Establishing a career in translation
Thread poster: Lee Hammond

Lee Hammond  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:29
German to English
+ ...
May 10

Hi all,

I would like some advice regarding establishing a career in translation. I am native English and I'm fluent in German and Dutch and therefore translate from these languages into English. I am 23 so have relatively little experience apart from that which I gained at university where I achieved a Bachelors degree in German with Dutch at the University of Nottingham.

I have passed tests for around 5/6 translation companies now but have not received much work so I wanted to know if there's anything else I could be doing in order to increase my workload so I can gain some valuable experience. At the moment, I am messaging translation companies who then admit me as a translator/proofreader after I pass their tests.

In terms of the future, I have been admitted into UCL to study a masters in translation but I just wanted to ask for the advice of the translation community whether there is anything more I can do to gain some more experience.

Many thanks

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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:29
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Catch-22 May 10

It's the same old Catch-22: you won't be able to get work unless you have proven experience, but unless you work, you won't be able to accumulate that experience.

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Elisabeth Purkis
United States
Local time: 09:29
German to English

Posted via Mobile

Also new to the field May 10

I don't have a lot of advice to offer but I want to encourage you to keep at it. You sound like you have a good qualification. I think there are ways to get practice as a volunteer eg Translators without borders. Eventually something will shift...but maybe good to get a part time job to help support you in these early stages. Good luck.

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Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:29
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
You're lucky May 10

Native English speakers living in the UK and able to translate well from Dutch are relatively rare. You could emphasize that you also offer editing and proofreading services and that you translate from Flemish (sic) too.

Your CV on this website should be totally geared towards a career as a fulltime freelance translator. Don’t mention that you’re looking for a position, even if you do.

Mentioning that your St Ignatius' College was in London might look a bit silly, but we have one in Amsterdam too. Dutch people are always curious how and why foreigners acquire our language – few of them do when they don’t have to. You’ll have to explain, so prepare a sales talk in Dutch.

You should of course pursue your study of the beautiful French language but from a business perspective you would be better off acquiring a Scandinavian language as your third source language.


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Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:29
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Specialise May 10

Hi Lee,

Gerard is right - Dutch to English is a great combination to have, as so few native English speakers are fluent in Dutch. Have you tried approaching Dutch translation agencies as well British ones? The bulk of their workload will be Dutch-English so the chance of them needing your services will be higher.

Also, don't forget that experience need not mean translation experience - other work experience may be equally, or more, valuable for a career as a translator. For example, I worked as a secretary for an engineering company for 18 months while trying to launch myself as a translator and learned loads about the company's products (conveyor belts, mixers, burners, etc.) as well as more general business processes (tendering, invoicing, legal issues, etc.). This was probably a more useful foundation to my translation career than doing actual translations with no real-world experience of anything.

In the longer term, I would recommend you forget about acquiring other foreign languages (two is plenty) and focus on serious study of a specialist field. I see from your CV that you are good at maths, so science, engineering and economics are all good options. A genuine specialism is what will set you apart from the crowd and the sooner you begin to build this the better.

I would also recommend joining the ITI as an Associate and getting to some of their meetings so that you can meet other translators in person. This will allow you to tap into a wealth of experience and good advice.

Hope this advice helps,


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