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Poll: Do you think translators with a translation degree are more competent than those without one?
Thread poster: Staff Staff
Local time: 19:00
Dec 4, 2010

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you think translators with a translation degree are more competent than those without one?".

This poll was originally submitted by Elodie Bonnafous. View the poll results »


Adnan Özdemir  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:00
Member (2007)
German to Turkish
+ ...
No :) Dec 4, 2010

An engineer is good translator if...

A doctor is good translator if...

A lawyer is good translator if...

A polyglot is good translator if...

An economist is good translator if...

A translation degree owner is good translator if...


imho naturallyicon_wink.gif


[Edited at 2010-12-04 08:39 GMT]


Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:00
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Not necessarily, but schools teach professionalism Dec 4, 2010

I've known some excellent graduates of translation schools (e.g., Monterey Institute, Georgetown University, and others). There's no way of knowing if they would have been just as good if they had not had this training. These schools instill a professionalism that I admire, and it usually shows.

On the other hand, we all know extremely competent translators who did not graduate with a translation degree.


Local time: 05:00
English to Turkish
+ ...
No translation school and even no university degree Dec 4, 2010

My boss has only a high school degree. It is 10.000.000 words he has translated globally so faricon_smile.gif


Local time: 04:00
Polish to English
+ ...
On average, people with diplomas *are* better. Dec 4, 2010

I agree with what Muriel wrote above. Schools give you a technical background that you can use while working on various types of translation.

I could add that there are very good translators with no (formal) education in translation - but they are few. On the other hand, it is hard to find a poor translator with a degree or credible certification!


Alison Sabedoria  Identity Verified
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
Not necessarily Dec 4, 2010

In an ideal world we'd all study both translation and a specialist subject. I'm full of admiration for those who have done that.

A translation degree is probably the best route into the profession for those who choose translation as a first career. It might be an excellent background, but it is up to the individual to build upon this foundation, and not all seem willing or able to do so.

Just getting a degree, no matter what the field, does not guarantee competence once out in the world of work. I'm sure we've all come across people who are well qualified on paper but clueless when faced with a real situation.

Older translators (I count myself as one) often have degrees, and/or have worked for many years, in a specialist field, building up their language skills at the same time. Professionalism is important at any age, but experience and maturity bring valuable "transferable skills".

[Edited at 2010-12-04 13:41 GMT]


Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:00
Spanish to English
+ ...
I would love to have been taught... Dec 4, 2010

...all the things I've had to learn for myself! My career path didn't take me via a translation degree (did they exist 30+ years ago?) although I would love to have studied translation. However, it is not one of the things to put on my list for when I retireicon_wink.gif



Interlangue (X)
Local time: 04:00
English to French
+ ...
Re Dec 4, 2010

aceavila - Noni wrote:
(did they exist 30+ years ago?)

Yes, they did - I got my translation degree in 1974 icon_wink.gif
IMHO, however, it takes more than a degree (translation and/or other) to make a good translator. The learning process should never be left to "school only", the latter is only a tiny part of it. For the record, I put an end to a 23 year teaching career some time ago.

And my answer to the poll was "not necessarily": I know quite a few colleagues who became translators by chance and are doing a good job. I also know people who have a degree in translation and are not good translators (or not good enough) - several of them started something else after "the market" kicked them out.

[Modifié le 2010-12-04 12:44 GMT]

[Modifié le 2010-12-04 12:45 GMT]


Gianluca Marras  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:00
Member (2008)
English to Italian
no Dec 4, 2010

it may be a way to enter the market, but experience and flexibility make a good translator.
theory at University or else is not enough if what is learned is not efficiently applied to the clients' requests.


Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:00
Flemish to English
+ ...
A Ying-Yang question Dec 4, 2010

It helps to gain competency and is a way to enter the market. You are considered to be more aware of the nuts and bolts of a language than those who become translator overnight. People with another background never had to study a language as such.

My old programme:
You had to learn your native tongue and two languages of choice thoroughly. Sometimes from scratch to a high level (ex.Russian from scratch given by a Russian or Spanish from scratch by a Chilean/Spanish/Basque teacher) through morphosyntactic analysis.
This creates a pattern of the language in your mind the same way a toddler copies his mother's language pattern. The rest consists of enhancing your vocabulary constantly and learn more about style.
In the last two years, you had to translate a lot of technical, medical and legal texts or for those lucky enough to get into interpreting, interpret about 300 hours in total.
In all, before you started translating, you had attended about 840 hours of class with your native tongue as principal course and about1040 hours of each language. Moreover, over a period of 4 years you had to chew through about 20 courses, ranging from art over law to economics, banking and the stock-exchange. A good basis to start as a translator.

Compare that to somebody who "discovers" translation.

I've had the "luxury" of going browsing through the curricula and content of a faculty of engineering, a faculty of sciences, a law faculty and an applied economics department and only at the law faculty and the faculty of applied economics foreign languages are taught.
The rest varies between English and Dutch according to specialisation of the course-content.

Whether it makes you more competent, is a ying-yang question.

[Edited at 2010-12-04 20:33 GMT]


Lesley Clarke  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:00
Spanish to English
It does also depends on the university Dec 4, 2010

Education is now big business and not all degrees signify the same quality of teaching and marking.


Marlene Blanshay  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:00
Member (2009)
French to English
+ ...
not necessarily Dec 4, 2010

I agree, a translation degree can help you in the job market, especially because inhouse jobs seem to demand it. But there are other factors. I do a lot of revision work and I am often surprised to see the work of translators with years more experience, three or more languages, degrees in translation and the latest CAT tools aren't as good as I would expect from someone with those qualifications. I'll think gee...I could have done that better! And, I've also discovered, it doesn't guarantee skills in project management either!


liz askew  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 03:00
Member (2007)
French to English
+ ...
Interesting question - don't clients generally ask for proof of competence though? Dec 4, 2010

Well, whether it is true or not if a translator with a Degree in Translation is better/more competent than one without, the question is an interesting one, almost academic...

Surely it does matter though because from what I can see the vast majority of jobs posted on Proz request translators who have a certain level of competence, and often a client asks for proof of competence, which usually involves the qualifications a translator may have.

So, my question would be, for those of you out there who do not have a Degree/Diploma or whatever, how do you get regular work from clients as all the clients I work for ask me to send them proof of my competence, so I forward them a copy of my Degree in Foreign Languages, plus any other qualifications I may hold. I have had to jump through all sorts of qualification hoops to get translation work!! How do those who don't have any type of Degree manage to get work?


Liz Askew

I don't have a Degree in Translation, but do have one in Modern Languages

[Edited at 2010-12-04 16:05 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-12-04 16:05 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-12-04 16:07 GMT]


Thayenga  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:00
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Not necessarily Dec 4, 2010

A translation degree testifies "only" that the person has been equipped with the necessary tools to translate. This is, by no means, intended to lessen the accomplishment of those who have earned their degree. I admire them for (usually) having been through school from 1st grade on to university.

In my case, I've earned my degree 11 years after I've finished school by working during the day and studying the evenings.

Someone who has earned a translation degree, let's say, 30 years ago, and who has never worked in the business might be faced with a tremendous lack of terminology, which is, as we all know, constantly changing. At least in some fields. While, on the contrary, someone who has never earned that degree, but has spent years translating is probably a much more competent translator than the one who's earned the degree, but who has never worked in this business.

That's my 2 cents. Have a great weekend.icon_smile.gif


Mariam Osmann
Local time: 04:00
English to Arabic
+ ...
No Dec 4, 2010

It's easier for a translator with hands on in certain field (technical, scientific and even poetry) with no degree to learn about translation theory than for a translator with translation degree to learn about specific discipline .

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