Future student looking for some pointers.
Thread poster: dominique roberge

dominique roberge
Canada
English to French
Oct 12

I am currently looking into doing either the bachelor or the one year certificate in translation from the UQTR(university of Quebec in Trois-Rivière). I live in Quebec and I would like to translate from English to French.

I have done some translation gigs on the side before, but the quality wasn't there so I decided to stop. I only did about 5-6 small jobs and I felt I was cheating the client even though my rate were very low(3-5 cents/word).

I would like to start fro
... See more
I am currently looking into doing either the bachelor or the one year certificate in translation from the UQTR(university of Quebec in Trois-Rivière). I live in Quebec and I would like to translate from English to French.

I have done some translation gigs on the side before, but the quality wasn't there so I decided to stop. I only did about 5-6 small jobs and I felt I was cheating the client even though my rate were very low(3-5 cents/word).

I would like to start from the ground up by getting some formal training and polishing my command of both English and French(my native language).

My goal is not to earn a lot of money. I value freedom above all else, and I also have other projects I want to work on. A perfect scenario would be to earn 40k USD working 25 hours a week. 25-30K would still be enough for me to be honest.

So before I start this long process I have a couple questions for you veterans.

1- Is a translation certificate (one year in university) enough to start working? I know it's kind of a very subjective question. Some could probably do without formal training altogether; I am not one of them. BUT I feel I could make it work with some real practical knowledge and some practice.

2- Am I better off gunning for the bachelor degree instead? This way I would be able to get certified and probably get a better $/word amount on top of having more technical knowledge AND time to get better.

3- Is my financial goal realistic?

4- How long should it realistically take me before I get a steady stream of work after I am good enough?


B- Some ideas on how to get me to the right level as soon as possible after(and maybe during) school :
1- Get some side gigs and invest in a proof reader to help me see where I am lacking.
2- Translate random articles I find online and get them proofread afterward as well.
3- Read technical books about a niche I am interested in and translating some of it. Maybe I could build a nice niche related portfolio doing that? Unless it is frowned upon to use something you did not translated for money as part of your portfolio.
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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:49
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
Some points Oct 12

There is a great deal of information in the "getting established" section of this forum, and no doubt others will be along soon to give you more specific advice. I will just pick up a couple of points which struck my eye.

1) Financial outcomes
For a decent translator, 40k USD is perfectly achievable, but I suspect that most of those translators approach the job quite seriously. They have a clear mental idea of where they are going, they polish their skills, to marketing
... See more
There is a great deal of information in the "getting established" section of this forum, and no doubt others will be along soon to give you more specific advice. I will just pick up a couple of points which struck my eye.

1) Financial outcomes
For a decent translator, 40k USD is perfectly achievable, but I suspect that most of those translators approach the job quite seriously. They have a clear mental idea of where they are going, they polish their skills, to marketing, project a professional image.

Whether you can achieve all that in 25 hours a week is debatable. What I think is more likely is that you have to put in significantly more than 40 hours a week to get established, but then you may be able to cut back at some point in the future once you have good client base. That is, once you are successful, you may be able to pick and choose a little more.

It seems to me that most of the people involved in translation do it as a side gig, and don't make much money. If that's what they want, that's fine, but we get dozens of people here on this professional translation forum complaining about not having enough work, so clearly there are many people who don't have what it takes, and who will continue to make a few thousand dollars a year in translation.

My feeling is that if you created a chart showing the number of translators on the vertical axis and income on the horizontal axis, going from left to right, you'd probably get a peak at around $10,000 in income representing the "casuals" and another, much smaller peak at around $50,000 in income representing the "professionals".

The other thing is that you may feel that 40k USD is a decent amount of money now, but what happens in the future if you want to buy a home, have children, or simply travel more? Your attitude towards money may change considerably over the next decade. So I would aim to succeed, then ramp it down from there, rather than aim for mediocrity.

If, on the other hand, you are in a situation where income is less important, such as having a partner who works full time, then the above may be less relevant.

2) Writing skills
It seems to me that one of the most important skills for translators is the ability to write, whereas a lot of beginners think it's about the ability to understand a different language. I have never had an academic / abstract interest in languages, but I have always enjoyed writing and I am a competent user of my own language (accepting that this is both relative and subjective).

So you should ask yourself, honestly ask yourself, how good your writing is, because this will be a key differentiator. As machine translation becomes more common, the ability for humans to create well-crafted prose is only going to become more important, in my opinion.

3) Global markets
I was rather surprised to see that you had put this in the "Translation in Canada". I can understand why that might be, because you are specifically talking about qualifications, but also suggests quite a narrow focus. If you're going to be successful, you will almost certainly end up with clients all over the world. I would advise you to take a global approach to this profession right from the start, which includes thinking about qualifications that will appeal to a global audience, rather than those which are known only in Canada. Now it may be that Canadian qualifications are known and accepted everywhere (I'm not familiar with them) but it is a point worth considering.

4) What you enjoy
I am one of these people who views the quasi-hysterical focus on "passion" at work with suspicion. This is a fairly recent development, and while I can see that it may be useful or even required for an entrepreneur, I think it is hardly relevant to most people. The average person works because they need to pay the rent and feed themselves and their family, and hopefully they will find a job that they enjoy most of the time.

At one extreme, does somebody stacking shelves in a supermarket feel passionate about their work? Probably not, and that seems fine to me, provided that they do a good job and get paid properly. I feel the same about translation. Sometimes it's interesting, sometimes it's not interesting, but my focus is on doing a competent, job and on being a reliable, honest partner to my clients.

However, and having said all that, unless you do actually enjoy translation I would query your willingness to invest a significant amount of time (and therefore, by extension, money) in becoming a translator, especially in an industry that is in flux. I personally think that translation by humans will continue to exist for decades to come, but the market will become increasingly focused on the top 20% or 10% of human translators. If you're not in that 10%, you probably won't be adequately remunerated.

For what it's worth, my standing advice to people looking to get into the profession is to go and work in a field that they enjoy, and maybe come back to translation when they have some useful industry knowledge. If you like music, go and become a musician, think of translation in five or 10 years' time. If you are an engineer, use those skills for a decade, then come back with the industry experience that will make you valuable. No doubt others will disagree.

Regards,
Dan
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Kevin Fulton
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Jorge Payan
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Vanda Nissen
 

dominique roberge
Canada
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Is NMT really a big deal for the future of translation? Oct 12

Thank you for your reply Dan. I did enjoy it and I feel you raised some key points.

1- I know I will have to work around 40-50 hours a week for the first few years. The 40k for 25 hours of work is more of an end goal than what I expect when I start out.

You are right that 40k a year will eventually be a low figure when I start having kids, there is no denying that. But I have other projects that I am working on. My goal is to pursue translation full time in order to ha
... See more
Thank you for your reply Dan. I did enjoy it and I feel you raised some key points.

1- I know I will have to work around 40-50 hours a week for the first few years. The 40k for 25 hours of work is more of an end goal than what I expect when I start out.

You are right that 40k a year will eventually be a low figure when I start having kids, there is no denying that. But I have other projects that I am working on. My goal is to pursue translation full time in order to have a respectable income while having both time and flexibility to pursue other things.

2- Yes getting better at writing in french should be another point of focus, you are right. I will be taking some private class and I will write everyday to get better.

3- I agree with you, but if I can build my client base in Montreal I won't have to compete with the whole world right? I can approach these people directly and add the human touch to my value proposition. Something a guy from another country might have a hard time doing.

4- Yep, passion is for hobby imo, better aim for a job you enjoy to an extent. Every hobby can become tedious/painful to some degree when it is turned into a job. Best bet is to go for something that is stimulating, rewarding and interesting. You can't mix fun and work too much.

About NMT(neural machine translation):

This is where I get scared. Will machine take away most translating job beside the most complicated and technical ones? Will most translator turn into clerks who are merely trained to use software? In that sense would a beginner be better off getting basic knowledge in translation and then learning how to use these software and ride the wave while it lasts?

I don't plan on being part of the top 10%, that would require me to forgo my other project. I am not willing to do that. I know that becoming the best at any craft requires years of practice and total dedication. Not only that but my timing is horrible, the top 10% is already established and since translation is a retirement friendly profession, it is sensible to assume those at the top won't be stopping anytime soon. The catch-up I would have to do is not worth the risk if the demand for human translator is going to plummet in the near future.

Have you seen the effect of NMT yet? While looking online it seems that opinions are quite polarized on the issue. Some say we are decades away from automation while some say it is a matter of a few years. If the later is true then I don't see getting into translation a worthwhile endeavor. I would have to look for something else which would allow me a decent income, flexible hours and the possibility to work remote.
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Jean Dimitriadis  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:49
Member
English to French
+ ...
A few pointers Oct 12

Hi Dominique,

Here are a few comments, with two caveats:

- I’m not based in Quebec/Canada, but we share the main main language pair
- I’m no “veteran”, I’ve been translating for less than 10 years overall

1- Is a translation certificate (one year in university) enough to start working? I know it’s kind of a very subjective question. Some could probably do without formal training altogether; I am not one of them. BUT I feel I could make it work with some real practical knowledge and some practice.


Well, you’ve said it, some do without format training, so it’s up to you. But formal training or not, if you are serious about this, you will need to invest time and effort to hone your language, translation and other relevant skills.

It’s hard to overestimate this. The barrier to entry is low, but the barrier to “success” is quite higher.

Because you’ve mentionned you value your freedom above anything else, I’m going to bet that even if you choose the translation certificate, you can pull this off, by investing the equivalent time and effort in training/improving yourself.

Being independent and resourceful is an important aspect of this profession.

If you take the more “autodidact” route, don’t hesitate to reach out, I might have a few resources to share.

2- Am I better off gunning for the bachelor degree instead? This way I would be able to get certified and probably get a better $/word amount on top of having more technical knowledge AND time to get better.


Probably. If you wish to join OTTIAQ as a member, the UQTR BA is a recognized diploma. But you might benefit more from colleagues established in Canada for this question.

3- Is my financial goal realistic?


Because you have published this post in Translation in Canada, I’m going to assume you mean Canadian Dollars, not USD dollars. I think it is achievable (especially the 25–30K range), at least in the medium/long term. To reach CAD 40,000 per year, you might need to invest more time per week. Not all time is spent translating. You need to account for some non-billable time as well.

I agree with Dan you will need to invest more time initially.

4- How long should it realistically take me before I get a stream of work after I am good enough?


Once you set up shop, it might require one or two years. Maybe less (months). YMMV.

B- Some ideas on how to get me to the right level as soon as possible after(and maybe during) school:
1- Get some side gigs and invest in a proofreader to help me see where I am lacking.
2- Translate random articles I find online and get them proofread afterward as well.
3- Read technical books about a niche I am interested in and translating some of it. Maybe I could build a nice niche-related portfolio doing that? Unless it is frowned upon to use something you did not translate for money as part of your portfolio.


If you take the student route (Bachelor), I think you can apply to OTTIAQ’s mentorship program. https://ottiaq.org/futur-membre/mentorat/

Otherwise, you might be able to find a mentor cum proofreader, for example within the ProZ mentorship program. Other programs exist as well.

[Edited at 2019-10-12 16:14 GMT]


 

DZiW
Ukraine
English to Russian
+ ...
Alpha & Beta Pointers Oct 13

Hello Dominique.

What does it mean that you're rather new to translation, yet with 10+ years in the area?
Unlike middlemen and the such, real clients just want to have their job done (1) properly, (2) timely, and (3) as agreed: One either meets the minimum requirements or not; nothing new.
However, if you still don't know the answer
Why it's ok that agencies (middlemen) charge $0.25-$0.50+/word in advance, whereas freelancers should [allegedly] ask no more than the iconic $0.10/word, offering "best rates", "discounts", "after 45+ days", "free support", and other ploys--easily making it $0.01/word net or lower?
and what difference it makes for the end clients, then may be later...

Unfortunately, having low entry barriers, the vast majority of self-proclaimed so-called free*lancers are cowed introverts longing for hyped carrots without even the ABC of biz and communication. So they cannot run their* one-man company properly managing all the tasks and risks (not just CAT/PEMT-operators tackling "translation" only), or communicate as an equal business party winning better clients and terms--for they are but easy victims for predating middlemen, spongers, and fraudsters.

Indeed, there're not many like me for I work mostly as an interpreter and occasionally as a translator with certain local direct clients only paying me $0.25-$0.50+/word, because I am (1) a specialist in several fields with decent (2) business and (3) foreign language skills--in this order: Not a "pure" translator.

If I were you, I'd rather get a 'real' profession or education (a doctor, an engineers, a designer, or whatever), supplementing it with business awareness and foreign language skills [interpreting]. While it's difficult to find very your niche quickly, I would also consider diversifying into different fields, regions, language pairs, and activities--rewriting, copywriting, and transcreating or interpreting, mentoring, consulting, and beyond translating.


As they say, besides knowing the ropes, one should be (1) enthusiastic, (2) confident, and (3) enjoying the moment.


Jorge Payan
 

Myriam Ouellet  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 20:49
English to French
+ ...
Translator from Canada Oct 13

Hello Dominique,

I am a translator from Canada. Your question requires a long answer. If you want to contact me, email me at mimiouellet17@gmail.com. We could arrange a phone call. It will be my pleasure to help you!


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 02:49
Member (2018)
French to English
. Oct 13


3- I agree with you, but if I can build my client base in Montreal I won't have to compete with the whole world right? I can approach these people directly and add the human touch to my value proposition. Something a guy from another country might have a hard time doing.


You may be able to add the human touch to your proposition for clients in Montreal, sure. But remember that in business, the bottom line is almost always the most important factor. People all over the world, particularly in countries where the cost of living is much lower, can undercut you. You have to factor this in.

(personally, I have only met a tiny proportion of my clients, the human touch is definitely less important than quality for them)


 


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