From teaching english to translation and interpretation. How to get there.
Thread poster: maylilot

Local time: 18:19
Spanish to English
Jun 2, 2010

Hello everybody. I am new here and I expect to be in the correct forum.

Well, to start let me tell you that I am 30 and I studied industrial design, but I never felt comfortable with that career. In fact, I´ve never worked in that area.

I am from Colombia and I´ve been teaching english for two years. Now I would like to give the next step. I would like to go into translation first and then into interpretation. I was wondering if you could give me some advice. I´ve been looking for a masters or a specialitzation in order to can apply for jobs in other areas not only teaching. I have translated some documents for my relatives and friends that´s it.

I would love to study in an english native country, but my economic possibilities are limited.

I would like to know your experience or your recommendations about how can I get there?

Thanks in advance.

[Edited at 2010-06-02 16:23 GMT]


Stanislav Pokorny  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 01:19
English to Czech
+ ...
Native language more important Jun 2, 2010

in my experience, while most translators don't have many problems with understanding the source-language text, they have substantial difficulties with conveying it into their native language in a way not to make the target-language text read as a translation.

I don't really know what industrial design involves, but that could be your natural field of specialisation.

Also, before you start, I would recommend that you take a course in advanced English as you make mistakes a translator from English shouldn't be making, e.g.

advice = uncountable, therefore adviceS is not grammatical
experiences X experience: general experience e.g. in a profession X experiences e.g. from a holiday
economic X economical: economic = related to economy X economical = saving money

Such distinctions are necessary to understand the source-language message properly, and thus essential for a translator, no matter how unimportant they may seem at the first sight.

[Upraveno: 2010-06-02 15:35 GMT]


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:19
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Agree with Stanislav Jun 2, 2010

I agree with Stanislav in terms of the knowledge of English.

As for translation, personally I would try to get training about translation in your area. Translating requires specific knowledge that is quite different from the skills you need as a teacher of English. Try to check the universities around you to see whether they offer courses you can take. Maybe there is some training centre offering translation courses.

And, I would also recommend to hire a professional translator in the English-Spanish pair to send you a sample text for you to translate and better evaluate your weaknesses and how to improve them. Translation is a difficult profession and also a very competitive one. You don't stand a chance of making a living in translation today unless you prepare thoroughly.

Good luck!


madak  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:19
Swedish to English
+ ...
Also agree with Stanislaw, but... Jun 2, 2010

Stanislav Pokorny wrote:

in my experience, while A) most translators don't have many problems with understanding the source-language text , they have B) substantial difficulties with conveying it into their native language in a way not to make the target-language text read as a translation.

...whilst I agree that many (so-called?) translators have problems conveying meaning and writing coherently in their target language, I have also encountered a fair share/many/the majority (delete as appropriate) who have learnt their source language/s mainly from text books.

This might be enough if you're translating "screw A fits into bolt B". Although, I'm not sure theoretical book learning is enough, I recently purchased a product and its manual asked me to "fit handle A to hand B". Problem was, I couldn't find anyone whose hand I could useicon_smile.gif

Whatever category of translation you aim to do, nothing beats immersing yourself in the source language culture. Even though I'm a native speaker of two languages (sorry folks, different thread), sv_SE and en_GB, I would be careful of accepting sv_FI or en_US source text. Not that I wouldn't feel comfortable with most of these texts, but some texts carry so much cultural baggage that I'm not sure I could do them justice (and I went to high school in the US, but that was a long time ago).

Now for all Swedish & English speakers. What's the difference between:

Inner city school - innerstadskola


Black cab - svarttaxi

PS. these are the easy onesicon_smile.gif


Ahnan Alex  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:19
Member (2010)
English to Indonesian
+ ...
We're, maybe, in the same boat Jun 2, 2010

I agree with Stanislav in term of English grammar knowledge and the special knowledge you have.

You, maybe, have something in common with me. I am an English teacher and plan to quit teaching in July 2010 as I prefer translating to teaching. This, of course, is due to the fact that translating is more fun than teaching (in my opinion). To get there absolutely needs time and practice. However, if we wait until we are the experts in translating, none will be obtained. In my opinion, while you're building up your translation skills, take some projects from local agents in your country regardless of how much you will get paid. Don't forget to ask the agents you're working with to give comment or evaluation on every translation result you send. I think it's one of the best ways. Instead of getting penny from it, you can learn how to translate well for free. This is what I do so far and it really works in building up my translation skills. As a result, some overseas agents will soon contact you as you grow better in translating. It really happens to me and I never run out of project from both agents and direct clients.

Happy practicing!



Parrot  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:19
Spanish to English
+ ...
A possible solution Jun 2, 2010

I'm picking up on your comment:

maylilot wrote:

I would love to study in an english native country, but my economic possibilities are limited.

Have you checked out Fulbright?

(I know the joke says it's for half-wits, but we all have to start somewhere).

More than anything else, this would resolve a part of the hurdle Madeleine mentions (that many people learn mainly from textbooks). You really need to live a language in order to translate it.


Dan Bradley  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:19
Japanese to English
Get involved! Jun 3, 2010


Firstly, welcome to Proz!

I also recently transferred careers from 3 years teaching English in Japan to translation so I understand your concerns.

I agree that it is important to become really fluent in your source language but you don't necessarily have to travel overseas. While living in an English speaking country would create a big incentive to learn, if you don't have enough funds you can easily set up an immersion environment in your own home by watching, reading and listening to native level material. You can also often read journals and articles in your specialist fields on-line. Check out these sites for more info

To build up a portfolio and to get a better sense of your translation skills you can also volunteer for causes like United Nations Volunteers, Translations for Progress, etc, and gain a lot of valuable experience and feedback about your work. This kind of work can also expose you to a lot of cool material which will help you to find a speciality. I think your background in industrial design sounds like a pretty good start.

I would also really recommend trying to visit a Powwow if there is one in your area. You can often gain a lot from just chatting to people who are professionally where you want to be.

Good luck!



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