MA in translation or MA in linguistics?
Thread poster: Przemyslaw Podmostko

Przemyslaw Podmostko  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:01
English to Polish
+ ...
Jul 29, 2009

Hello all!

I was just wondering recently about it. Do you think that it's a good idea to start a postgraduate course in linguistics with a view to being a translator? What I mean is that courses focusing mainly on translation and offering optional modules in linguistics, sociolinguistics, etc, are for those who want to be good at the "craft" of translation itself.

What about those who have finished strictly linguistics-related, theoretical courses and are working as translators now. How do you think it has helped/hindered you work now?

This is my thinking: you can be a translator being a linguist but not the other way round. Am I wrong?

Kind regards
Przemek


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Ruth Braine  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:01
Arabic to English
MA in Translation - not so much about craft! Jul 29, 2009

Hi Przemek

In my experience, MAs in Translation are not always about the 'craft' of translation either! I took an MA in Translation Studies in the UK (Manchester) a couple of years ago, and was disappointed by how little practical, 'useful' content we covered. Many courses were very theoretical - theories of translation, 'cross-cultural pragmatics' etc, others were about conducting research in translation studies, and even the supposedly practical courses were very vague and not that useful. The lecturers were addressing students who spoke many different languages, and so could only make general comments. Most of the course was quite interesting, and some parts were useful, but I definitely wouldn't say it was a practical course for people who wanted to be practising translators.

Having said that, I've heard other MAs in Translation in the UK (Salford, Westerminster) are more practical. So check the individual course descriptions carefully!

Best

Ruth


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Epameinondas Soufleros  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 19:01
Member (2008)
English to Greek
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Go for it Jul 29, 2009

It should be a very enriching experience. You can do either, they will both benefit you. And, yes, you can turn into a linguist from a translator. In fact, only translators with knowledge of linguistics are good enough for me—the rest are mere unksilled craftsmen.

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chica nueva
Local time: 06:01
Chinese to English
graduate studies in Linguistics/Applied Linguistics Jul 29, 2009

Przemyslaw Podmostko wrote:
Hello all!
I was just wondering recently about it. Do you think that it's a good idea to start a postgraduate course in linguistics with a view to being a translator? ... Przemek


Hello Przemek
I take it this is a general question - because you are a translator already.
1 As for Linguistics, I have no experience, but I know that some people find it fascinating. (One would have to have a Linguistics major in their BA to be accepted, I would say.)
2 As for Applied Linguistics, personally I think a lot of the courses might be aimed at language teachers, and be not so suitable for translators, but I might be wrong. The entry requirements might be more flexible than for Linguistics. (That's based on my experience of NZ some years ago - see what others say.)
Lesley

[ Quite a lot of translation is about texts I would say. Anything with textual studies might be good. How about 'sociolinguistics' and 'discourse analysis' a la Fairclough: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Fairclough http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Fairclough#Influences ]

[Edited at 2009-07-30 10:06 GMT]


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Przemyslaw Podmostko  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:01
English to Polish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
. Jul 29, 2009

I basically think that graduating from a purely linguistic course gives you more room for manouvre, namely you can be a translator, pursue an academic career, after some further study - a speech therapist, a copywriter. Also my impression is that people with such courses finished are perceived as more qualified to be translators because of their in-depth knowledge on language.

What is your opinion?


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Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:01
French to English
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tl;dr Jul 29, 2009

Przemyslaw Podmostko wrote:

What about those who have finished strictly linguistics-related, theoretical courses and are working as translators now. How do you think it has helped/hindered you work now?


That describes me fairly accurately. I did my MA in linguistics at University College London, which runs rigorous theoretical linguistics courses that have little or nothing to do with the practical aspects of translation. I had no thoughts of becoming a translator when I started the MA; I had recently finished my undergraduate degree, in French with some linguistics content, and wanted to continue my education with a view to continuing in academic work of some kind. I was (and still am) also interested in the subject for its own sake. This is now a somewhat old-fashioned view of education and I am very grateful I had the opportunity to pursue it.

During the MA I changed my mind about this path, and after I passed the MA I continued working in hospitals, which I had started doing during my studies. Only then did I start thinking about translation, and I enrolled on a practical course in preparation for the IoL Diploma in Translation.

Has my MA helped me or hindered me? It certainly hasn't hindered me, except that it took me longer to pay off my student debt than it otherwise would (this would still be the case, had I done a translation MA). I can't say I think about syntactic theory every day, and I my knowledge of the field is now very rusty and woefully out of date, but I am grateful for the intellectual framework provided by the MA (and by my undergraduate degree) which helps in many ways.

This is my thinking: you can be a translator being a linguist but not the other way round. Am I wrong?


I think you may be right about that. Linguistics provides a good general grounding in thinking about language, and cognition more generally. What it doesn't do is provide you with a thorough knowledge of any foreign language. You can be an expert in linguistics without being able to use more than one language proficiently. If you have excellent knowledge of a foreign language already, though, and can give some thought as to ways of mediating between languages, then a linguistics degree can only help.

You certainly couldn't become a linguist (by which I mean a linguistics scholar; "linguist" is a very vague term in English) with only a translation MA for background.

For what it's worth (and with apologies for the length)
Angela


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LegalTransform  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:01
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
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Degree in Subject Specialty Jul 29, 2009

I think your time and money would be better invested in getting a degree in a specialty field (ex: law, psychology, environmental studies, etc.) rather than in translation itself. In my opinion, this would be much more valuable (and marketable to potential clients). You can always read about linguistics and translation theory on your own.

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Kay Barbara
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:01
Member (2008)
English to German
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my 2 pence Jul 29, 2009

Przemyslaw Podmostko wrote:

This is my thinking: you can be a translator being a linguist but not the other way round. Am I wrong?



I guess this is a valid statement, but then again you can be a translator being anything. The question for me is, how good you will be in the specialty fields you want to work in as a translator.
For people who enjoy a "hands-on" approach to translation, I recommend a translation degree. However, as Ruth said, the amount of hands-on experience you will get during your course will depend on the university you go to. Personally, I had lots of practical translation seminars at Leipzig's IALT (I submitted on average 3-4 translations per week for 9 semesters, from general texts to legal, IT, automotive). This definitely helped me a great deal.

Przemyslaw Podmostko wrote:

I basically think that graduating from a purely linguistic course gives you more room for manouvre, namely you can be a translator, pursue an academic career, after some further study - a speech therapist, a copywriter. Also my impression is that people with such courses finished are perceived as more qualified to be translators because of their in-depth knowledge on language.



I agree, you will be more flexible with a linguistics degree. However, I also work as a Language Consultant which has little to do with translation.
Moreover, I cannot share your impression that linguists are perceived as more qualified translators. I am confident that my current clients would go for me again if they had to choose between me and a Linguist. At the end of the day, it really depends on what you want to translate. Maybe you could elaborate on this?


Cheers

Kay


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Kay Barbara
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:01
Member (2008)
English to German
+ ...
Yes, also possible Jul 29, 2009

Jeff Whittaker wrote:

I think your time and money would be better invested in getting a degree in a specialty field (ex: law, psychology, environmental studies, etc.) rather than in translation itself. In my opinion, this would be much more valuable (and marketable to potential clients). You can always read about linguistics and translation theory on your own.


Even though I am absolutely convinced by the benefits one can have by properly doing a translation degree, I have to agree with Jeff. Just take a look around ProZ and you will see that e.g. a purely technical background may also lead to becoming a highly qualified translator.

My humble opinion is that either of these two choices would be better for becoming a successful translator than a linguistics degree.


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Frances Leggett  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:01
Italian to English
+ ...
MA in Translation Studies Jul 29, 2009

I am doing an MA in Translation Studies Distance Learning via the University of Portsmouth. I have learnt so much from the Theory and Practice of Translation courses and the Specialised Translation courses which you do in up to 3 languages. You can cover all sorts of subject fields. There are also other interesting courses to do such as Subtitling, History of Translation and there is a big Translation Project you can do where you get a lot of good feedback on your work. I find this very helpful.

An MA in Linguistics gives you a better insight into the science of the language but if it is practical work and professional development that you are looking for I would say follow the line of an MA in Translation Studies.

I agree with Jeff that a degree in the subject matter is a very good idea, but I also think that much research into that subject in personal reading and a collection of a corpus of texts to analyse style, language used etc in the subject matter can help just as well. You could also write to professors of open university or any university you have a connection with to obtain reading lists of the subjects you want to specialise in and study directly from that material.


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chica nueva
Local time: 06:01
Chinese to English
Link to previous thread; linguistics/literature combinations Jul 30, 2009

Link to Previous Thread: http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/141103-ideas_for_ma_dissertation_topic.html

About linguistics, there's an outline of the 'linguistics field' here, at the right: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stylistics_(linguistics) Also, I guess you could check out various relevant associations and their conferences. Perhaps this might be one: http://www.pala.ac.uk/ Poetics and Linguistics Association

[Edited at 2009-07-30 12:02 GMT]


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Alexandre Coutu
Canada
Local time: 11:01
English to French
MA in translation might be a disadvantage. Oct 11, 2009

I started an MA in Linguistics... which I eventually abandoned. Not so much for lack of interest (I love Linguistics and I had a BA in it), but I realized I was heading towards teaching languages or translation and I could no longer see the point of continuing the program.

Now that I've been a translator for 10 years, I don't see what I'd have gained from an MA, other that just having the title. I'd have been much better off spending the time taking one of the languages I had studied to a professional translator's level...

If I did an MA today, it would be in interpretation.

For the record, where I work, we have had applicants with postgraduate degrees in translation, and frankly, those candidates were disadvantaged by the title. Translation is a practical field -- we don't want to know about your theories of translation, we want you to get to work. Those candidates we did interview were generally proud to display their knowledge of such theory and ... well, were never hired.

I'm not saying too much knowledge should be a disadvantage, but if you are going to have to hide the fact that you have an MA to get hired... what's the point? That being said, if you wish to do an MA because you have a deep interest in the field, by all means go for it. Personally, I'd find Linguistics infinitely more interesting.


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