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Advice for career change
Thread poster: -Fabienne-
-Fabienne-
United Kingdom
Jun 19

Good morning,

I am considering a career change to become a professional translator (French, my native language / English) based in the UK, but I would need some guidance from experienced translators as I don’t know where to start. Any advice would help me greatly.

I would like to sit the Diploma in Translation (DipTrans) in the next few years, but can I apply with a Bachelor’s degree (unfortunately UK NARIC only recognised my 4-year studies in France as a Bachelor’s degree and not a master which is very disappointing) or would this be a problem?

If I am eligible, would you recommend any preparation courses for the Diploma in Translation?

Thank you for your help.

Kind regards,

Fabienne


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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:54
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
Good luck! Jun 19

Dear Fabienne,
You don't need any specific qualifications to sit the DipTrans, but it is a hard exam and the pass rate is not very high, so it's best to be very well prepared before you take it to avoid the disappointment of failing and having to take it again.
I have prepared some pages with advice for budding translators on my blog. Please follow this link: https://nikkigrahamtranix.com/links-tips-new-translators/
and see the "Qualifications" section for more info about the DipTrans, including links to blog posts in which translators talk about their experience of taking the exam.
And under "Translation-related courses" you'll find a non-exhaustive list of some organisations/institutions offering training in the exam.
You'll also find lots of other info on translation, including where you can study other courses. If you've never done translation before, it might be better to try a lower-level course than the DipTrans to begin with to get some practice and decide whether this job is really for you before parting with the significant amount that the DipTrans costs to take.
Good luck!


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Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:54
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
What is your unique selling point? Jun 19

-Fabienne- wrote:
I am considering a career change to become a professional translator (French, my native language / English) based in the UK

Before spending time and money getting tooled up for the DipTrans, I would advise you to think realistically about what you can bring to the translation party. What do you have that makes you stand out? Why would somebody choose you ahead of five, ten or twenty other translators?

Getting yourself chosen in preference to other people is what you will have to do consistently if you want to become a successful freelancer. You don't have to be the only person offering a particular skill or strand of knowledge, but if you can't differentiate yourself from the competition (at least in the eyes of potential clients) you will struggle.

For that reason translation is an interesting choice for mature entrants to the field with prior experience in industries other than translation. A track record in another profession - financial, legal and medical are commonly cited, but it could be almost anything - would stand you in good stead.

You would also need a high level of linguistic skill and the ability to write exceptionally well in your native language. The latter is as important as linguistic ability and specialist knowledge, but tends not to get the recognition that it deserves.

Regards,
Dan


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Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:54
Member (2013)
Chinese to English
Career prospects Jun 19

Agree with Dan on the importance of having unique selling points, especially given your very common, highly competitive language combination. Additional strengths for a freelance career can be as simple as location: are you looking to succeed as a translator in an expensive part of London or in a less-expensive suburb or rural area? Chances of success will be much higher in the latter scenario, for obvious reasons.

The best piece of advice I can give is that you realize from the outset that freelance translation is a business, and that as with most any business, the chance of long-term success for the average entrant is likely less than 50%, probably significantly less. This is especially important if you have a family, loans, or large financial needs--at least in my neck of the woods (the Boston area), translation represents an increase in risk compared to simply looking for a 9-5. Now there are many advantages to a freelance lifestyle if you're suited for it, and if you're business savvy and a good linguist your chances of success are higher, so I'm not trying to dissuade you from it completely, but I do think these things are worth considering before setting out.


Getting qualified, whether through DipTrans or ITI, sounds like an excellent idea if you do go ahead with this, though I can't comment as to their rules or the difficulty of the test.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 16:54
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
Adding to others' comments Jun 19

-Fabienne- wrote:
I am considering a career change to become a professional translator (French, my native language / English) based in the UK, but I would need some guidance from experienced translators as I don’t know where to start. Any advice would help me greatly.

First, it would be really helpful if you'd complete your profile categories and add a little background in its "About Me" area. That would really help us to home in on what might be the best advice for you personally, and maybe alert you to potential pitfalls.

@ Nikki: What a wonderful web page. I've bookmarked it for future reference - thanks. It does however fail to include one company that runs a preparation course for the DipTrans. It's Words Language Services - www.wls.ie - and I did their certificate so I can vouch for them being good.

@ Dan: Yes, there are all the requirements you mention, but of course there's one other thing you need if you're going to set yourself up as a freelancer: entrepreneurial skills. So many good translators fail on that point because they can't negotiate without backing down, can't chase payments without getting angry, can't market their services so that potential clients can actually find them...


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:54
Member (2008)
Italian to English
just get going Jun 19

In general I agree with Dan.

SPending time, effort, and money on gaining paper qualifications will not advance you by a single step on the road to productive, satisfying work as a translator.

What matters (as Dan says) is to differentiate yourself from the thousands of other translators, many of them very experienced, who are working in the same language pair as you.

I would therefore advise you to find employed work with a company, agency, or body that requires an in-house translator in your language pair.

Stay there for several years until you have complete command of the terminology used in that sector (e.g. pharmaceuticals).

Then strike out on your own, offering your services not as a generic translator but as an experienced specialist translator in pharmaceuticals (or whatever).

Persuade your employer that you need a CAT tool and get them to pay for the best computer equipment.

And get started immediately- don't waste time acquiring credentials of which you may be proud but that frankly, most clients don't care about. What they care about is the product: the quality of your translations.

[Edited at 2017-06-19 21:10 GMT]


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David GAY  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to French
+ ...
cash machines but for whom? Jun 20

These diplomas and online private courses are cash machines for those who organize them.
But I'm not sure it's the same story for students. Education has become a very lucrative business.

[Modifié le 2017-06-20 07:51 GMT]

[Modifié le 2017-06-20 07:55 GMT]


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Baran Keki  Identity Verified
Turkey
Local time: 19:54
Member
English to Turkish
+ ...
What was your career before? Jun 20

Just out of interest..

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Ben Senior  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:54
German to English
Wonders never cease Jun 20

Tom in London wrote:

Persuade your employer that you need a CAT tool and get them to pay for the best computer equipment.



I never, ever thought that I would see that written by Tom.

There's still hope to save him, or should I say "Get well soon, Tom"

Ben

ps. Tom that's just a bit of light hearted fun.


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:54
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Keep it impersonal Jun 20

Ben Senior wrote:

Something quite offensive


I don't care how amusing you think it is. Keep the ad-hominem quips to yourself. Got that now? Stick to the topic. What's your contribution?

Apologies to Fabienne, who started this thread and is looking for sensible suggestions.

[Edited at 2017-06-20 10:00 GMT]


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Mirko Mainardi  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 17:54
Member
English to Italian
+ ...
Interesting view Jun 20

Tom in London wrote:

Ben Senior wrote:

Something quite offensive


I don't care how amusing you think it is. Keep the ad-hominem quips to yourself. Got that now? Stick to the topic. What's your contribution?


But is it more or less "offensive", "impersonal", inappropriate, disrespectful and off topic than, say, making fun of how non native speakers of English write in English?


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:54
Member (2008)
Italian to English
You too Jun 20

Stick to the topic. What's your contribution?

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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:54
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
Thanks for the recommendation, Sheila Jun 20

Sheila Wilson wrote:

@ Nikki: What a wonderful web page. I've bookmarked it for future reference - thanks. It does however fail to include one company that runs a preparation course for the DipTrans. It's Words Language Services - www.wls.ie - and I did their certificate so I can vouch for them being good.


Thanks very much for the recommendation. I've added the site to my page. And I'm glad you found the list useful.


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Texte Style
Local time: 17:54
French to English
What was your career before? Jun 22

Baran Keki wrote:

Just out of interest..


And not just out of interest in fact but to help answer your question!

Others have mentioned leveraging experience from previous work. If you were a lawyer or engineer or healthcare professional and are bilingual with decent writing skills, you're likely to be able to produce translations on a par with those of a professional translator.

If you have more "mundane" professional experience, it can still help. We once hired a girl who used to work in the footwear department of a store. At the time the agency was working for a footwear trade fair, and for several companies making leather goods, so she was able to do these well. Since her French was excellent and her writing skills too, we then got her to branch out into other related fields. She's now making a fair bit as a free-lancer.


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