Aspiring translator asking for specific advice on translation studies.
Thread poster: Peter2015
Peter2015
Peru
Jun 26, 2015

Hi everybody,

I want to become a successful translator and interpreter in the future. So I thought it would be a good idea to come here and ask the professionals a couple of questions:

First of all, I´m planning to pursue the MA in Translation Theory and Practice at the UCL(in London) this year, but I'm not sure if this is the best option for me. There are three programs offered by the UCL that I can choose from:

1._Specialised Translation (Audiovisual) MSc
2._Specialised Translation (Scientific, Technical and Medical) MSc
3._Translation Theory and Practice MA (This is the one I prefer so far.)

I would be grateful if you could take a look at the programs I've mentioned above and give me an opinion about them. Which one do you think is better? Which one will provide me with the best preparation for a future career as a translator?

Here is the link so that you can check them out : http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate/taught/subject-areas/multi-disciplinary-intercultural-inquiry

You can click on the name of the program and see a complete description of it and the optional modules that are available for students to choose. I would like to know your opinion and suggestions before making a final decision. My language pair is English-Spanish.

Also, what do you think about studying translation / interpretation at the following universities: Edimburg, Warwick, Cambridge, Oxford, and Zurich(Switzerland) ?


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Maxi Schwarz
Local time: 02:08
German to English
+ ...
One quick thought Jun 26, 2015

When I looked at the specialized scientific - technical - medical .... I wondered what your current background is. What can you bring to the table? For example, if you already have some background on any of these fields, then you have a unique advantage that attracts future clients. Having said that, often the seasoned translators that I encounter in these fields of specialization got in through other existing backgrounds. There are doctors and nurses who do medical translations, engineers and physicists who do technical and patent translations, etc. Not only do they know the subject matter, but they have often worked in the field in two countries and languages so they know exactly what to do with highly technical material.

I'm not familiar with the courses offered in those countries so I can't give more feedback. You want to be learning how to translate, how to approach translation, what the criteria are, and you probably also want to learn how to run a business since many translators end up doing freelance work.


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 03:08
Russian to English
+ ...
Hi, to specialize in scientific translation Jun 27, 2015

you have to be a scientist in that particular field, or hold an MA at least in it, like chemistry, physics, geology. There may be some exceptions, but really few. You need to know close to what the author knows in the field to successfully translate.

Otherwise, it depends on what you like doing. If you like subtitling and working with audio and video files, you may consider audiovisual translation. Interpreting and translation are too completely different activities, or almost completely different. You could do some research, and try interpreting before you dive into the program with full speed. I think general and theoretical translation may be the most beneficial and interesting. At least, it would be for me. The third program.

[Edited at 2015-06-27 09:03 GMT]


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Peter2015
Peru
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Jun 27, 2015

Thank you both, Maxi Schwarz and LilianNekipelov, for your very insightful advice. You've made me realize that specialized translation is more complex than I thought. I'm not a scientist, nor do I have any scientific background. In fact, I think that the MA in Translation Theory and Practice suits me best than the other two options because I just have a degree in English that qualifies me to work as a high school English teacher. Why do I not pursue an MA in teaching then? Well, I would like to study translation and possibly interpretation because I like the idea of being able to both teach and translate/interpret--and, of course, I like translation/interpretation more than teaching. As for my interests, I'm really into things like music, philosophy, video games, and arts in general. So it would be easier for me to work with texts and documents about those kinds of topics.

Honestly, I was unsure whether to pursue the MA in Translation Theory and Practice or not because of two reasons: First, I think that this program is not very commercially-oriented, and, therefore, job opportunities in the translation field might be scarce for me in the future. Second, it is a Master in Arts, which means that students will probably learn more theory than practical translation skills. So I thought that changing to the MSc in specialized translation would be a good idea, since this MSc focuses on honing students' translation skills through intensive practice; and it seems that graduates from this program are more likely to get a job by being hired by different institutions or companies that require specialized translators.

Anyway, thanks to your comments, I've come to the conclusion that the Translation Theory and Practice program is not a waste of time after all and that it is the right choice for me; I just hope I can get a job as a translator after I finish it lol


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:08
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Are you sure you can make a living from this? Jun 28, 2015

Peter2015 wrote:
You've made me realize that specialized translation is more complex than I thought. I'm not a scientist, nor do I have any scientific background.

That's a little worrying. You were on the verge of signing up for a course that, at least in part, would have been totally unsuitable.

Lillian is right about the need to acquire specialist knowledge: the most straightforward path is indeed a degree in the area. It is not the only way and I suspect that there are more exceptions to this route (people like myself) than she imagines.

Be that as it may, you should think carefully about whether translation is the right career at this point. I have found that a qualification in translation or in a language is the minimum required to get your foot in the door with agencies, so this MA would help.

However, even if agencies do you take you on, without an area of specialization you will end up competing for general texts with hundreds of other, similarly qualified translators in your language pair (Spanish?).

It may be difficult to keep your head above water. Indeed, if you take this course there's a good chance that in 2-3 years you will back be here on ProZ complaining that nobody wants to pay you a decent rate, just like the many other translators who offer an undifferentiated service.

If you had a degree in engineering you could make a good case for starting out in translation right now, not least because you could fall back to a (delayed) career in engineering if translation didn't suit you. Salary surveys consistently show that engineering careers are in the highest paid quartile or decile. However the same surveys show that your first degree (English) is not in and of itself particularly marketable.

Instead of spending a considerable sum of money on an MA at UCL, why not find a job in some kind of commercial setting and come back to translation in five or ten years when you have more marketable skills? You'll probably earn more money doing something else in the meantime, as well as learning more about the world of business.

I'd think very carefully about this. If you can find a good niche, translation should offer a steady income combined with the benefits of freelancing. Without that niche it would be very tough.

Regards
Dan


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:08
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
MA is best in your case Jun 28, 2015

Peter2015 wrote:
Anyway, thanks to your comments, I've come to the conclusion that the Translation Theory and Practice program is not a waste of time after all and that it is the right choice for me; I just hope I can get a job as a translator after I finish it lol

Personally I feel that if you are a reasonably intelligent and curious person, you can get to learn about many different topics on your own or by means of targeted seminars and courses, gaining adequate knowledge of the subject matter to produce good translations even if you do not have a degree in them.

What is more difficult to learn is how to translate properly and what translation is really all about, and I think that the MA will be a good option in your case. The MA should give you the insight, techniques, and strategies that will allow you to translate about anything you have a personal interest in or you learn about along your new career. With your background, I think the MA is best.

Good luck and welcome!


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 09:08
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
It is not all about the dough Jun 28, 2015

Dan Lucas wrote:
If you had a degree in engineering you could make a good case for starting out in translation right now, not least because you could fall back to a (delayed) career in engineering if translation didn't suit you. Salary surveys consistently show that engineering careers are in the highest paid quartile or decile. However the same surveys show that your first degree (English) is not in and of itself particularly marketable.

I think people should most and foremost do whatever they enjoy doing and pursue the type of work they feel a passion for and can be proud of. It could well be that engineers make more money than the average person, but not all people are happy pursuing an engineering career. If you decide your life thinking only about money, not even all the money in the world will make you a happy person.


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 08:08
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
False dichotomy Jun 28, 2015

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:
I think people should most and foremost do whatever they enjoy doing and pursue the type of work they feel a passion for and can be proud of.

No, it's not all about the money. On the other hand, the choice is not "find work you like OR find work that pays the rent". With a bit of care and forethought it is possible to find work that both satisfies and supports.

Unexpected poverty, on the other hand, is neither noble nor enjoyable.

As a general point, I don't see any evidence that people taking their first degree are choosing to sacrifice their dreams and follow the path of pure hard cash.

If that were the case then one would expect to see students flocking to maths, science and technology degrees. These are areas in which skills shortages are acute, in which starting salaries are attractive and in which unemployment rates are low.

Maths, science and computing account for less than 10% of graduates in the European Union and far from rising that percentage fell slightly over the period from 2003 to 2012. The percentage of graduates in humanities and arts is actually slightly higher than for maths, science and computing.

Conclusion: students are not following the money, or at least no more than they ever were.

As I said, we get plenty of people here on ProZ complaining that they can't make money despite their having an ABC qualification from XYZ institution. Presumably some of these people have found that the reality of the translation business does not meet their expectations.

Maybe they would have benefited from some realistic advice on what they can expect from life as a translator before they took those qualifications. If we don't offer that advice when asked, who will?

Regards
Dan


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Peter2015
Peru
TOPIC STARTER
I appreciate your very enlightening comments. Jun 29, 2015

Dan Lucas wrote:

I'd think very carefully about this. If you can find a good niche, translation should offer a steady income combined with the benefits of freelancing. Without that niche it would be very tough.



Thank you for taking the time to give me some very realistic advice. I really appreciate it.

Tomás Cano Binder, CT wrote:

Personally I feel that if you are a reasonably intelligent and curious person, you can get to learn about many different topics on your own or by means of targeted seminars and courses, gaining adequate knowledge of the subject matter to produce good translations even if you do not have a degree in them.

What is more difficult to learn is how to translate properly and what translation is really all about, and I think that the MA will be a good option in your case. The MA should give you the insight, techniques, and strategies that will allow you to translate about anything you have a personal interest in or you learn about along your new career. With your background, I think the MA is best.

Good luck and welcome!

I agree with what you say. I think the MA is the best choice for me, so I'm gonna go for it ! Thank you for the welcome =)


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