Poll: Would you recommend a career in translation to younger students?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
Local time: 14:57
SITE STAFF
Mar 8, 2014

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Would you recommend a career in translation to younger students?".

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Charlie Bavington  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:57
French to English
Experience, experience and then some experience Mar 8, 2014

No. And not just because I wouldn't recommend a career in translation to anyone, young or old, student or an actual human being ( ).

But if you insist on being a translator, then do get some life experience, in a field in which you plan to specialise or in a field which might, by default, then become a specialisation. In other words, to echo the constant advice to students - get a job! (Gross generalisation - some specialist fields obviously have no link to paid employment).
I also recommend at least experiencing everyday life in a source language country for a while.
The two could even be combined.

I always remember a translation review I was once asked to do. Original was by some recent graduate, jumped straight into translation after university. The subject matter was annual appraisals for employees. Standard stuff for most people who have either had a job or talked to people who have had a job. Sadly, this graduate seemingly fell into neither category and the job was FUBAR.


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Paul Adie  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Spanish to English
+ ...
Unfortunately not... Mar 8, 2014

I wouldn't. With rates plummeting everywhere, deadlines becoming shorter, having to do everything yourself (advertising, accounting, etc.), working alone... and after working in this field for 8 years and still no real security, the disadvantages have outweighed the pluses for a long time.

Of course, there are always exceptions, and I'm sure it's going swimmingly for some of you! I've managed to live from translation practically since university, but if I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldn't have studied languages in the first place, or would have combined language studies with something else.

I'll be translating for a long time to come I think, as I'm trying to get into another field at the moment, and at least translation is flexible enough to study/work on something else part time.

If you really want translation to work for you, it probably will. I've somewhat lost that 'passion'.


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 23:57
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Yes, with some reservations Mar 8, 2014

If a someone loves languages, has studied them thoroughly and is prepared to work odd hours, delivering high quality, then there is a market for them.

My advice would be to specialize in certain fields, e.g. IT, e-commerce, multi media, etc. where there will always be a great demand for translators. Above all, they should refrain from accepting low rate jobs just to get started - for obvious reasons.

In any profession accuracy, reliability and top notch quality as well as business skills will (almost) always lead to a successful career. This applies also to the translation industry.


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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 22:57
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes, with some reservations... Mar 8, 2014

... the first one being: start in-house!

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Gallagy
Ireland
Local time: 22:57
Member (2010)
French to English
+ ...
No Mar 8, 2014

Everyone should get other experience first as Charlie has so eloquently said


Charlie Bavington wrote:

No. And not just because I wouldn't recommend a career in translation to anyone, young or old, student or an actual human being ( ).

But if you insist on being a translator, then do get some life experience, in a field in which you plan to specialise or in a field which might, by default, then become a specialisation. In other words, to echo the constant advice to students - get a job! (Gross generalisation - some specialist fields obviously have no link to paid employment).
I also recommend at least experiencing everyday life in a source language country for a while.
The two could even be combined.

I always remember a translation review I was once asked to do. Original was by some recent graduate, jumped straight into translation after university. The subject matter was annual appraisals for employees. Standard stuff for most people who have either had a job or talked to people who have had a job. Sadly, this graduate seemingly fell into neither category and the job was FUBAR.


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Laurens Sipahelut  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 04:57
Dutch to Indonesian
+ ...
No Mar 8, 2014

At least, I wouldn't advise them to give up their day jobs just yet. Because to plunge head first and to try to make it full-time as a translator can be very tough and potentially unrewarding. Unless if you have got something truly unique to offer straight out of the gate, of course.

Because that's what it takes to make it as a translator: you have to have something unique to offer. The more unique this something is, the more you would stand out and the more you would have to offer to your potential clients. Developing this unique trait can take a lot of time and effort, however, and the work you put into it may have nothing to do at all with translation.

Furthermore, I would advise them to pursue a degree or degrees decidedly unrelated to languages. In the same way you don't need a degree in letters to become a good writer, you also don't need to go to translation school to become a good translator. But don't take my word for it, just ask the Simpsons: http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2013/sep/22/the-simpsons-secret-formula-maths-simon-singh

Finally, I would say to them: "A translator is like a bridge: be a Millau Bridge or be a beam-bridge on a brook. You decide."

[Edited at 2014-03-08 12:12 GMT]


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:57
English to Spanish
+ ...
Younger? You mean, in their 20s? Mar 8, 2014

Since I'm a translation educator and I'm almost 51, a younger student could be a 45-year-old guy. Or a 19-year-old girl .

Seriously, I don't know how I can improve on some of the sound advice and elegant comments I read already here (well done, Mr. Bavington!).

Since teens and twentysomethings get so googly-eyed over lists, here's one:

1) Get a job so you can learn the basic disciplines of working with other people, with a boss you might end up disliking and with projects that have nothing to do with your priorities.

2) Get a university degree in a field you feel strongly about, be it math, engineering, nursing, veterinary, biology, physics, human resources, etc. Don't just pick a specialization on the start because you have little life experience to go on; let the specialization find you.

3) Don't get an education or a degree just because a certain job type is popular (web development or 3D animation). Don't be a sheep.

4) Learn to write superbly in your mother tongue and at least in one other language. If you know how to write well, improve your writing (smartphone texting or emails don't count as creative or business writing.)

5) Speaking of writing, learn proper business writing and business negotiation skills, as well as learn how to balance a checkbook, carry a ledger; learn how to use a credit card (and credit) responsibly.

And this is just the start. If you still want to do translations, start like the rest of us by reading and proofing other people's translations.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 23:57
Spanish to English
+ ...
Yes, but with reservations Mar 8, 2014

It depends. Many of the skills involved in translation are transferable to other professions, so I imagine that a degree in translation studies would be useful in other areas too. However, as most of the comments have already pointed out, the translator's streets are no longer paved with gold and there are a lot of hassles and fierce competition in some language pairs. Come to think of it, most translators I know (myself included) got into it after doing other jobs first. Unless you are really keen on language/s and enjoy working with them, I wouldn't normally advise it as a first choice.
Having said that, I'm currently "mentoring" a recently graduated translator and am pleasantly surprised with the results so far...


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 16:57
German to English
+ ...
"become a veterinarian" lol Mar 8, 2014

Recently a client came to my home with her teen daughter for a last minute short translation. In conversation I learned that the daughter is excellent in languages with an apparent natural talent in them. She was also interested in veterinary studies. Before thinking it through, I blurted out "Become a veterinarian!" Um?

(Of course bilingual vets with a gift for languages make excellent specialized translators).

[Edited at 2014-03-08 21:18 GMT]


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Noura Tawil  Identity Verified
Syria
Local time: 00:57
Member (2013)
English to Arabic
+ ...
@ Mario Mar 9, 2014

Mario Chavez wrote:

And this is just the start. If you still want to do translations, start like the rest of us by reading and proofing other people's translations.


To the "younger student": Starting by Reading => Gooood, by Proofing => Baaaad.

Don't get us started with our "proofing" horror stories, Mario! lol


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