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Advice on career switch needed
Thread poster: Virginie Lafage

Virginie Lafage
France
Local time: 13:47
English to French
Jul 21, 2010

Dear all,

I hope that some of you will be able to give me some advices, or share their own experience with me.

I am currently working as a bunker trader, I’ve been in this company for almost four years, but this is not what I want to do anymore, this is a very stressful environment and not the right place for me. I’m 33 years old so I think it’s the right time for a career switch, we only live once, don’t we?!.

To give you an idea of my background:

I lived and worked in England for five years as bilingual assistant most of the time, I also have experience in the translation.

Currently, I’m thinking of different options but I would need some of you to guide me or to share with me their experience…

The first option is to pass my first degree in English (Licence LEA anglais-italien) this will allow me to teach English afterwards.

Second option is to pass the TEFL/TESOL certificate, 4 weeks course which at the end of it gives us the right to teach English to foreign people anywhere abroad. There is a high cost to it, but seems very interesting!!

According to the language house who is handling this course, after the training they help you out to find a job but it’s not guaranteed, my fear is to resign from my existing job, subscribe for the 4 weeks course and not to find a job at the end of it….working on the linguistic side would just be a dream come true for me.

Thank you for your time!
Looking forward to receiving your point of view.

Have a lovely day.
Virginie


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:47
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Some initial considerations Jul 21, 2010

(What follows is my personal opinion and experiences. Other colleagues can have other opinions and experiences, of course.)

Hello Virginie. I completely sympathise with your situation and also think that your current career might not be very sustainable. A change of career makes total sense to me.

However, the first things you need to know about translation is that:
1. Translation is not an easy work. It demands full concentration, a very wide knowledge about many things, and dedication.

2. This is a very competitive market and it is hard to stand out.

3. Getting a continuous flow of work can take years.

4. Whatever the media say about it, professional translation is far from being the latop-and-margarita job: to succeed, you need to be able to respond and react immediately during most of the day, which means that you cannot be "having a life" very frequently, much more the opposite. You also need good means of production, like a powerful computer, a good Internet connection, plenty of space for dictionaries and reference materials, in many cases also other people you can rely on for editing, proofreading, or DTP, etc. etc. I.e. you need a fixed place where you work, even if you work outside or abroad occasionally.

5. Last, but not least... it is not enough to be bilingual to become a good translator. To become a translator you need training on translation and translation technology, and must seek certification or education in translation in the middle run.

Changing to a career in translation being bilingual and having a passion for languages will also require effort and dedication, the same way as if you like gardens and decide to become a landscaper, enjoy hiking and decide to become a professional mountaineer, or like cars and want to open a repair shop. Think about this: what would you say to me if I asked you about how to become a trader? Your job is a complex one and I'd surely need to learn a lot of things before I even dreamt of sending my CV to your company.

These are all things you should think and prepare, since you will need time, money, and effort to learn all the things you need to know as a professional translator. Maybe you can stick to your current job for another year and learn in the evenings at your nearest training centre or university. This way you can save some money (you will need it until you get a nice flow of work), pay the courses, buy the things you will need as a professional translator (computer(s), software, dictionaries), and can also decide whether translation is for you or not. Moneywise, imagine the worst scenario and try to save enough to pay your bills for at least a full year (or two years if at all possible) after you have left your current job.

Having said all this, you might want to go through the Translation art and business > Getting stablished area of these fora, where you will find lots of postings from people in a similar situation, and what the colleagues had to say about it.

Good luck and do not hesitate to ask questions. I will answer anything I can.

Best,
Tomás

[Edited at 2010-07-21 09:26 GMT]

[Edited at 2010-07-21 09:30 GMT]


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Virginie Lafage
France
Local time: 13:47
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Tomas!! Jul 21, 2010

I really appreciate your reply, you are absolutly right about all you mentioned,

It is very though to become a freelance translator but in my situation I am more interesting in teaching english to kids, to foreign people that is why I was wondering if the TEFL was worth doing it...

You are right that it takes time to switch career but in my position, I have been thinking of it for such a long time, I can't afford to stay another year in my job, I can't handle it anymore...
Doing evening classes is a good idea also, I think that in my position I will go for the first degree or any equivalent in order to get a diploma in connection with the english language. In France without such or such diploma..it's hard to succeed, I'm sure you already know about it.

Thank you for having replied and all the best to you.
Virginie


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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:47
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
You're most welcome! Jul 21, 2010

Good luck to you. I sincerely hope you achieve your goals and dreams!
Ans for any questions, just feel free to ask!
Best,
Tomás


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 12:47
Dutch to English
+ ...
TEFL Jul 21, 2010

Hi Virginie,

I'll cut straight to the chase. Not to be rude, at all, but simply to set out the facts as I see them.

Whilst your English is good for a foreigner, it's not at native or near-native level, at least certainly not good enough for translation into English.

To find a teaching position, you'll be competing against many English-speaking people with a TEFL qualification. It's a very competitive market too. Ask yourself honestly: who do you think a language school is more likely to appoint, even if you both hold the same qualification?

The 4-week courses aren't held in very high regard. If you are considering teaching, you need to consider at least a CELTA qualification these days to be taken seriously.

Have you considered teaching French to foreigners?

Just a thought.


Best of luck with whatever you decide.
Debs


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Mohamed Mehenoun  Identity Verified
Algeria
Local time: 13:47
Member (2008)
English to French
+ ...
Did you think about creating a translation agency Jul 21, 2010

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

Hi Virginie,

I'll cut straight to the chase. Not to be rude, at all, but simply to set out the facts as I see them.

Whilst your English is good for a foreigner, it's not at native or near-native level, at least certainly not good enough for translation into English.

To find a teaching position, you'll be competing against many English-speaking people with a TEFL qualification. It's a very competitive market too. Ask yourself honestly: who do you think a language school is more likely to appoint, even if you both hold the same qualification?

The 4-week courses aren't held in very high regard. If you are considering teaching, you need to consider at least a CELTA qualification these days to be taken seriously.

Have you considered teaching French to foreigners?

Just a thought.


Best of luck with whatever you decide.
Debs


Hello,

If you can attract clients, you should think about creating a translation agency.

Kind regads,

Mohamed


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Hermeneutica  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 13:47
Dutch to English
+ ...
Options not so limited Jul 21, 2010

Hi [All],

I totally agree with Tomas, who has fantastically summarised the situation. I also totally agree with Debs [e.g. the names of languages, such as English, as well as nationalities, are always written with a capital ... elementary ...] -- but I do have encouragement for you, Virginie:

1. Translate into your native language, i.e. French I believe? Your professional background is VERY valuable, and should help [=full of jargon and very specialised knowledge]. If necessary, take a few French perfection courses [there are lots of them about these days because so many employers complain about the low standard of - native - skills of applicants and employees].
2. If you must translate into EN within your field, get yourself teamed up with an EN native speaker colleague who understands the subject matter [e.g. another former banker such as myself, but I'm not applying for a job here!] who can proofread your work.
3. Forget about the French "diploma barrier". Intelligent outsourcers look for good results, not for paperwork. Or at least *I* do. Basically, I don't care if you know it, you found it in a dictionary, you have a good TM or it came to you in your sleep. Right is right, wrong is wrong.
4. Today, translation is not location bound. Therefore, whether your diploma, if any, is from France, the US, Australia, Cochinchina or Mars is totally irrelevant. Performance is what counts [in the same way as you don't ask a trader whether he made the 100 million on one deal by means of algorithms, trends or by the seat of his/her pants].
5. Whatever you do, France is not a good market because the French do not like to pay for value - they like to pay the lowest amount regardless of what they get. However, if you can't or won't change your location, niche markets are always good. Think of teaching specialised French in international banks [esp. from other countries], EN for traders/brokers, general business French to international assignees, general French overall for assignees and their families, that kind of thing.

Anyway, gotta get on with my own work! After 30+ years in the business I fortunately do have the earlier mentioned constant and spontaneous flow of work ...

Good luck!

Dee


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Kate Chaffer
Italy
Local time: 13:47
Italian to English
CELTA Jul 21, 2010

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

The 4-week courses aren't held in very high regard. If you are considering teaching, you need to consider at least a CELTA qualification these days to be taken seriously.



The CELTA qualification is actually a 4-week intensive course in most cases.


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Sawal  Identity Verified
Senegal
Local time: 12:47
English to French
You can learn online Jul 21, 2010

Hello Virginie,

First of all, always listen to yourself. If you can't get clear about what you want, at least get clear about what you DON'T want. And make sure you don't find those things in the next field you decide to step in.

I do agree with those who say that it is better for you to consider teaching/translating in your native language instead of english. Despite how perfect your english is, people will raise eyebrows when they know that you are french and want to teach english.

My advice is to make a list of all your skills and then see how you can epxloit them. You will be surprised. You already have language skills, trading skills, a knowledge of the oil market, Organizational skills (Assistant), etc...

Finally you don't have to quit your job to learn new skills; there is an online course for almost everything now. Find an online class that you can attend. I would advise to choose a class that will be for you an improvement of one skill that you already have. It will take you less time to graduate than learning from scratch.

You can also learn a lot very informally: forums, website, articles, etc... All this willgive you some knowledge about how to best use your skills. You don't need to go back to school. You have skills and experience. What you need now to find out is how you can make a living you enjoy, using all these skills and experience

Bon Courage et bonne chance


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Pablo Bouvier  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:47
German to Spanish
+ ...
Advice on career switch needed Jul 21, 2010

Virginie Lafage wrote:

Dear all,

I hope that some of you will be able to give me some advices, or share their own experience with me.

I am currently working as a bunker trader, I’ve been in this company for almost four years, but this is not what I want to do anymore, this is a very stressful environment and not the right place for me. I’m 33 years old so I think it’s the right time for a career switch, we only live once, don’t we?!.

To give you an idea of my background:

I lived and worked in England for five years as bilingual assistant most of the time, I also have experience in the translation.

Currently, I’m thinking of different options but I would need some of you to guide me or to share with me their experience…

The first option is to pass my first degree in English (Licence LEA anglais-italien) this will allow me to teach English afterwards.

Second option is to pass the TEFL/TESOL certificate, 4 weeks course which at the end of it gives us the right to teach English to foreign people anywhere abroad. There is a high cost to it, but seems very interesting!!

According to the language house who is handling this course, after the training they help you out to find a job but it’s not guaranteed, my fear is to resign from my existing job, subscribe for the 4 weeks course and not to find a job at the end of it….working on the linguistic side would just be a dream come true for me.

Thank you for your time!
Looking forward to receiving your point of view.

Have a lovely day.
Virginie



I agree in full with Tomás. Nevertheless, if you have real bilingual skills, I would give a try for interpretation. As Tomás has said, it may take years until you get a continuos workflow and imho the interpretation market is not so much competitive. Good luck!




[Editado a las 2010-07-21 13:09 GMT]


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Virginie Lafage
France
Local time: 13:47
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Jul 21, 2010

Thanks to all of you, for your reply which are quite helpful and interesting.
I will carry on working hard to achieve what I'm looking for.

Have a fantastic afternoon.
Virginie

[Edited at 2010-07-21 14:20 GMT]


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Hermeneutica  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 13:47
Dutch to English
+ ...
Translation agency / interpretation as options Jul 21, 2010

I must say that someone who is just about [but not perfectly] bilingual and who has never worked in the translation industry would imho not be a good candidate for the creation of a new translation agency --- we've got enough people out there who don't know what they are doing and I wouldn't encourage anyone to take on this kind of risk in terms of relationships and work with both clients and suppliers without the proper preparation = experience in the industry.

As to interpreting, there, too, diplomas are no guarantee. However, it is indeed a field in which there is much less margin for error than in written work, where you can check, reread, amend, etc. before delivering. Successful interpreters are those who do have specialised training and specialised work experience, often also teaching, writing articles for professional journals, etc. Their performance is very difficult to assess, and this is also one reason why many agencies do not offer this kind of service --- we in the office never know what's actually going on at the assignment, and then it's too late to do anything about it.

Also, interpreting and translation are very different skills. This may not be a bad option given the way a trader's mind/brain works. Translators use different thought processes, and a good interpreter will not at all necessarily make a good translator, and vice versa.

Still the very best interpretation training courses are held in Geneva, again this is my personal opinion. If you qualify for entrance and this might be of interest, then I would recommend looking into it. Interpreters can make better money than translators, but of course there are constraints such as travel, being away from home, formal issues like proper attire, inflexible hours, etc. that may or may not be agreeable to you in view of the fact that the trading room is getting too stressful [a perfectly reasonable impression].

Again good luck.

Dee


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 12:47
Dutch to English
+ ...
My mistake Jul 21, 2010

Kate Chaffer wrote:

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:

The 4-week courses aren't held in very high regard. If you are considering teaching, you need to consider at least a CELTA qualification these days to be taken seriously.



The CELTA qualification is actually a 4-week intensive course in most cases.


Thanks for pointing that out Kate. I was thinking 4 weeks and meant to say an TEFL degree, not CELTA


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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 12:47
Flemish to English
+ ...
Yes, we can. Jul 21, 2010

Hermeneutica wrote:


Still the very best interpretation training courses are held in Geneva, again this is my personal opinion. If you qualify for entrance and this might be of interest, then I would recommend looking into it. Interpreters can make better money than translators, but of course there are constraints such as travel, being away from home, formal issues like proper attire, inflexible hours, etc. that may or may not be agreeable to you in view of the fact that the trading room is getting too stressful [a perfectly reasonable impression].

Again good luck.

Dee


ETI Geneva requires at least 2 foreign languages at B or C level.
Number of candidates : 120 on an average. Number admitted in recent years between 12-18 covering the 6 languages taught at ETI i.e. 2 candidates on an average per language combination.

Why does that ugly beast of native only keeps popping up time and again?
Irrelevant when you take part in open competitions. Either you pass or you fail. Yes, we can or No, we can not.

With regard to Virginie's question: You are going from the real (hard-macho?) world of being a (commodity) trader, a profession with a good market-value to translator, a profession without a face, not recognized by the public as a "real profession". To quote one of your retired colleagues, who worked in Threathneedle Street for most of his life: "Translation is for those who have nothing better to do or are not capable of climbing the career ladder".

Besides, freelance works according to the same principles: XXX words, XXX time, XXX money, take it or leave it. If you take it, you will experience the same stress as when dealing. After all, the golden rule of freelance translation is to finish on time, every time.
Only a professional trader is worth more than a professional translator. In the end, it is all about the money from the cradle (you don’t get one for free, do you?) to the grave (a funeral is not free).

Alternatively, you could do like Polly Courtney (ex-female trader at Goldman S.), write a book about your experience.



[Edited at 2010-07-21 19:05 GMT]


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Hermeneutica  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 13:47
Dutch to English
+ ...
Re Williamson's post Jul 21, 2010

Couldn't agree more. But, Virginie asked, and we're telling her ...
Freelance translating [or freelance anythinge else, for that matter] may give her more peace and quiet and above all, day-to-day, minute-to-minute, ***choice***. For her, less money but the option to say "No I can't" or "No I won't" may be worth it.

I miss the subsidised mortgages and the long paid holidays and the year end bonuses, but I prefer the fact that I don't have to justify another hour of darkness if I have a migraine on waking up, or beg for forgiveness if my cat is sick and needs to go to the vet, or a friend needs help at the other end of the country and I can just take my car, my cats, my mobile office and just move over there for a few weeks without having to ask / beg anyone for permission.
And sometimes it's easier to work a weekend and take off a couple of days during the week to do the things you can't do at weekends because the necessary organisations are closed. And so on ... countless examples, including that when a mistake is made, it's *my* mistake [and not somebody else's that's blamed on me], and if *I* do a good job, with a nice client I'll get recognition, instead of my supervisor taking the glory [which brings us back to the career ladder].

In the end, it's always give and take and everyone needs to decide for themselves.

Good night now ...

Dee


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