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How important is gaining the IoLet Level 7 Diploma in Translation
Thread poster: Mila Di Tullio

Mila Di Tullio
United Kingdom
English to Italian
Nov 14, 2017

Hello,

I've recently concluded my BA in Translation and I'm considering to start-up a freelancing translation path. I've read that take this exam is absolutely necessary. The question is: is this really necessary or my BA Translation honours is enough to gather my client net?

Thanks in advance,

Mila


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Michael Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:18
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
formal training is not at all necessary Nov 14, 2017

Mila Di Tullio wrote:

Hello,

I've recently concluded my BA in Translation and I'm considering to start-up a freelancing translation path. I've read that take this exam is absolutely necessary. The question is: is this really necessary or my BA Translation honours is enough to gather my client net?

Thanks in advance,

Mila


Hmm. If you ask me, all that matters is whether you are any good at translating, and if possible, if you know your way around CAT tools and file formats. I have no formal translation-related training, nor do 99% of the people I work with. It's a bit of a bubble, iyam, the academic world. Those inside the bubble think it's the world, but those outside of the bubble know better. There is a whole world of work out there where having a translation BA, MA, or whatever is of absolutely no importance/use. Save yourself the time and money and try it without it first. If you are any good, I assure you you won't need any more diplomas to make a decent living.

Michael


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 10:18
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
But it isn't meant for beginners Nov 14, 2017

I believe you're talking about the DipTrans? If so, it isn't intended for new translators. It's a professional qualification and they don't advise anyone to attempt it without at least two years of solid translation experience behind them. When you have those two years under your belt, it might (or might not) be a good idea to start preparing yourself for it.

For a beginner freelance translator, IMHO the important things to have - at a very high level - are:
- source language comprehension (and sometimes academic studies alone don't get you to a high enough level)
- target language writing skills (the ability to write clearly and logically, not just "correctly")
- general knowledge and a thirst for gaining new knowledge in every conceivable field
- research skills, online and offline
- IT skills (to deal with CAT tools, MS Office, DTP, file handling and conversion...)
- entrepreneurial skills (communicating, negotiating, quoting, invoicing, payment chasing, book-keeping, ..., and the all-important marketing)
- motivation and justifiable self-confidence.

If you have all the above, then you can most likely pick up the techniques of translation very quickly, although at least a basic study programme is certainly a good idea. Having a high-level degree in translation won't get you a lot of repeat clients and a reasonable income level if few of the other skills are in place.

If you want to do further studies before starting out, consider studying an area that you'd like to specialise in (in either language) or gaining some practical entrepreneurial skills. Otherwise, just plunge in! But by all means study for the DipTrans later on.


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:18
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
No, and no. Nov 14, 2017

Mila Di Tullio wrote:

I've read that take this exam is absolutely necessary. The question is: is this really necessary


No, the DipTrans is certainly not absolutely necessary.

Mila Di Tullio wrote:
or my BA Translation honours is enough to gather my client net?


Most certainly not. Thinking that a BA (or even an MA) in translation will make you fit to earn your living as a freelance translator is a common misconception, and far from true. But it can be a good starting point.


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:18
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Not necessary, but good to have Nov 14, 2017

No, it is not necessary, but having one is some guarantee to your customers that you are capable of understanding the challenges of translation and producing quality translations.

However, I agree with Sheila: it is not quite for beginners. I have seen many recent graduates try and fail, although some passed. If you can spare the fees, you may simply give it a try, but most people only pass after several years of experience and some preparation (I had 17 years of experience when I took the DipTrans, and had to retake one of the papers).

If you decide to go ahead, good luck!


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jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:18
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
In my language pair, a lot of people with a Master's degree in translation Nov 14, 2017

turned out to be doing very poorly in translation. Many of them (probably most of them) cannot manage to pass the translation tests given by their potential clients.

I totally agree with Erik's statement of "Thinking that a BA (or even an MA) in translation will make you fit to earn your living as a freelance translator is a common misconception".


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 11:18
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
What you need is experience Nov 15, 2017

I believe it is quite expensive to take the exam, and even reasonably proficient translators do not always pass all the papers the first time. You should be confident that you have a good chance of passing before you attempt it. Practise on earlier papers and get feedback. It is worth having, but not absolutely necessary.

In the meantime, tell clients honestly, but without underselling yourself, what you can do. Experience of real work in the area you are translating about is worth mentioning, because you will know some of the terminology.

A BA in translation - or an MA or a PhD - can be a useful foundation, but what really counts is what you build on it. Some people with lots of academic qualifications are not good translators, while especially among the older generations, many excellent translators have acquired their skills simply by translating and learning along the way - actual qualifications in translation were rare! It really IS that part of the process that makes you a good translator.

For what it's worth, I asked about the Dip. Trans some years ago, but it is not often set in my language pair - Danish to English. When I asked about how to prepare, and sent in details of the postgraduate diploma I already had, I was exempted from the Dip. Trans. But that will probably not happen with Italian!

It is a tough time to start out as a freelancer. Don't be discouraged, but if you need to gather experience and earn money to pay your bills in another job, simply use it as experience!
I came to translating late, after a long and checkered career in other jobs, which in fact included a lot of good ballast for translating.

Take the Dip. Trans. when you are ready for it, and good luck!


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Tecton
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:18
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
Worthwhile but not essential Nov 15, 2017

I agree with Tomás and Sheila, having the DipTrans is not necessary to be a successful freelance translator. Practical translation experience, understanding of the source culture and knowledge of the subject matter are far more important. In my own case I had been successfully translating on a part-time basis for several years without having had any training in translation, but when I became a full-time freelancer I wanted some objective validation. The exams are harder than you might imagine because you do not have any access to the internet and the time pressure. Although I did pass first time, the results were not as good as I had hoped for.
Although it useful to have the certification when applying for certain jobs, it has no practical bearing on the translation process itself.


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Michael Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:18
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
‘...it has no practical bearing on the translation process itself.’ Nov 15, 2017

Tecton wrote:

I agree with Tomás and Sheila, having the DipTrans is not necessary to be a successful freelance translator. Practical translation experience, understanding of the source culture and knowledge of the subject matter are far more important. In my own case I had been successfully translating on a part-time basis for several years without having had any training in translation, but when I became a full-time freelancer I wanted some objective validation. The exams are harder than you might imagine because you do not have any access to the internet and the time pressure. Although I did pass first time, the results were not as good as I had hoped for.
Although it useful to have the certification when applying for certain jobs, it has no practical bearing on the translation process itself.


Exactly. How can it measure anything of value if we are not allowed to use the internet, our CAT tools, online and local glossaries and translation memories, AutoHotkey scripts, etc etc. etc.?

I don't have to pay the money and take the test in order to discover that I will most likely not be able to translate 90% of what I translate on a daily basis. I work in all kinds of highly technical fields, and spend a good portion of my time (if not 50%) looking things up, checking terminology, etc. I might just about manage to translate a love letter, or perhaps a poem, under those conditions, but certainly not any real-world jobs. The test is not fit for purpose and bears little relation to the real world of an actual translator.

Michael


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Erik Freitag  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 11:18
Member (2006)
Dutch to German
+ ...
Not entirely true Nov 15, 2017

Michael Joseph Wdowiak Beijer wrote:

Exactly. How can it measure anything of value if we are not allowed to use the internet, our CAT tools, online and local glossaries and translation memories, AutoHotkey scripts, etc etc. etc.?


It depends on what you consider to be of value. The DipTrans measures your ability to understand a text of moderate complexity*) in language A and render it correctly (in every conceivable way) in language B. While the texts are chosen in such a way that you're not going to need "the internet, (...) CAT tools, online and local glossaries and translation memories, AutoHotkey scripts, etc.", the ability you're tested for is indispensable for every single one of your "real-world jobs". In other words: If you're not good enough to eventually pass the DipTrans, chances are that you're not very good with any amount of internet research, CAT tools and whatnot at your disposal either.

So, does the DipTrans guarantee that you're a good translator in the real world? By all means, no! Can you be a good translator without having the abilities you need to pass the DipTrans? I doubt it. (Disclaimer: What I'm explicitly not saying is the obvious nonsense that a translator who doesn't have a DipTrans can't be an excellent one!)


*) My exam texts certainly were easier than most of what I get in my daily work - the reason simply being that they were extremely well written.





[Edited at 2017-11-15 17:08 GMT]

[Edited at 2017-11-15 17:09 GMT]


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 11:18
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
The exam tests how YOU translate, not how good you are at using technical aids! Nov 15, 2017

Take my comments with a pinch of salt, because as I said, I have never sat the Dip. Trans.

Although for many of us exam conditions might seem an artificial situation, and one we would rarely meet in real life, they test how YOU cope as a translator. Plain old-fashioned you, precisely without CAT tools, online and local glossaries and translation memories, AutoHotkey scripts, etc. etc. etc.

I remember my father translating with just pen, ink, dictionaries and notes, because he did not have typewriters with the scripts he was using (Marathi and Greek). When there were power cuts, he just lit a candle and carried on! It was a different world, I agree, but all the other conveniences are just that.

I assume the texts for the Dip. Trans. are selected without repetitions, so a CAT would not strictly be much use.
Think of interpreters, who have to be able to manage 'off the cuff', without a lot of aids, just thorough preparation if they get the chance. It is a useful skill for translators too. Hard-copy dictionaries are allowed, so you can check terminology as far as time permits.

If you can translate under those conditions, you are using the basic skills you need, on the spot. All the mechanical aids are fine for long-term consistency, texts that come up with only minor variations year after year, keeping track of terminology over time, or complying with customer requirements that may vary from one customer to another, and whatever else you can think of.

The Dip. Trans. is not looking at how well you can take advantage of modern tools and mechanical aids. It is looking at what the human translator can do without them.
No one is forced to take the exam, after all.


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Michael Beijer  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:18
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
+ ...
fair enough Nov 15, 2017

I see your point (Christine + Erik).

Perhaps something to do for fun when I retire

Michael


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Fernanda Janeiro
United Kingdom
Local time: 10:18
German to English
+ ...
How to get on the ladder then without formal qualifications? Nov 16, 2017

Hi,

I was interested in all your comments in regards to the point raised around qualifications and would really appreciate your insights as to how to get on the ladder.
I'm fluent in English, German and Portuguese and would like to translate again. I did work for a translation company in 2000 and have done a few odd volunteer translation jobs for a mental health institution since then, but have found it hard to get some freelance jobs given that I do not have any qualifications. I did these freelance jobs straight out of Uni but life then took me on a different path...

Any suggestions much appreciated

Fernanda


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:18
French to English
Different path Nov 16, 2017

JaneirF wrote:

I'm fluent in English, German and Portuguese and would like to translate again.
t life then took me on a different path...

[/quote]

It's the experience gained on that "dfferent path" that you will need to use in finding future clients. If you decide to return to translation, apart from everything that has been said already, your own specific experience is what will make you useful, if you know how to market those skills. In addition to being a proficient linguist, of course.


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David Hayes  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 11:18
Member (2009)
French to English
Another point Nov 16, 2017

Just to focus in for a moment on the asker's specific point of how 'important' is the DipTrans (i.e. not what it does or does not prove, whether or not it corresponds to real-life situations, etc.), my experience has been that many agencies now require translators to hold a formal translation qualification in order to be registered on their books. Not all of us can invest the time and money needed to acquire a Master's in translation. In my view, the DipTrans is a quicker, easier and cheaper way to acquire a formal translation qualification than going down the Master's-degree route. I suspect a Master's is more useful, but the DipTrans does at least prove that you can produce a piece of readable target text under time pressure.

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