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Poll: How many years of full-time translation does it take to become a "professional" translator?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff
ProZ.com Staff
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Apr 16, 2014

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "How many years of full-time translation does it take to become a "professional" translator?".

This poll was originally submitted by Julian Holmes. View the poll results »



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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 02:01
Danish to English
+ ...
Other Apr 16, 2014

Being a professional has nothing to do with time, but everything to do with attitude and approach to your work.

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DianeGM  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:01
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Other Apr 16, 2014

I think experience only makes you 'experienced', which is only one possible component of professionalism and not the decisive one at that. Professionalism is comprised of other aspects which are not necessary related to 'time served'.

[Edited at 2014-04-16 08:18 GMT]


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:01
Spanish to English
+ ...
Other Apr 16, 2014

The debate about "professional" is already well-trodden. I also have issues with the definition of "full-time". The query terms are thus too fuzzy for me to begin to think about an answer, never mind form an opinion worth defending based on anything other than my own subjective experience.

But anyway, here's one off the top of my head about life and work general: when you can finally make enough money to live on from an activity, that is when you become a "professional". (I'd normally add "simples" here, but don't want to annoy anyone)


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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 09:01
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
For the life of me Apr 16, 2014

I honestly can't remember when I suggested this poll or even if I did.

I would have issue with the notion of somebody sitting down at a desk for the first time ever and calling himself/herself a 'professional' translator by virtue of the fact that he or she has the right attitude and approach in spite of a total lack of 'experience.'

At least we'll get some discussion going about what 'professional' means and how long it takes to 'earn your wings,' if this is at all relevant, that is.


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Tim Drayton  Identity Verified
Cyprus
Local time: 03:01
Turkish to English
+ ...
other Apr 16, 2014

I think the learning curve never ends.
I know that when I look at translations I did ten years ago, I wince, and can't help wondering if the work I am now doing will have the same effect ten years hence, if I am still doing translations then.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 02:01
Member (2003)
Danish to English
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Absolutely Apr 16, 2014

Gitte Hovedskov, MCIL wrote:

Being a professional has nothing to do with time, but everything to do with attitude and approach to your work.


Maybe you are not truly professional from day one, because you still have a lot to learn which may modify your approach, but if you haven't got it, you will never be professional, and if you have, you will work at it...

Part of being professional is knowing your own limitations, and knowing where to push them out and expand.
That means also knowing your strengths and skills and keeping them in form.


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Khanda
Poland
Local time: 02:01
Polish to English
+ ...
other Apr 16, 2014

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.

(No, seriously.)


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Karen Stokes  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:01
Member (2003)
French to English
Agree Apr 16, 2014

Gitte Hovedskov, MCIL wrote:

Being a professional has nothing to do with time, but everything to do with attitude and approach to your work.


Exactly. I know young translators just starting out who have an exemplary approach to their work and couldn't be more professional if they tried; and sadly, a few 'old hands' who would do well to learn from them...


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Thayenga  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 02:01
Member (2009)
English to German
+ ...
Indeed Apr 16, 2014

Karen Stokes wrote:

Gitte Hovedskov, MCIL wrote:

Being a professional has nothing to do with time, but everything to do with attitude and approach to your work.


Exactly. I know young translators just starting out who have an exemplary approach to their work and couldn't be more professional if they tried; and sadly, a few 'old hands' who would do well to learn from them...


Professionalism and attitude matter, not time.


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Member (2011)
Swedish to English
+ ...
Other Apr 16, 2014

Being professional is about getting it right and delivering on time

You don't need experience for that (though it can help)

Standards are so pitifully low in this industry that there are plenty of highly experienced translators out there who do not come close to what I would consider professional


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Julian Holmes  Identity Verified
Japan
Local time: 09:01
Member (2011)
Japanese to English
Nice way of putting it Apr 16, 2014

Chris S wrote:

Being professional is about getting it right and delivering on time

You don't need experience for that (though it can help)


But, it is the experience part of this equation that is instrumental in getting it right in as short a time as possible, don't you think?
Otherwise, you'll spend ages researching something to get it right and miss the boat.

I also agree with you about pitifully low standards, too. I find that the most 'professional' people don't go around boasting about it but are unassuming and humble, and open to suggestions.


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Alberto Montpellier  Identity Verified
Cuba
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...

MODERATOR
The sky is the limit... Apr 16, 2014

Chris S wrote:

Being professional is about getting it right and delivering on time

You don't need experience for that (though it can help)

Standards are so pitifully low in this industry that there are plenty of highly experienced translators out there who do not come close to what I would consider professional


I agree with Chris to some extent: It's true that there's a lot of low standards and some 'professionals' who really aren't such.
However, in order to get it right you need experience; this also applies to some degree to timely delivery. Experience is a big part of your success in this industry, because you specialize, you learn from your mistakes (God knows I've made my share...), you get acquainted with technology (an important part of our work nowadays).
Of course experience isn't all if you don't use it to improve. I know many translators who have 'experience' in the sense that they've spent quite a long time doing translation, yet they still don't have the right attitude... they just can't seem to 'get it right', as Chris says.
One of the things I like the most about this job is you don't spend a day without learning something, even if you're working within you field of specialty.


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Nicole Schnell  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:01
English to German
+ ...
2-3 years Apr 16, 2014

Chris S wrote:

Being professional is about getting it right and delivering on time

You don't need experience for that (though it can help)



Our job does not end with the delivery of a finished translation. The aspect of "doing business" professionally is an ongoing learning process. It will take a while to develop your invoicing process, accounting, taxes and banking and to learn how to deal with late payers, or worse, customers who refuse to pay. It will also require quite a number of clients to be able to read and compare contracts properly. Another important aspect: negotiating and self-marketing.


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:01
French to English
Full-time? Apr 16, 2014

The notion of what is full-time is variable. In any event, there are some who seem to work all the time for years on end, and to whom I would never attach the label "professional"! Some people work part-time and are extremely professional.

What is professional? Getting it right, yes. But what is "right"?
"Getting it in on time". Absolutely.
Might I suggest that communicating with the client should also come into it.

In fact, the real answer I have to this one is that it all depends. If you have some work experience in an environment where you have these skills, where they have been tried and tested, if you are a good linguist and take on work within your skills range, then you can be a professional from day one.


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