Translation- is it right for me?
Thread poster: LChandler1002

Dec 29, 2005

Hi, my name is Loren Chandler and I'm interested in the field of translation (English/French and visa versa). In all reality, I'm a high-school student living in Dallas with utterly no experience and very little education in the language. But I've always had a talent for languages in general, French above all others. I was just wondering; How does one become a translator to begin with? What kind of degrees and licences and experience is needed? Really, I'm just completely confused about the topic and need some experienced advice.


Fiona Gonçalves  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:23
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Check the boards Dec 30, 2005

Hi Loren.

There are lots of posts on this topic on the boards. A thread which I think you might find particularly useful is "Questions on translation vs interpreting". Here is the link to the thread:

Hope this helps and good luck.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:23
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Hi - and best of luck! Dec 30, 2005

First, only you can decide, but you can see some of the issues by surfing around this site.

It is getting more and more important to find your niche, by which I mean a specialist subject area, especially with a popular language pair like French and English.

You also need a really good language training as well as natural talent. The EU is coming to the point where all accredited translators need a master's degree (5 years of university training) in translation. The US won't be any different, I'm sure.

So you need a lot of training.
Not all jobs require the full training, and experience is just as important - you learn things in the real world that you never come across in an academic situation. Take on 'general texts' or jobs in areas you feel confident about as soon as you can. Get someone to proof read, and learn to give and take constructive criticism - it ends up being fun!

Enrol at university, and work hard, but take your time. If you need a break, take a job somewhere and think in both languages when you can. Nothing you ever learn in the way of vocabulary, jargon or terminology ever seems to be wasted! (You can earn KudoZ points at the very leasticon_biggrin.gif)

Don't be upset if you decide that the other job is really more 'you' than translating. There is a very fine line between a professional who can translate and a translator with an inside knowledge of a particular profession. You may cross back and forth in the course of your career.

Look at people's profiles on this site. I started out training as a technical librarian with German to English translation as a B-subject, because I failed to get into med. school. The subject background was interesting, and I did focus on medicine and biology when I got the chance, but if I started now I would specialise more in a smaller area.

Other site members are lawyers, doctors or paramedics, engineers, economists etc ... and make use of these backgrounds in their translation work.

I married a Dane ... and ended up learning a niche language instead. This is another option, if you are more of a 'generalist' subject-wise. Others teach, or have other part time jobs in specialist areas. All these give useful spin-off for translating, and the need for specialists is just as great.

Either way, you have to keep your training up to date with courses in languages and in your subject areas, you have to listen to the spoken language, read papers and journals...

There are lots of possibilities and the world is going to need good translators for many generations yet. Probably fewer literary translators than people imagine, but globalisation calls for the same ability to socialise and mediate between different cultures as well as 'hard core' technical translation and localisation, whatever that is.

Travel and cultivate all your interests in both or all your languages. Grasp opportunities as they come, and see where they lead you.

It takes a lifetime, but you can start in a small way almost at once, and besides the sweat and tears, late nights and impossible deadlines, there are lots of rewards at every step of the way.

Happy New Year and happy translating!


Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:23
Dutch to English
+ ...
Hear, hear ... Dec 30, 2005

To all Christine had to say.....

I'd merely add consider spending a gap year in France between high school and your undergraduate course - possibly some type of exchange programme and, while there, immerse yourself in the language and culture.

We often have romanticized ideas of places, cultures etc and the reality can be very different. You may fall in love with France and decide to explore further options there. You may not and then at least you won't be starting on a course before seeing the particular language and culture isn't for you.

You have to be acutely aware of cultural differences to translate many types of texts effectively and spending time in the source country is the best way to go about it, apart from the obvious boost it will give your language skills.

Although not everyone here will agree, I'd also strongly suggest only translating into your native language (English) and not vice-versa. For that reason, to make a living you should consider learning a second source language (a niché language like Christine suggests) as the FR»EN market is very competitive.

I'd also suggest contacting your local translators' association and/or the ATA - they will be able to give specific guidance on courses etc.

Good luck with your plans

[Edited at 2005-12-30 10:19]


Thanks Dec 30, 2005

Thanks, I'll try the link.


Wow, thank you. Dec 30, 2005

Wow, thank you for all the information. It's good to know that so many people 1) have such passion about their professions and 2) care so much for the future of a Texan high-school teen (actually, I'm from Arizona, but that's beside the point). Very big thanks!!


Local time: 06:23
English to French
+ ...
Exchange programs Dec 31, 2005

Hi Loren

Have you considered spending a year in France on an exchange program? If you can't spend a whole year there, you can probably sign up for a FLE course in the summer. I'll be glad to give you more practical information in private, you can email me through my profile.



kara marie
French to English
I'm in a similar situation... Jan 9, 2006

I'm a college student in the same predicament...I have found myself deciding that I want to become a translator! I graduate in May and hope to spend time in France before (or while) attending graduate school.

Does anyone know the requirements of French Universities or which ones offer good translation programs?


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