grateful for suggestions.

I apologise if this question extends beyond the prescribed boundaries of this forum.

Thank you in advance and kind regards,

Antony



P.s. I am a native English speaker.


 

Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:19
English to Spanish
+ ...
Skills, rather than languages Jan 26

Antony, it is a common belief that translators differentiate themselves from other professions by their knowledge of languages. In reality, that's just appearances.

Translation is all about writing and excelling at it in one, two or more languages. It's not as weird as it seems. I could be a mechanical engineer, an oncology nurse or a research statistician, but I have to learn to write as part of any of those jobs. That level of writing requires competence in lexicogrammar, style, vocabulary, syntax, as well as acquiring skills in casting information in different formats: memos, letters, white papers, graphics, etc. It's mainly about targeted written communication.

My best bet is to suggest you get in touch with some local translators and ask them your pointed questions. Others here will jump in and offer their selfless advice, but nothing beats talking to others face to face. Good luck.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:19
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You don't have a burning desire to be a translator? Jan 26

If the motivation isn't really, really strong then I would advise against going into translation straight away. Maybe think about it again later on.

 

Helen Shiner  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:19
German to English
+ ...
Academic market Jan 26

Hi Anthony
Your skills could position you well for the academic market. Many German and French academics require articles and research material to be translated (or edited), the former for the purposes of presentation at conferences or for publication. You would need to be very precise, and continue to educate yourself in your chosen fields, as you will inevitably be required to understand complex ideas at the cutting edge of the field.

You could, perhaps, start to make connections and build up your experience and a clientele alongside completing a masters degree in a related field, so that you, too, become specialised in that discipline. You should be able to command better rates thanks to that specialisation than more generalised translators.

Have a look at my profile, and those of other academic translators.


 

AntonyC
United Kingdom
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jan 26

Thank you for your advice Mario. I will try again to contact some local translators if I can find any.

Thank you Sheila for your advice. I feel no burning desire to become a translator. However, I am interested in the field more so than most other fields.

My main concern is that I have no specialisation. If I were to study a masters degree in translation or attempt the necessary exams to obtain a diploma(s) in translation, would I be in much or any demand as a translator? Or to formulate it bluntly, would it be worth it?

Thanks

Antony

[Edited at 2018-01-26 18:29 GMT]


 

AntonyC
United Kingdom
German to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Jan 26

Thank you very much Helen. You have opened my eyes to a new niche - for me - in translation. Perhaps I will take this route. How much demand do you think there is for a translator in this area?

[Edited at 2018-01-26 18:27 GMT]


 

Bo Wang  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 21:19
Member (2014)
English to Chinese
+ ...
Develop a specialisation Jan 27

The best way is to focus on one field or two. You may want to choose a familiar field in which you like translating, then learn as much knowledge as you can to become expert in that field.

 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 15:19
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
You can always come to translation later Jan 27

... I did.
There is no template for an 'ordinary translator', and indeed you could say if you are not special in some way, you will simply get lost in the crowd. Find a way of paying the bills for a while, and see where it takes you. It is also necessary these days to know about machine translation, possibly subtitling, and I regard using a CAT tool as a necessity, at least for younger people, though many colleagues still do very well without them.
They do not replace old-fashioned language skills, and IMHO never will, but technology is the way the world is going, so you need to use it to your advantage.

I wanted to do something practical when I left school and college, and when I finally, hopelessly did not get into medical school and had tried some other jobs, I trained as what I now describe as a technical librarian with quite good skills in French and German. Languages were not my main interest, however. I was hoping to get into something biomedical, but jobs were hard to find, and I worked for a while with offshore and hydraulics... (I did not enjoy it, but it taught me a few things about myself and the world in general.)

I ended up living in Denmark and had a checkered career learning Danish, earning a week's pay when I could in unskilled jobs, polishing up my French and German at evening classes, and bringing up my son. I was closer to fifty than forty when I finally started translating professionally, but you don't have to wait anything like that long if you know where you are going.

I was lucky enough to start translating in-house with very helpful colleagues, and it really was an advantage to have some real-life experience under my belt. Go around with eyes and ears open and pick up all those little expressions and things you never learn from textbooks. The wording on signs and notices, traffic signs, those subconscious things that you can never find in dictionaries. Learn the real-life jargon of a particular field of trade or a profession - back-office work can be a revelation.

There is a lot of competition in French and German. You need a niche, something you are passionate enough about to stay up all night and meet near-impossible deadlines. You will face them, no matter how well organised you are.

You can translate freelance while you are doing something else to pay the bills, although that is very demanding too. Find a job that needs doing, even if it is not a career you want to stay in more than a couple of years, and really look at what you do after hours - find something you are committed to and passionate about.
I worked as a home help with patients I might have met as a medic - and I discovered that was not my thing after all! However, it also paved the way for specialising in medical translation...

My headmistress gave us some very good advice back in the Sixth Form: you can't always do what you like. You have to like what you do.
I would add stop, if you find it unbearable, and move on in any case. But by looking for the advantages in jobs you would not immediately choose, you can pick up some very useful and often enjoyable experience.

Whatever you do, Good luck!


 

Kristina Cosumano  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:19
Member (2015)
German to English
German and philosophy? Jan 27

AntonyC, did you see that there was just a job posting from a German agency looking for a translator with experience in philosophy? This was just a few days ago. Apply!

 

Daniel Frisano
Monaco
Local time: 15:19
Member (2008)
English to Italian
+ ...
Yes, for now Jan 28

As of 2018, there is still a place for talented and committed professionals in translation.

However, for a number of reasons, the golden age of translation is probably nearing its end, or at least the industry is evolving in a direction that will make it harder to earn a good living as a translator through a lifetime career.

You can always give it a shot. It won't be wasted time, you may learn a lot of useful things, whether from the material that you work on, how to deal with clients (sales skills), how to set up your own business, how to deal with rejection, which fields look promising for an alternate career, etc. While translating stuff you get a ton of ideas, that's for sure.


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:19
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Thoughts and questions Jan 29

AntonyC wrote:
My main concern is that I have no specialisation. If I were to study a masters degree in translation or attempt the necessary exams to obtain a diploma(s) in translation, would I be in much or any demand as a translator?

That would be my main concern too, in your situation. Unfortunately, we know so little about you that it's really difficult to advise.

- How good are your language skills, being honest? You say you're an English native speaker, so have you ever lived anywhere where they speak French or German, or have you only learnt and spoken these languages in a classroom situation? Would you really say you're up to a C1 or C2 level in the European Framework?
- You say you've just graduated, but did you go straight from school into university and now you've got a Bachelor-level degree (so you'd be, what, 21-22?) or are you a more mature student? If the latter, what else have you done? If you're fresh from education, what are your interests (as they can sometimes be used to good effect)?
- Have you read intensively in French and/or German on the subject of philosophy, or were those studies just in English? Would getting up to speed in both those languages in that subject area interest you? Mind you, I see
- Have a look at the working fields here on ProZ.com (click to update your profile and you'll be presented with the list) and see whether there are some other subject areas where you think you could have an interest or already know a thing or two.
- Do you have really good skills in areas where some of us are challenged? I'm thinking you could be an IT wizard who can carve a niche working on jobs that call for all sorts of DTP, special file handling, website manipulation, SEO, or suchlike. I'm such a duffer, I don't even know most of the wordsicon_smile.gif.

I do think it's critical in your language pairs to specialise. Otherwise the only jobs you're going to be able to go after are "general" ones, the ones that need no special qualifications or knowledge. Your competitors are going to be students, unemployed or under-employed people, bored carers and stay-at-home parents, retirees... and other "generalist" professional translators. Your only bargaining point will be price, and don't forget that Google Translate is free, so there's really no bottom to that spiral. Although GT is not a real threat to most of us here, it's no time to start a career as a translator in two of the major pairs, unless you're going to be able to aim high right from the first day. Think about what you've got or could get that would help you do that.


 


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