Am I qualified?
Thread poster: lastraniera

Italian to English
Dec 7, 2007

I am going through a dark night of the soul here, and I need some advice. I fell into translation by accident -- I had been learning Italian for two years through a private tutor. I spent two months in Italy, and I had been translating poems and songs for myself on a regular basis. A year later, I volunteered to proofread an IT-EN translation for someone's website. The translation was so bad that I offered to translate it myself. I realized that I enjoyed it and seemed good at it, so I started doing more free translations, then I started getting some jobs through this website and others. I picked up a couple of regular clients who were very happy with my work, but I was always quite low-paid ($.05 - $.07 USD per word). Most of the feedback I received was positive, only twice in three years getting my translations sent back to me for corrections from the proofreader (which mortified me, but at the same time I was glad because I had never had any formal training in translation and I wanted to get better and do a great job). I decided I wanted to do this full-time (and get paid decent money for such a labor-intensive occupation), so I went back to university and I am about a finish my BA in Italian. I am also working on a translation certificate through a distance learning program (I could find no other program in my language pair). I am doing well with my certificate, passing my assignments, but I could be doing better. I have trouble with translation theory and strategy because I tend to work intuitively. I do a good job, but I can't always break it down and analyze why I did what I did and what I was thinking when I did it.

My issue is that I am not fluent nor an "expert" in Italian. I read and write Italian regularly, but I need more experience speaking it. I am an excellent writer, problem solver, and researcher with a knack for languages, and I think that is why I've been able to be relatively successful as a translator. I'm just afraid that maybe I've only been working these low-paying jobs because I'm working for people that don't have very high standards, and if I was working for more demanding people, all my shortcomings would show up and I would see that I really am not qualified to do this.

I don't want to be a mediocre translator, but I'm not sure how to make sure that I'm not one. What should I do to make sure that I'm not an embarrassment to the profession, so to speak? Should I not translate professionally until I've lived in Italy for an extended period of time and can say that I'm fluent? What do you think?

[Edited at 2007-12-07 04:08]


Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:46
English to Spanish
+ ...
Advice Dec 8, 2007

In the first place I would very strongly recommend that you spend as much time as you can in Italy and gain completge fluency in the language, for that is the very basis for what you will be doing. You need to be and know that you are thoroughly comfortable with your mastery of the language.

You say you have trouble with translation theory and strategy because you tend to work intuitively. I think that is fine. I lot of what we do comes from intuition, which again is a product of mastery of the language. You can develop strategies on your own, and abstract theory does not seem to be worth so much. The best things come from practice.

I think you are on the right road and you are definitely asking yourself the right questions, so it appears that you have an attitude that can lead to success.


Italian to English
Thank you, Henry! Dec 9, 2007

I am (always) trying to get back to Italy as soon as possible, and I know it will help. Thanks for your encouragement.


Samuel Henderson  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:46
Korean to English
+ ...
Focus on the main skills Dec 11, 2007

Assuming that you're looking at IT>EN translation, productive fluency in Italian shouldn't be your primary goal. You don't need to be able to write or speak well in your *source* language; many excellent translators lack those skills.

IMO, for IT>EN, the skills you really need are
a) a perfect understanding of written Italian,
b) excellent English writing skills, especially fluency in the lingo of your specialty fields, and
c) comfort and confidence in the translation process itself.

Of course, experience speaking and writing Italian can help with a (and maybe even with b), but there is no substitute for focusing directly on these skills.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2007-12-11 15:08]


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