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Studying languages/translation at university.
Thread poster: Blueplaytpus
Blueplaytpus
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:02
Aug 21, 2013

Hi!
I suppose I'm here looking for advice because I finished my A-levels this year and didn't get very good results, so I didn't get get into the courses I chose (French and Russian at Bristol and Manchester).

Fortunately, I got quite a few offers through clearing and I'll probably go for the one I received from Bangor for French and Italian. I just wondered if anyone had any thoughts on the following:
I think I want to be a translator and some universities offer degrees in translation studies or applied languages, so I'm wondering if this would be better for me as opposed to just a straight languages degree.

Is Russian a better choice than Italian because it's more widely spoken or more in demand,

Does having bad A-level grades reduce my chances of getting work in the field (I have very little idea of what the process of becoming a translator is meant to look like).


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Charlotte Farrell  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:02
Member (2013)
German to English
+ ...
If you had a combination of French/German/Spanish... Aug 21, 2013

I would recommend Heriot Watt, because not only is their translation degree excellent, but, when I applied at least, their requirements for A Levels were surprisingly reasonable for a course with such a good reputation. Studying towards a translation degree as opposed to a straight languages degree is a decision that I am very glad I made.

I would say that Russian would arguably be a better option than Italian work-wise but that there is definitely work out there for Italian. French would probably get you enough work to be going on with anyway.


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:02
Hebrew to English
My advice.... Aug 21, 2013

I'll try and address some of your points:

I'll probably go for the one I received from Bangor


I've heard good things about Bangor!

I think I want to be a translator and some universities offer degrees in translation studies or applied languages, so I'm wondering if this would be better for me as opposed to just a straight languages degree


There are varying opinions on this, it can be argued that an applied languages (and/or translation) degree will be more rounded and less erm, "tunnel-visioney" than a straight languages degree. I just looked at Portsmouth and their BA Applied Languages looks like a languages degree but slightly broader. Personally you can argue till the cows come home about what is "better" (you could also argue forever about what "better" means for you), personally I'd weigh up everything I'm interested in, what I want to do then look closely at the course structure - you don't want to spend 3/4 years doing modules that bore you silly. (Not when you are paying £9K pa for the "privilege").

Is Russian a better choice than Italian because it's more widely spoken or more in demand


The short answer I think, is YES. I think there are probably more opportunities with Russian, probably less competition too (the Romance languages are notoriously saturated). On top of that the fact that Russia is an up-and-coming BRIC country...

Does having bad A-level grades reduce my chances of getting work in the field (I have very little idea of what the process of becoming a translator is meant to look like).


Short answer: No.
This is something they don't tell A-Level students, but once you're actually at university, nobody really gives a hoot what grades you got. And the process of becoming a translator in the UK is as simple as it can get. You register yourself as self-employed with HMRC and hey presto....you're a translator. It's a completely unregulated profession (which has its drawbacks, trust me).

Good luck, whatever happens.

[Edited at 2013-08-21 18:44 GMT]


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:02
Russian to English
+ ...
I think you should study the language you love, and have more interest in Aug 21, 2013

Also, if you study a language to become a translator, you should definitely spend a year or two in the country where it is spoken. So when choosing the language you should consider whether you would like to spend a few years in that country.

I would personally recommend language studies in the pure form -- with general linguistics, translation theory, a lot of historical and comparative grammar. You can always take a course after that how to use CAT tools.




[Edited at 2013-08-21 19:03 GMT]


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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:02
Russian to English
+ ...
I think you should study the language you love, and have more interest in Aug 21, 2013

Also, if you study a languages to become a translator, you should definitely spend a year or two in the country where it is spoken. So when choosing the language you should consider whether you would like to spend a few years in that country.

I was personally recommend language studies in the poor form -- with general linguistics, translation theory, a lot of historical and comparative grammar. You can always take a course after that how to use CAT tools.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:02
English to Spanish
+ ...
Language Aug 21, 2013

Don't even think about translation until you have attained complete fluency in another language, including at least several years in a country where it is the official language.

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Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:02
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Definitely better! Aug 21, 2013

Blueplaytpus wrote:
I think I want to be a translator and some universities offer degrees in translation studies or applied languages, so I'm wondering if this would be better for me as opposed to just a straight languages degree.

If translation is something you are seriously considering as your future career, then definitely a translation degree is better than a languages degree. The reason is that it is generally not enough to have a good knowledge of two or more languages in order to become a translator. Translation has its specific skills and you have to learn them.

Solid knowledge of two or more languages plus trained skills in translation is the best start for a new translator. Once you finish your studies, you should prepare to keep studying during your whole career as a translator which, added to the experience you will gain along time, will make you a valued professional with an interesting, varied, and profitable business in constant evolution.

If my situation is of any interest, I am returning to university in September... to do a degree in translation after almost 20 years translating full time with a reasonable success. I feel there are things missing in my knowledge and education that could make a big difference in the long run. By the time I expect to achieve my degree, I will probably be 53-54 years old.


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Elizabeth Tamblin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:02
Member (2012)
French to English
Keep your options open Aug 21, 2013

You could do a degree in French and Italian, or Russian, whichever you choose, and then afterwards, if you still want to be a translator, do an MA in Translation. You'll have your language degree to fall back on if you decide to change your career later on. Good luck.

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Tina Hart  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:02
Spanish to English
Experience is better Aug 21, 2013

I always planned to go to university to study languages, although I wasn't sure which one (I've lived in a lot of countries and studied a lot of languages) and wasn't sure which course to take (at the time I didn't realise that translating via internet existed).

When I was 15 I met Lord Sainsbury (founder of Sainsbury's supermarkets) who told me that experience is much more important than a degree. That was when I decided that I wasn't going to go to University and instead worked in many different jobs, including financial and legal positions, which gave me the experience I really needed to do this job.

In my opinion I think that your money would be better spent living in a foreign country to perfect your language skills (I have been living in Spain for 8 years, married a Spaniard and all my friends are Spanish, which I have found much more helpful to learn Spanish than my A level, which did very little!)

I haven't found that many agencies require degrees, but rather ask about your experience.

In no way am I saying that a degree is a bad thing, in fact I have thought about doing a translation degree several times, but because I have so much translation work, I don't have the time!

Hope this helps and good luck with whatever you decide on.

Tina


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 17:02
Danish to English
+ ...
Go for a translation degree Aug 22, 2013

Easy for me to say, because that's what I opted for.

Without any specific evidence to support this, I imagine that a 'straight language degree' has a lot of focus on the theory of language (linguistics, grammar etc.), history of the countries where the language is spoken, literature etc. and that it may be quite intellectual. A (good) translation degree will have compact modules about grammar and linguistics, history and literature, too, but it will have a much more direct focus on translation (and maybe interpretation), i.e. it is a much more 'practical' type of degree, aimed directly at a career as a translator/interpreter. Furthermore, it will probably offer you the opportunity to look at some of the largest specialisation fields, i.e. technical translation, legal translation, business translation and medical translation.

If you know already that you want to be a translator, then the logical thing is definitely to go for a translation degree, which will equip you to do research, work with the 'tools of the trade' (software) and turn over vast amounts of texts within short time frames. Somehow, I doubt that you learn any of that from a more 'classical' language degree.

It is a misconception that studying languages in a translation degree programme means that you gain a lesser insight into the languages studied. It is more a case of focusing on working with the languages rather than being able to explain the theory of how the languages work (hope this makes sense ). Furthermore, obviously, a translation degree focuses directly on transferring text from one language to another, quite an essential skill when you work as a translator.

And I would have to disagree with Tina's comment that 'experience is better'. Experience is essential, if you want to become an excellent translator, no doubt about that whatsoever. And I am sure there are cases where excellent translators have no official language training, but base their work on expertise gained in other professions. However, I would imagine that most of them are people who set out on different career paths and then at some stage in life opted to switch to translation based on their expert qualifications in specific fields AND a clear insight into their native and foreign languages. But this does not add up to being a 'better' option, and again, if you already know that you want to be a translator, why not learn the 'trade' as early as possible and then add experience from abroad to this?


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Blueplaytpus
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:02
TOPIC STARTER
Thankyou! Aug 22, 2013

I've got an offer from Hull! Which is closer to home than Bangor, living costs are cheap, I could pick up Russian as an elective and do Translation studies with French and Italian I know it's not really most people's favourite place in the world but, there are nice parts!

Charlotte Farrell wrote:

I would recommend Heriot Watt, because not only is their translation degree excellent, but, when I applied at least, their requirements for A Levels were surprisingly reasonable for a course with such a good reputation. Studying towards a translation degree as opposed to a straight languages degree is a decision that I am very glad I made.

I would say that Russian would arguably be a better option than Italian work-wise but that there is definitely work out there for Italian. French would probably get you enough work to be going on with anyway.


I think I saw Heriot-Watt in clearing, but they weren't there for long and they don't do Italian anyway. Thanks for your vote of confidence on translation studies.


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:02
Swedish to English
+ ...
Hull Aug 22, 2013

I've been told it's only one bad part and students never go there Or could the people trying to fill clearing places be biased? Nah...

Seriously, I've been reading up on both the uni and the city since my son was offered a place for PPE last week and am suitably impressed. And a place where Philip Larkin worked for 30 years can't be all bad.

If you decide to accept you better sort out accommodation asap, the best halls appear to be full already.


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Blueplaytpus
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:02
TOPIC STARTER
Thankyou, so detailed! :) Aug 22, 2013

Ty Kendall wrote:

I'll try and address some of your points:

I'll probably go for the one I received from Bangor


I've heard good things about Bangor!

I think I want to be a translator and some universities offer degrees in translation studies or applied languages, so I'm wondering if this would be better for me as opposed to just a straight languages degree


There are varying opinions on this, it can be argued that an applied languages (and/or translation) degree will be more rounded and less erm, "tunnel-visioney" than a straight languages degree. I just looked at Portsmouth and their BA Applied Languages looks like a languages degree but slightly broader. Personally you can argue till the cows come home about what is "better" (you could also argue forever about what "better" means for you), personally I'd weigh up everything I'm interested in, what I want to do then look closely at the course structure - you don't want to spend 3/4 years doing modules that bore you silly. (Not when you are paying £9K pa for the "privilege").

Is Russian a better choice than Italian because it's more widely spoken or more in demand


The short answer I think, is YES. I think there are probably more opportunities with Russian, probably less competition too (the Romance languages are notoriously saturated). On top of that the fact that Russia is an up-and-coming BRIC country...

Does having bad A-level grades reduce my chances of getting work in the field (I have very little idea of what the process of becoming a translator is meant to look like).


Short answer: No.
This is something they don't tell A-Level students, but once you're actually at university, nobody really gives a hoot what grades you got. And the process of becoming a translator in the UK is as simple as it can get. You register yourself as self-employed with HMRC and hey presto....you're a translator. It's a completely unregulated profession (which has its drawbacks, trust me).

Good luck, whatever happens.

[Edited at 2013-08-21 18:44 GMT]


I've heard good things about Bangor too! but no way I could learn any Russian
Thankyou, the modules look quite good at Hull, but I'm going on Tuesday so I'll figure it out then. Maybe if I miraculously learn Russian whilst there I can carry it on with it by getting experience or something. I can definitely see how a lack of regulation is often a drawback.


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Madeleine MacRae Klintebo  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:02
Swedish to English
+ ...
PS Aug 22, 2013

Are you "rac1" on TSR? (Guess I'm not breaking any ProZ rules by mentioning that site as it is in no way translation related.)

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Blueplaytpus
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:02
TOPIC STARTER
Thankyou. Aug 22, 2013

LilianBNekipelo wrote:

Also, if you study a language to become a translator, you should definitely spend a year or two in the country where it is spoken. So when choosing the language you should consider whether you would like to spend a few years in that country.

I would personally recommend language studies in the pure form -- with general linguistics, translation theory, a lot of historical and comparative grammar. You can always take a course after that how to use CAT tools.




[Edited at 2013-08-21 19:03 GMT]


I guess you're right and I think I'd like living abroad, just not yet:) Most languages degrees here do include a year abroad but I'll be splitting this between two languages, so we'll see what happens. Things will be fine in the end:)


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