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Oh my Goodness! Where do I begin?
Thread poster: MatthewLaSon
MatthewLaSon
Local time: 21:55
French to English
Sep 23, 2005

Hello,

Must I say say that I received my Master's in Translation about almost two years ago, and I have no idea where to begin as freelance translator?

I look at this website on which I've been registered for a few years and still feel inexplicably confused. I have been involved a bit in the KUDOZ questions/answer community, but that is about as far as it goes. I've applied for several jobs, but to no avail.

I know that value of university degrees has been cheapened in the past ten years, but I did learn a thing or two about practical translation (speciality areas) and translation theory at the university.

I've attempted to dabble with Wordfast (every translator needs a CAT program I know), but since my third attempt, I stare thoughtlessly at it. Computer software and all its needless text formats make me believe that everything is about computer science rather than the art/science of translation. What a shame!

I don't expect sympathy from anyone. But, I have felt very slighted as an intellectual in the translation job market up to this point.
(Yes, I've got a few field specialties up my sleave). LOL.

Sadly, this market has been saturated with unqualified translators from all over the world. I had to prove myself at university in translation, and I don't believe this is the case for so many translators in the present day who are making a living at it. Frankly, I'm not a perfect translator, as no one is for that matter.

I feel like I am in the "Twilight Zone."

A bitter note said not out of hatred,
ICETRANCE (No, I don't inaccurately translate between 5,000 languages as so many translators do nowadays. I translate between two, French and English).


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Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:55
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
Where you should begin Sep 23, 2005

Hi Icetrance,

In your position, I would begin by doing the following:

Firstly, since you are a native speaker of English, remove the language pair "English into French" from your profile.

There are many other things you could do to enhance your profile, too. You could, for example, create glossaries which will demonstrate your expertise in various fields. More Kudoz points would get you further up the lists of translators in your language pair and fields when potential clients are looking for a translator.

You would also increase your chances on the Proz job market by taking out Platinum membership. This would both get you further up the lists in the directory and also show potential clients that you are a serious translator, prepared to invest in your career.

I would also not, if I were you, advertise such a low price at the bottom of your profile. In any case, you should be altering your rate to the fit the job in hand, as some jobs are much more time-consuming than others. In addition, it would be advisable, if you wish to be taken seriously, to raise your rates a bit, at least to the average figure.

Regarding Wordfast, it is a useful tool, but you will only learn to use it when you obtain some paid translation work, that you can practice on. Neither Wordfast nor any other CAT tool has any influence or restriction upon your style. It is simply there to help keep you motivated when you are tired (seeing one sentence at a time, in a coloured box), to remind you how you translated the same or a similar sentence before, and to provide you with a function to create your own glossaries and be able to reference them quickly. There is nothing unacademic about any of that. All the "complications" are there to enable the programme to function correctly.

As for formatting, it is certainly an important part of a translator's job. Presentation is important when carrying out any professional job, translation included. It helps to give a professional impression.

Finally, bear in mind that, even when you pose a question in a forum, your English (since you are a native speaker of English, and translate into English) will be either an advertisement for you or a warning to potential clients to pick another translator. Therefore, I suggest that you edit your English on this occasion, and correct the grammatical and spelling errors.

Good luck!

Astrid


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Yolande Haneder  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:55
German to French
+ ...
Applicating to agencies Sep 23, 2005

Dear Icetrance,

Here a couple of things I thought as I read your profile :


Must I say say that I received my Master's in Translation about almost two years ago


I think it would not be bad to stress your experience and not much about what translation is and what not.


, and I have no idea where to begin as freelance translator?

what did you do the last 2 years?

I look at this website on which I've been registered for a few years and still feel inexplicably confused. I have been involved a bit in the KUDOZ questions/answer community, but that is about as far as it goes. I've applied for several jobs, but to no avail.


You have only 2 points in Kudoz, don't rely on that. If you send applications the way you wrote your profile, many outsourcers won't go past the few first lines.
When I receive applications, I do not give more than a few seconds to decide if it is what I am looking for, and the way you wrote your profile, I don't find the informations that I need.

I know that value of university degrees has been cheapened in the past ten years, but I did learn a thing or two about practical translation (speciality areas) and translation theory at the university
.

I hope you learnt more than a thing or two. What an outsourcer want is not the theory of translation but somebody who knows what he is doing.

I've attempted to dabble with Wordfast (every translator needs a CAT program I know), but since my third attempt, I stare thoughtlessly at it. Computer software and all its needless text formats make me believe that everything is about computer science rather than the art/science of translation. What a shame!


About this I can't say much. People who don't even know what a cookie is won't be able to apply to me (because sooner or later I will ask them to enter their informations online). The expectations are such that you can't really translate if you don't know how to use a computer, most of the texts you will receive are too complex for that.

[quote]

Sadly, this market has been saturated with unqualified translators from all over the world. [/unqote]

Which makes the agencies even more cautious. (btw I appologize to the outsourcer to whom I had not been perfect at the beginning. I didn't know how it was in your shoes).


A bitter note said not out of hatred,
ICETRANCE (No, I don't inaccurately translate between 5,000 languages as so many translators do nowadays. I translate between two, French and English).


I hope you won't take it too badly. I do not look for somebody that can translate between 5000 languages.
Take I get a job about an electronic device.
When I go through the translator applications, I am asking myself "would he/she be able to translate it to my client's expectations and why"?
I do not have the time to think about the theory of translation and i don't know actually in what you are specialized.

The application that can't answer this question won't be kept.
It could be the perfect translator for other fields but i won't have the time to look further since I would only go through the CV's with this very question in mind.


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tinageta  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:55
English to Latvian
+ ...
Try to get an in-house position Sep 23, 2005

Although a degree is important, in my opinion practical experience is more valuable. Alas, I know too many translators in my language pairs with a degree in languages/translation who really should do something else. And there are many great translators that do not have a translation degree, and still they are very good at what they do.

ICETRANCE wrote:

Computer software and all its needless text formats make me believe that everything is about computer science rather than the art/science of translation. What a shame!


This is like saying that medicine is all about computer science rather than art/science of healing because now they have all this electronic equipment.

Please, don't take it wrongly, but after looking at your CV, I would suggest that you enhance your computer skills.

This site is a goldmine for beginners, just keep reading. When I joined it, I spent several days just reading, and the information accumulated here is of the kind you don't learn at universities.


[Edited at 2005-09-23 16:34]


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Stephen Rifkind  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 04:55
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
French-English market Sep 23, 2005

Dear Frustrated:

First of all, all beginning are frustrating. You have throw 50 stones in the sea to hit a fish. So, keep on applying. You may hit a fish and get that "first job" with an agency. However, if you don't keep on throwing stones, no fish.

Second, study the French to English market. The jobs to translator market seems quite rough to me. Most of my French jobs feed off of my other languages. However, some French to English translators do make a living. You will have to invest wisely in sites, ATA, French sites, French translator job boards, etc. Find out where the jobs are and what the going rates are. Without that knowledge, it is almost impossible.

Third, get over your fear of computers. Call it a learning curve. I was told Trados was a nightmare to learn. The truth was that it took 1/2 hour to be able to use the basic functions of the program. I am not an expert, but I can use it for a translation job.

Happy rock throwing.

Stephen Rifkind


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:55
German to English
+ ...
Try to get an in-house position Sep 23, 2005

tinageta wrote:

Although a degree is important, in my opinion practical experience is more valuable. Alas, I know too many translators in my language pairs with a degree in languages/translation who really should do something else.


Amen.

Marc


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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:55
German to English
What exactly do you want? Sep 23, 2005

or perhaps more accurately: What exactly are you looking for?

I know that value of university degrees has been cheapened in the past ten years, but I did learn a thing or two about practical translation (speciality areas) and translation theory at the university.


Good for you. But it doesn't actually mean you can translate, does it? Yes, standards have fallen (in some cases dramatically so) over the past ten years, but even before then, there were plenty of people who were awarded translation degrees who couldn't translate properly if you put a gun to their heads.

A translation degree *may* be useful as a short of fast-track introduction to translating, but it's no substitute for skills and sheer talent. In particular, there's no evidence whatsoever that people with translation degrees translate any better than people without them.

I've attempted to dabble with Wordfast (every translator needs a CAT program I know), but since my third attempt, I stare thoughtlessly at it.


Using computers and translation applications is part-and-parcel of the skillset that translators need today. Period. Some specialist areas (e.g. financial, legal) need CAT tools to a lesser extent than others, but you're still going to find them useful. If you can't be bothered to learn, go and do something else less challenging.

Computer software and all its needless text formats make me believe that everything is about computer science rather than the art/science of translation. What a shame!


Who's to say that all these text formats are needless? You're in no position to do that, it's the demand side that dictates what's needless or not. Specialist translation is not an art (ever), it's only a barely a science. It's a business service, and you have to think and breathe like a business service provider first. Translation is just the service you provide.

I don't expect sympathy from anyone.


Well, that's a relief. Because I don't think you're going to get very much.

But, I have felt very slighted as an intellectual in the translation job market up to this point.


OK, you've given the game away. This wasn't a serious question/rant in the first place, was it. Nobody can expect to become a translator with an attitude like that.

Sadly, this market has been saturated with unqualified translators from all over the world.


You think you're qualified? Your comments so far would tend to rebut that presumption. There's more to qualification than a bit of paper from a university, you know.

I had to prove myself at university in translation


No, you didn't. You had to do the coursework to the satisfaction of the teaching staff. Doesn't mean you can actually translate.

Frankly, I'm not a perfect translator, as no one is for that matter.


What on earth does perfection have to do with translation?

I feel like I am in the "Twilight Zone."


I have the feeling that you write the scripts for the Twilight Zone.

A bitter note said not out of hatred,


So what exactly did prompt you to write it, then? You've given no indication of what it is that you're aiming for, or what you've done to try to achieve it. Surely you don't think that just being there is enough to make a living as a translator? No. Nobody - but nobody - owes you a living.

No, I don't inaccurately translate between 5,000 languages as so many translators do nowadays. I translate between two, French and English


Yeah, like, there are *so* many translators who translate between 5 languages, far less 5000. But maybe, just maybe, they can do it better than you can with your two languages. Or maybe they're just willing to get their hands dirty and do intellectually degrading things like learning how to use computer software, marketing their services, running a business, that sort of thing.

Maybe you should get out a bit more often..


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Orla Ryan  Identity Verified
Ireland
Local time: 02:55
.... Sep 23, 2005

I wish translation courses offered some kind of practical business module and less of the fancy theory that you'll never use in a real-life professional situation anyway.

Have you actually done any professional translations since you got your Masters? What have you done in the past two years?

This intellectual posing on your part is doing you absolutely no favours at all. Translation is not about looking dreamily out the window thinking about that perfect word for a sentence. I can assure you that professional freelancers don't have time for that along with the million other things we have to do during the day like e-mails, signing & sending NDAs, filing your accounts, answering the phone, following up on customer leads, translations, proofreading, term checking and so forth.
Translation is suitable for people of an artistic bent, sure, but it is a BUSINESS. As Robin rightly said, no-one actually owes you a living.

O.


[Edited at 2005-09-23 12:05]


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:55
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
How about Sep 23, 2005

ICETRANCE wrote:

Hello,

Must I say say that I received my Master's in Translation about almost two years ago, and I have no idea where to begin as freelance translator?


Positive phrasing/thinking? Instead of saying "this market has been saturated with unqualified translators from all over the world", why don't you look at what makes people qualified? (For that matter, I'd be interested in knowing what your non-language interests were all about). You could pick up a thing or two.

I know that value of university degrees has been cheapened in the past ten years, but I did learn a thing or two about practical translation (speciality areas) and translation theory at the university.


Can only agree with Orla here, they should've included marketing, pricing, client relations and a whole mess of other things like related laws, accounting and taxes.

I've attempted to dabble with Wordfast (every translator needs a CAT program I know)


I don't. Maybe that's why I held out so long until the UN started sending out TRADOS memories. I - personally - still view this as a craft. Nothing too arty-farty or high-falluting.

That said, an in-house stint could only do you good. Have you checked your university to see whether there were any agencies/ successful graduates looking for staff? In some universities here in Spain, it's presumed the old-timers will lend a hand (which they do) to get the younger ones started. Some agencies sign up for placement programs and so take younger graduates under their wing, so to speak. Then every once in awhile we get notes from PMs saying, wish me luck, I think I'm ready for the jump...

Hope it helps.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 02:55
Dutch to English
+ ...
Back to the Ivory Tower then..? Sep 23, 2005

[quote]ICETRANCE wrote:

I don't expect sympathy from anyone. But, I have felt very slighted as an intellectual in the translation job market up to this point.


Well as Robyn said, no sympathy as such but since you've obviously decided that the job market doesn't recognise your "talents", how about a job back up in the ivory tower, i.e. academics?

If you think of yourself essentially as an "intellectual" - and so more at home in the abstracts of translation theory, rather than struggling with the very real-life nitty-gritties of CAT tools, deadlines, invoicing and marketing - then maybe you'll be happier at a university. Perhaps you could combine the two and lecture on the one hand and suggest the university opens its own translation service on the other.

You sound very disillusioned but the translation world certainly isn't to blame. There are many of us who are not quite as sub-standard as you seem to think and who make a very decent living.

Good luck
Debbie


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Angela Arnone  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:55
Member (2004)
Italian to English
+ ...
Debbie is making an astute observation Sep 23, 2005

You know, the commercial translation world has bags of work and a decent living to be made, with plenty of intellectual stimulus to be had, but it's not everybody's cup of tea.
I know people who've studied medicine/law/engineering and are now excellent skilled translators because when it came down to it, courtrooms, operating theatres and smelly factories were not for them.

That said, life is full of mediocrity and it's up to each individual to find their own "breakeven point". What I find mediocre may be someone else's excellence and vice versa. Ours not to judge: if I'm asked, I will give a polite, honest opinion of other translations. If not, I don't bother. Different strokes, as they say.

So, try turning your disillusion on its head - it may not be that the commercial translation world is all wrong - just that its criteria and development, as you see them, are not for you.

But .... when I became a freelancer I was 45 (almost) years old. I came from a part-time pseudo secretarial job in a boring factory and a very serious illness that took one year of my life (I was lucky - it took all of several friends' lives). And I'm telling you, that clears your mind wonderfully...
I knew nothing about CAT, or invoicing or web searches or how much to charge.
I just knew that I had to kick-start my life and my gut feeling was that the internet/a good bilingual base and some hard work would do the trick ... now I earn far more than I did before, I am my own boss, I am intellectually stimulated, I am happy in my work, I go to conferences, I learned to use (not well but OK) Wordfast, I surf the web with the best of them and I joined ProZ.com, which has put me to the test many a time: I've grown up as opposed to just growing old.
I am good at what I do, and I can stand up and be counted!
So ... you see, maybe that world is not as negative as you see it at this moment.
Best
Angela


Deborah do Carmo wrote:
how about a job back up in the ivory tower, i.e. academics?




[Edited at 2005-09-26 19:57]


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Laure Trads  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:55
Member (2004)
English to French
Thank you for sharing this dose of positive thinking Sep 24, 2005

Angela Arnone wrote:

But .... when I became a freelancer I was 45 (almost) years old. I came from a part-time pseudo sectretarial job in a boring factory and a very serious illness that took one year of my life (I was lucky - it took all of several friends' lives). And I'm telling you, that clears your mind wonderfully...
I knew nothing about CAT, or invoicing or web searches or how much to charge.
I just knew that I had to kick start my life and my gut feeling was that the internet/a good bilingual base and some hard work would do the trick ... now I earn far more than I did before, I am my own boss, I am intellectually stimulated, I am happy in my work, I go to conferences, I learned to use (not well but OK) Wordfast, I surf the web with the best of them and I joined ProZ.com, which has put me to the test many a time: I've grown up as opposed to just growing old.
I am good at what I do, and I can stand up and be counted!
So ... you see, maybe that world is not as negative as you see it at this moment.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 03:55
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Enrol in the University of Life Sep 24, 2005

Like Angela, I came to translating late. (48) You don't say what you have been doing the last two years, but with hindsight, any kind of experience is good experience if you exploit it properly.

I wanted to work in languages, but trained in the 1970s in technical librarianship with German as a B-subject. It taught me to work with lots of different people, target groups and texts, and it gave me a glimpse of how various companies are run. And of course, som practice in German to English translation.

Nowadays people can find what they need on the Internet, but 'back then' there was no Internet, not even a screen on the computer, and only a big firm or a university would have one anyway.

At the reference library we librarians asked readers what they wanted, then searched the card indexes and the shelves, and came back with what we had to offer! I did very little of that because I worked at a firm that was setting up an online index of its library, writing résumés and adding uniform keywords to the search cards.

Then I married a Dane and came to Demnark in 1977 - with unemployed librarians at two a penny. (15% of the technical librarians...)

I took a quick language course (good, but not academic - simply to get by in daily life), and I started work looking after kids and part time as a janitor, washing staircases in blocks of flats and shovelling snow away from pavements and paths in the winter, changing lightbulbs, that sort of thing. I got to know the neighbourhood very thoroughly!

I started night classes - which is where I met the interesting people. We moved to another town, and I worked at a paint factory and as an 'unqualified' home help. But I still kept dreaming about translating - though the university would not recognise my qualifications and I had not the time or money to take an MA from scratch. I took up French (again) and accounting at night school, which was tough, but it kept me sane intellectually.

By this time I was too old to start as an office junior and too 'inexperienced' for anything else that needed training, so I felt vey much like you. Just don't give up! Look at everything from a language point of view - in both languages. You'll be surprised how many gaps you find in your knowledge, but go round and fill them in! While I looked after old people, I read their journal notes and looked up their diseases. (The old librarian was still very much alive...)

Then came the Internet and distance learning, and another university took me on for a postgraduate diploma in translating! The economic situation took a turn for the better, and seven years ago I was actually offered an in-house job at a translation agency. Do try that if you can - I benefited from helpful colleagues, and they built up my self conifdence and showed me what I was good at and which jobs I should send on to others.

You might find it easier to get a job as a PM - I really don't know. But you would make some useful contacts. Beware of competition clauses however - I don't know what the postion is in the USA. Some firms here would bar you from working with their clients for a year or more after you left, and it would in any case be unethical to try to take over a former employer's clients. But some PMS translate part time, and it can work out.

Perhaps you should try a more unusual language - competition is tough in French, and Danish is admittedly something of a niche by comparison. A lot of jobs do not actually require very advanced skills - and you can expand your qualifications in preactice, even if you do not always have a lot of exam certificates to show for it.

...And do you know what? I get the feeling now that all those years of odd jobs were really well spent. It's amazing what comes up in translations, and nothing you learn is ever wasted! You can always use it to grab KudoZ points and show what you know on your profile. I've never bid successfully for a job either, but outsourcers find me!

Admittedly, I did feel everything was hopeless now and then. I was not a very good home help, and I longed for a chance to do something I chose, not just something I had to do. But somebody has to do those jobs, and they certainly have their rewarding moments too.

My husband has been a fantastic support - amd still is. I hope you have family and friends who can give you the moral support we all need.

Keep trying - And BEST OF LUCK!


[Edited at 2005-09-24 22:14]


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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 03:55
Member
Italian to English
So much good advice.. Sep 25, 2005

put better than I ever could!
I think you need to take a good hard look at your skills and attributes, and what you really want from your career and ultimately life.
Two books I can strongly recommend are "Do What You Are" by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron Tieger, and "Secrets of Self Employment" by Sarah and Paul Edwards, both highly practical and very motivational. At the end of the day, no one is going to drag you out of this hole of despondency you seem to have dug - you'll have to do that for yourself. But if you find out what you want to do and pursue that goal, I'm sure you will be rewarded.

Good luck

[Edited at 2005-09-25 09:54]


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:55
German to English
Don't apply for jobs, advertise your services Sep 26, 2005

I'm still a newbie like you, and can't claim to have the knowledge and experience Angela and the others expressed so well, but here are a few things I've realised:

I've applied for several jobs, but to no avail.


I've read several posts on this site about becoming a freelance translator and what has been very helpful to me is the idea that you are *not* applying for a job - you are offering your services to people who might need them.

I've attempted to dabble with Wordfast (every translator needs a CAT program I know), but since my third attempt, I stare thoughtlessly at it.

I've also been learning how to use Wordfast, and it's definitely going to take you more than three attempts, I can tell you that already! Have you downloaded the two _training_ manuals (not the user manual)? They take you through the translation process step by step. If you practise translating some texts which are connected with your speciality, then that might even be helpful later on as you will be able to put some words in the glossary and will have a translation memory full of phrases on that subject. If you have little or no work now, consider it as a useful time when you can train yourself in using the software. I wouldn't wait until you have work to start learning how to do it.

Computer software and all its needless text formats make me believe that everything is about computer science rather than the art/science of translation. What a shame!


These days, if you work as a shop assistant, you still have to learn to use a computer. I don't think translation is any different from other jobs, to be honest.


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