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Marketing strategies for non-degree-holding translators
Thread poster: Isaac Verdú

Isaac Verdú  Identity Verified
Venezuela
Local time: 14:06
English to Spanish
+ ...
Jan 11, 2010

Hello everybody!!!

This is my first time actually creating an Internet post, and I'm glad I have the chance to do it in this forum, where everybody is extremely kind, very respectful, and comments are presented in a rather well written English. I hope I'm able to carry this good practice on.

I am a 22 years old Electronic Engineer from Caracas, Venezuela. My father lived in the US for about three years before I was born, and when I was about ten or eleven years old he started teaching me English. I am now able to understand the importance that mastering this language has in today's multicultural and globalized world, and have discovered over the past couple of years that translation is a very exciting and profitable career. One that I'm starting to embrace as mine.

I like to think of myself as a fluent English speaker. Throughout my engineering career I have had to use the language for academic purposes, and have exercised translations, interpreting and teaching several times, with fairly satisfying results.

I pointed out that "I like to think of myself" because I don't have any formal training on translation or languages, neither have I any courses or test results to certify my language or translations skills. Venezuela is pretty much a degree-oriented society (that is, if you say you do something, people are most likely to ask which degree qualifies you for it), and even though I'm not a degree-oriented professional, I can't help being a bit self conscious about it.

So my question (specially for those of you who like me don't hold any degrees in languages or translation) is: Do you think that not having a degree hurts your credibility when you are trying to find work? And if so (or even if not), how could one overcome this situation so that it is no longer an obstacle?

Thank you very much.

Isaac Verdu.

PD: I know it's a very short sample, but could you say from reading this text whether I'm fluent enough in English so I can translate into it as well?


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xxxGrayson Morr  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:06
Dutch to English
Your English is excellent. Jan 11, 2010

Hello Isaac!

I have been a professional translator for eight years, and, like you, I don't have a degree in translation. I have not found this to be limiting in terms of work opportunity; clients and translation agencies alike have judged my ability based on sample translations, and all have been satisfied with my work. The only aspect in which a lack of formal translation education has hurt me is in joining professional organizations; many of them require certification of some kind.

In my experience, the main benefit of a translation education must be to gain technique and experience. Nothing about translation degrees and certifications makes someone a good translator, nor does lack thereof mean someone cannot be a good translator.

You write English very well, though not completely error-free. (I still make errors in Dutch after speaking it for fifteen years.) For example, it should be "22-year-old electronic engineer," and "exercised translations" is not something a native speaker would ever say.

Your English is certainly more than adequate for translating out of that language into your native language, though you will need to be alert to cultural issues (British/American differences, for example, and regional expressions - sometimes a word can mean two very different things to people from different parts of the same country!). Judging from your post, you've learned American English. So be aware that you will need to study the differences between British and American English (and Australian and Canadian) if you plan to translate British (Australian, Canadian) documents as well. These differences include not only terminology (lift vs. elevator, and so on), but also style: for example, British English will, quite logically, put a period or comma outside quoted material that isn't a full sentence, while American English illogically (for historical reasons) will put them inside (see e.g. the last sentence of the paragraph above).

You should only translate into your native language. Your English is excellent, but it is not error-free. (Neither is that of many native speakers, but they shouldn't be translators, either.) Moreover, my experience is that writing in your second language is much, much easier than translating into it. Lastly, even if you made no mistakes, your vocabulary and cultural background make it unlikely that you will have the experience, vocabulary, and grasp of nuance in English that you have in your native language.

Good luck!


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Susanna Garcia  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:06
Italian to English
+ ...
non-degree translators Jan 11, 2010

Hi Isaac,

Your English is obviously very good but my question would be - how long did it take you to write your post? Now, I suspect that it took you a while as you checked and re-checked but you still did not notice the errors pointed out. Just think how long it would take you to do several thousand words, even assuming that you are given work by agencies who generally prefer, rightly or wrongly and volumes have been written about this here, mother tongue translators.
But good luck of course and there are always exceptions.


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Susana Valdez  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 17:06
Member (2006)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
What about a Post-Graduation? Jan 11, 2010

Hello Isaac,

Following Susanna Garcia's post I would recommend a Post-Graduation in Translation and Languages. I'm sure there is a lot of offer in that field in your home town and before you know it you will have a degree in Translation.

I leave here a quote from another translation that is very interesting. Find out if you know the answer to these questions:


You know you're a translator when...


1- You get the same empty stare after answering the question "What do you do?" or "What do you study?"

2- People tell you "So... Translator... You just study a foreign language? You work as a teacher, right? What else do you do? How many languages do you speak?"

3- People ask you how to say something in a different language, because a translator is supposed to have learnt the whole dictionary by heart...
(Translator ≠ WALKING DICTIONARY)

4- You admit you suck at maths.

5- You know how to use Trados, Wordfast, etc.

6- Sleeping is not as important as deadlines.

7- You realise that you can't avoid learning new things all the time with each text you translate.

8- You learn to loathe gerunds and false friends.

9- You know Alicia Zorrilla.

10- You're aware of issues such as gender and political correctness, which no one around you seems to care about.

11- You frequently have nightmares in which you're chased by Saussure, Chomsky, Halliday or Pinker.

12- You find certain words, expressions or translations utterly amusing... Yes, you laugh at words.

13- You have fun translating proverbs or idioms literally, such as "putting was the goose".

14- You finally learn how to use proper punctuation.

15- You find yourself looking up a word in the dictionary and you know you've already looked it up a thousand times before in your life.

16- You have run out of insults because this peculiar word seems to be nowhere in the world, but in the text you need to translate.

17- You find out how much money you've spent in books, photocopies and dictionaries and you realize you could be a millionaire if you had saved up all that money.

18- You can remember making weird noises to yourself, just because you were practising your Lenis Voiced Dental Fricative.

19- You know that the same meaning is hidden in these two sentences: "It's rude to point" and "Deixis is rude".

20- You know that the Spanish words "interface" and "interfaz" are not synonyms.

21- You can hold a coherent conversation with a colleague about derivational morphology or passive and middle voice.

22- You can list all the differences between unergative and unaccusative verbs, and you know the difference between a creole and a pidgin.

23- You know the difference between PRO and traces, and ECM and subject/object control verbs.

24- You know the different countless types of Spanish polysemic "se".

25- Drawing trees is the worst thing that can ever happen to you, because it no longer means pencils, branches and leaves, but subject, tense phrase and wh- movement.

26- You no longer distinguish weekends from the other days of the week, since weekends are no longer equated to leisure time, relaxation, happiness and glory.

27- You know how useless the RAE dictionary is, but you learn to cope with it.

28- You've got so used to working on your own, that sometimes you think you have a phobia for crowds.

29- You've resorted so many times to all techniques for keeping you awake for hours, that you've become an expert on the cafeine content of ALL drinks.

30- It doesn't matter how hard you try to achieve the best translation, there's always going to be someone who will disagree and would suggest changing absolutely everything.

31- You must restrain yourself from slapping people on their faces when you hear them producing horrible ungrammatical sentences.

32- You find yourself surrounded by too many women and few men, which is great.

33- You're starting a band called "Colourless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously", and your hit song is "I'm a lonely NP".

34- You measure your daily life in translations... (e.g. "When I get this translation done, I'll have dinner")

35- Your alarms go off every time you read a restaurant menu.

36- A friend asks for the meaning of a word and you clear your throat and start giving a lecture on etymology.

37- You keep 12 web pages open at the same time while you're working.

38- It takes you at least 10 minutes to look up just one word in a dictionary, because you find at least 10 other interesting words before the one you need.

(http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=241013288309#/group.php?gid=61087939586&ref=ts)


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Lizette Britz  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:06
Member (2008)
English to Spanish
Translate into your native language Jan 11, 2010

Hi Isaac,

It is better to translate into your native language (Spanish), because even if you understand English very well you are going to make mistakes. Perhaps you will not notice them, but a native speaker will. If you read a translation into Spanish you can tell if a non-native Spanish speaker did the translation or not.

I do not have a formal degree in translation either, but have a degree in Business from an American University and have been speaking English most of my life. At the moment I am taking clases to prepare for the IoL exam. This is helping me improve my translations, I am also learning the theory which I am finding very helpful. There were a lot of things that I was doing intuitively.

Like Grayson said there are professional associations that you cannot join because they require a certificate, but if you look around you will find others that are more open minded like ATA.

Liz


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:06
Flemish to English
+ ...
It does not hurt... Jan 11, 2010

It does not hurt to read "the Esbozo de la lengua española" or "a English standard grammar".

It does not hurt to try to read texts of Francisco de Ayala and try to analyse the sentence structure or and the function of the words in a sentence.
The same is true for a theatre play. Reading "Misería y esplendor de la traducción" de José Ortega y Gasset might help you realise what you are doing.

It does not hurt to read a style guide (where the use of interpunction is explained, something that most natives don't master themselves and by which you can distinguish yourself from others), a book about sociolinguistiscs, so that you have heard of register of language and that you are aware of different levels of speech...
Comparative reading of a quality newspaper, a weekly or a monthly in your working languages might help too.

I speak "English, Spanish or whatever language very well", so I can translate.
Wait a minute....Spoken language (interpreting) is not the same as written language (translation).

Your advantage is your knowledge of electronics.
Got a text about "thyristors" and could not translate it without the help of one of your colleagues, who was a terminology-supplier.

Native only: Boring old song....



[Edited at 2010-01-11 16:44 GMT]


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Post removed: This post was hidden by a moderator or staff member for the following reason: Empty post.

Isaac Verdú  Identity Verified
Venezuela
Local time: 14:06
English to Spanish
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
I appreciatte it!!! Jan 11, 2010

Thank you very much, you are too kind. This must be just about as fast and productive as post replies can get. My workday is over now, so I can take a couple of minutes to write something back.

Grayson,

I'm glad to know you've had a long and successful career in translations without any degrees yet. And yes, I must have read that at least a hundred times, "you should only translate into your mother tongue". But it's quite different when someone else takes something you just wrote and POINTS OUT WHY you should do that. It's crystal clear now, thank you. I think I would like spending time learning a third language and culture so I can translate from it better than emphasizing in my second language so I can translate into it.

Susanna,

It took me a while, I must admit it. But that's mainly because I haven't practiced in quite a while, and I wrote my post at 2:30 in the morning. This one is coming out a bit faster and more naturally. But you are absolutely right, I did check and double check for errors, and I am certain that under different circumstances I still would have been unable to spot them.

Susana,

Your are almost Susanna's TOCAYA. That's how you call another person with your same name here in Venezuela. Yes, there are a couple of options here, but not as many as you may think. I've thought about enrolling in some translation courses I've heard about, but they are not exactly cheap. Maybe in 2010, who knows... By the way, according to that list I still have a long way to go before I know in my heart I'm a translator. I'm actually pretty good at math... XD

Liz,

Yes, I did some research and found two or three associations for translators and interpreters here in Venezuela, they all require a college degree... Too bad...

Williamson,

I don't think I agree with you. Personally, I consider a more exciting experience mastering two or three languages well enough so you can translate from them, than concentrating in a second language so you can translate to it. Besides, in my case translation would still be a second career, so I can't put that much time and energy into it.

Thank you very much, I will visit the forum more frequently from now on. If you have any suggestions about how to get familiar with the community, please let me know. I would like to make the most out of what it has to offer, and start making contributions rather soon.


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Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:06
German to Spanish
+ ...
Marketing strategies for non-degree-holding translators Jan 11, 2010

Isaac J. Verdú wrote:

So my question (specially for those of you who like me don't hold any degrees in languages or translation) is: Do you think that not having a degree hurts your credibility when you are trying to find work? And if so (or even if not), how could one overcome this situation so that it is no longer an obstacle?



I would not bother about holding a translation degree or not. Of course, it may increase your credibility. But, who can translate a technical text better? An engineer with language skills or a translator with technical knowledge? This seems a chicken and egg situation to me.

But, imho it really does not matter. In both cases credibility should be achieved by means of a daily well done job.

[Editado a las 2010-01-11 23:18 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:06
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Absolutely Jan 12, 2010

Pablo Bouvier wrote:
But, imho it really does not matter. In both cases credibility should be achieved by means of a daily well done job.

Indeed. I had been translating for a decade without getting specific training on translation or being certified.

Now, after I decided to put an end to this situation and started working on this (ATA certification in 2008 and DipTrans exam next week; wish me luck!), along with specific translation seminars and training, I fully recommend to take as many courses you can afford and have time for. I strongly recommend to seek certification with IOL, ATA, or other well-known official or private bodies, something you can attain by doing translation exams. I believe that we have another chicken-and-egg situation here: in order to succeed in this kind of exams, you need a fair amount of experience (ATA even request that you can prove 5 years of experience if you don't have a degree) you have more chances of getting experience if you are certified.

Good luck Isaac! Keep us posted about your progress in this area!


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Krzysztof Kajetanowicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 18:06
English to Polish
+ ...
well Jan 12, 2010

Do you think that not having a degree hurts your credibility when you are trying to find work?


Probably. Some people just expect you to be a linguist with a diploma. There's nothing you can do about it, especially when dealing with a big company (where employees are concerned with being "prudent" in the choice of contractors rather than getting quality work).

I suppose we still have an edge over a fresh linguistics graduate with no specialised knowledge, nor any specialised vocabulary.

And if so (or even if not), how could one overcome this situation so that it is no longer an obstacle?


From the (very limited) experience that I've had, getting the opportunity to do a sample is key. Being actually good, which shows in a sample, is your main weapon. If you find a friend who is more or less established in the translating market, or a friend of a friend, they can probably get someone to send you a sample text and to give it a careful read. The agencies I've been working have samples analysed by a supposedly high profile reviewer and send you detailed feedback (including a list of mistakes, whether actual or imaginary). That's why it's not always so easy to get to the sample stage; it costs the agency and guarantees it nothing.

[Edited at 2010-01-12 09:42 GMT]


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Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:06
German to Spanish
+ ...
Marketing strategies for non-degree-holding translators Jan 12, 2010

Susana Valdez wrote:

Hello Isaac,

Following Susanna Garcia's post I would recommend a Post-Graduation in Translation and Languages. I'm sure there is a lot of offer in that field in your home town and before you know it you will have a degree in Translation.

I leave here a quote from another translation that is very interesting. Find out if you know the answer to these questions:


You know you're a translator when...


1- You get the same empty stare after answering the question "What do you do?" or "What do you study?"

2- People tell you "So... Translator... You just study a foreign language? You work as a teacher, right? What else do you do? How many languages do you speak?"

3- People ask you how to say something in a different language, because a translator is supposed to have learnt the whole dictionary by heart...
(Translator ≠ WALKING DICTIONARY)

4- You admit you suck at maths.

5- You know how to use Trados, Wordfast, etc.

6- Sleeping is not as important as deadlines.

7- You realise that you can't avoid learning new things all the time with each text you translate.

8- You learn to loathe gerunds and false friends.

9- You know Alicia Zorrilla.

10- You're aware of issues such as gender and political correctness, which no one around you seems to care about.

11- You frequently have nightmares in which you're chased by Saussure, Chomsky, Halliday or Pinker.

12- You find certain words, expressions or translations utterly amusing... Yes, you laugh at words.

13- You have fun translating proverbs or idioms literally, such as "putting was the goose".

14- You finally learn how to use proper punctuation.

15- You find yourself looking up a word in the dictionary and you know you've already looked it up a thousand times before in your life.

16- You have run out of insults because this peculiar word seems to be nowhere in the world, but in the text you need to translate.

17- You find out how much money you've spent in books, photocopies and dictionaries and you realize you could be a millionaire if you had saved up all that money.

18- You can remember making weird noises to yourself, just because you were practising your Lenis Voiced Dental Fricative.

19- You know that the same meaning is hidden in these two sentences: "It's rude to point" and "Deixis is rude".

20- You know that the Spanish words "interface" and "interfaz" are not synonyms.

21- You can hold a coherent conversation with a colleague about derivational morphology or passive and middle voice.

22- You can list all the differences between unergative and unaccusative verbs, and you know the difference between a creole and a pidgin.

23- You know the difference between PRO and traces, and ECM and subject/object control verbs.

24- You know the different countless types of Spanish polysemic "se".

25- Drawing trees is the worst thing that can ever happen to you, because it no longer means pencils, branches and leaves, but subject, tense phrase and wh- movement.

26- You no longer distinguish weekends from the other days of the week, since weekends are no longer equated to leisure time, relaxation, happiness and glory.

27- You know how useless the RAE dictionary is, but you learn to cope with it.

28- You've got so used to working on your own, that sometimes you think you have a phobia for crowds.

29- You've resorted so many times to all techniques for keeping you awake for hours, that you've become an expert on the cafeine content of ALL drinks.

30- It doesn't matter how hard you try to achieve the best translation, there's always going to be someone who will disagree and would suggest changing absolutely everything.

31- You must restrain yourself from slapping people on their faces when you hear them producing horrible ungrammatical sentences.

32- You find yourself surrounded by too many women and few men, which is great.

33- You're starting a band called "Colourless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously", and your hit song is "I'm a lonely NP".

34- You measure your daily life in translations... (e.g. "When I get this translation done, I'll have dinner")

35- Your alarms go off every time you read a restaurant menu.

36- A friend asks for the meaning of a word and you clear your throat and start giving a lecture on etymology.

37- You keep 12 web pages open at the same time while you're working.

38- It takes you at least 10 minutes to look up just one word in a dictionary, because you find at least 10 other interesting words before the one you need.

(http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=241013288309#/group.php?gid=61087939586&ref=ts)



If all this were needed to be a translator, we would be got ready. Certainly, I fell asleep due to the boredom near to the point 4 or 5 more or less...

[Editado a las 2010-01-12 13:02 GMT]


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:06
Flemish to English
+ ...
Just English Jan 12, 2010

If it is a side-job, I wonder why a math wiz. is dabbling in the world of translation.

Even if you translate only into your mother-tongue, some awareness of its structure, its grammar, its interpunction and its registers could be helpful.
Written Spanish is not spoken Spanish
However, if you sell your specialisation, you will get a lot of offers.

It is the same like me wanting to solve double derivatives without knowing what derivates are.



[Edited at 2010-01-12 15:16 GMT]


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 12:06
Spanish to English
+ ...
Degrees Jan 12, 2010

Isaac J. Verdú wrote:

Do you think that not having a degree hurts your credibility when you are trying to find work?


It depends what country your potential clients are in. In the U.S., no-one much cares whether you have a translation degree. But a lot of Spanish-speaking countries suffer from extreme "titulitis" (as they say in Spanish) and expect people to work only in the field they studied in college.


PD: I know it's a very short sample, but could you say from reading this text whether I'm fluent enough in English so I can translate into it as well?


As others have said, your English is very good, but it's clearly the English of a non-native speaker who has learned the language well.

[Edited at 2010-01-12 13:53 GMT]


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Krzysztof Kajetanowicz  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 18:06
English to Polish
+ ...
missed comparison Jan 12, 2010

It is the same like me wanting to solve double derivaties without knowing what derivates are.


I think you're flattering yourself.

By the way, I'd rather have a text about double derivatives translated by a mathematician who works in two languages than a translator who has read about mathematics.

[Edited at 2010-01-12 14:37 GMT]


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