Iol DipTrans
Thread poster: Louise Souter (X)

Louise Souter (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
Aug 30, 2008

Does anyone have any advice on preparing for the semi-specialised papers of the Institute of Linguists Diploma in Translation (I am planning to do business and it's weakest area)?

Also although I have taken a preparatory course, I felt that I was basically paying for a professional to look over my work? Is it worth while paying for a top-up course?


Fiona Gonçalves  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:10
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Keep your options open Sep 1, 2008

Don't plan on doing the business paper to the exclusion of all else, especially if you feel it's your weakest area. When I did the exam I intended doing the science paper, only that particular year it was about something I'd never heard of and I ended up doing law instead.

Read as much as you can and/or watch English language news programmes if you can get them where you live. I found the Economist magazine to be very useful, especially for terminology.

If you've already done a preporatory course I think a top-up course is unlikely to be of any practical benefit but it might bolster your courage if you feel that's necessary.


Carole Paquis  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:10
Member (2007)
English to French
Agree with Fiona and a few tricks Sep 5, 2008

Don't plan to do the business paper.
When I took it, that's how I worked it out: scan through the first paragraph of all the texts. Take the one with the fewer difficulties in that first paragraph (3 difficults terms is going to be a hard text...)

For the Dip Trans, you have to be quick, quick to write your translation and quick to chose.

Other tricks I used :
read ceefax in and think of how I would translate those paragraphs.
read papers and magazines both in your source and target languages...and put your exam hat on when you do (interesting phrases, etc).

Renew all your dictionaries, get the lastest ones. I know it's a bit expensive to do so...but retaking is also expensive! Get smaller more specialised dictionaries (business if that's your worry)...

Order as many past papers as you can and do them in exam conditions.

Hope this helps.



Peter Shortall  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:10
French to English
+ ...
Read and practise Sep 6, 2008

I think two of the most important things to concentrate on when you're starting out are translation techniques and picking up terminology/vocabulary. I did a preparatory course before taking my first DipTrans a few years ago and the main thing I gained from it was learning about the translation process itself - learning to decode (work out what the original is saying) and encode (express the ideas in your target language), and taking a step back and re-reading what you have written to assess whether the reader will understand from it what you want him/her to.

I had an excellent teacher and although it took me a little while to take what she said on board, the feedback became much more positive by the end of the course, by which time I felt I had "got the hang" of translating. Since you've already done a preparatory course, hopefully this will have taught you the knack - if so, then I don't think you need to do another. You can concentrate instead on soaking up terminology, and to do this you'll need to read as widely as possible in both your source and target languages, especially in the semi-specialised areas you're thinking of tackling. You could note down new terms which you think could come in useful and compile a personal glossary. Obviously you'll have to be the judge of which terms you think are worth jotting down, since it may not be practical to include everything. The texts I had to choose from were of varying levels of technicality, but for the most part they were based on articles taken from quality publications in the relevant subject areas. If you're thinking of doing the Business option, then of course you'll need to read the business/finance sections of newspapers, subject-specific publications and so on. Another thing to be aware of is abbreviations and acronyms in your chosen fields - make a note of as many common ones as you can, because dictionaries will often be of no help to you in an exam if you come across one you don't recognise. When scanning through texts to make a decision as to which one you'll attempt, abbreviations/acronyms are definitely something to watch out for.

If Business is your weakest area, you may wish to prepare for either Technology or Literature as a back-up for Paper 2. However, don't assume that Literature will be a soft option just because it's non-technical; on the contrary, I have a feeling they deliberately set traps in it to compensate for the lack of technical terminology. The same goes for Social Science on Paper 3, which I gather people often choose as a "least worst" option to avoid Science and Law.

Having done the DipTrans once before I started freelancing and then a second time in a different pair after gaining a fair amount of experience, I would add that it's worth getting as much practical experience as you can before attempting it, not only because of what you'll learn through exposure to your source language and experience of coming up with translation solutions in your target language, but also because you should find that your speed increases. I remember just barely managing to finish the papers within the allotted time the first time around, but this year when I took the exam in a different language pair I was much quicker - in fact I think I finished Paper 3 with over an hour to spare. The faster you can work, the more time you'll have to scan through the texts at the beginning of the exam and choose the one you think you stand the best chance of passing.

[Edited at 2008-09-06 00:49]


Carol So  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:10
Member (2008)
English to Chinese
+ ...
How can I get feedbacks? Sep 6, 2008

I have also registered myself for the DipTrans exam and need some advice on the preparation. Thank you all for your advice and they are extremely useful.

I am ready to spend lots of time on doing all the pastpapers and building my own glossary, and also on doing translation without a computer (I am so used to research everything online). The problem is, with my language pairs (English to Chinese), there's hardly any preparatory courses that I can take. I don't think a preparatory course is essential for passing the exam but my worry is I couldn't find anyone to comment on my translation, and give professional, practical feedback.

When thinking about passing the exam, it's not just about how good you are as a translator, but also about what the examiners are actually looking for. I was heard that some experienced translators failed the test simply because they were too creative in terms of their translation style. So I really don't know whether my style is what they want, and nor do I have an idea of their expectations.

The lack of feedbacks thus is my greatest concern and I feel a bit lost in preparing the exam. There is still time for me to prepare and adjust myself to the exam, and I just wonder if any of you could give me some advice on how I should get useful feedback on my translation. I always ask for feedback from the client when I do any translations, and I am very open to it. This helps me to know my weakness and what I need to improve but at the end the standard of the exam could be another thing. Is there any chance that I could find someone who has experience with the DipTrans exam to give me some advice? Or what would you suggest me to do?

I appreciate any suggestions, comment and advice.


Louise Souter (X)  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:10
Spanish to English
+ ...
THANK YOU. What about the Social Science Paper? Sep 6, 2008

I'd just like to say thank you to everyone who has replied to my original post so far (and apologies for all the typos!).

Since Peter mentioned the Social Science paper, I was planing to do this one but I am slightly concerned about it. Although I have found the past papers relatively easy, I think the topics are quite "random" in the sense that, while reading the business sections of Spanish and British newspapers is helping me prepare for the Business paper, I haven't found anything I would consider essential reading for the Social Science paper. I am worried that a topic I know nothing about will come up (I am preparing the Science paper as a back up). Has anyone sat this paper and if so how did you prepare for it?

Carol So, do the Institute of Linguists do Examiner's Reports for your language combination? This is a good way to find out what style they're looking for. If not I would ask IoL directly for advice.


Angela Dickson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 05:10
French to English
+ ...
Specialisms Sep 8, 2008

Since I passed the DipTrans I've found that no-one has expressed any interest about the semi-specialised options I chose. The Diploma itself is a good marketing tool, but I wouldn't feel able to claim to be a legal translator just on the strength of a pass in the Legal paper of the DipTrans - the level of specialism isn't high enough.

I went into the exam with a fairly open mind as to which to choose, and scanned the texts quickly to identify the 'least worst'. I hadn't expected to do the Technology text but a quick look revealed that, while it was ostensibly about particle physics, which on the face of it I knew little about, in fact it was a very general text providing basic background information, and wasn't too difficult.

The Social Science text in French that year was horrible, and I had ruled out Literature in any case, which left me with Science - a difficult text about plant biology, but I made a good enough job of it to pass. There was little I could have done to prepare myself for it, really, as the subject areas are so broad.

I found the General text more difficult (indeed I had to have two goes at it), and I've heard that others have found the same.

As for the preparatory course, I'm not sure you could do better than having a professional look over your work, unless of course you feel they did a bad job.

[Edited at 2008-09-08 09:24]


Paul Skidmore  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:10
German to English
Examiners report Sep 11, 2008

I took the DipTrans in January of this year. I would second many of the points made here.

If you are planning on taking all three papers in one day, then it is important to practice the past papers doing all three in a day just like in the exam.

This gives you a chance to get used to writing by hand for 7 hours (not necessary if you are hiring a computer at your exam centre) and to doing all your research with a paper-based dictionary. I bought a new dictionary which was also a worthwhile investment.

I found the examiners' reports particularly useful. I learned a) what the common mistakes were and b) the pet "hobby-horses" of the examiners. In my language combination they often complained that candidates failed to use English punctuation conventions and adhered too slavishly to the source text. In the exam, I tried particularly to avoid those mistakes so as to get the examiners on my side.

I had already decided which "semi-specialised" options I was going to do - business and law.

The business topic in the exam was much closer to politics than I had imagined. However, part of its difficulty was not the content (unemployment benefit for the long-term unemployed) but the format - a newspaper interview with the Minister concerned. Writing in "newspaper style" requires a certain amount of practice - if you are not used to translating press releases, think about how you might do this. Handling a mixture of direct and indirect speech appears to be one of the things the examiners like to test.

Good luck!


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