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Starting up as a translator directly after University
Thread poster: Marc Fisher

WS McCallum
뉴질랜드
Local time: 11:14
French to English
Elvis has left the building Jun 24

It looks like Marc is no longer following this thread, which is not really surprising given the brickbats being thrown. I'm off too. Toodle pip!



[Edited at 2020-06-24 08:58 GMT]


Tom in London
 

Tom in London
영국
Local time: 22:14
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Apologies to Marc on behalf of the translating profession. Jun 24

WS McCallum wrote:

It looks like Marc is no longer following this thread, which is not really surprising given the brickbats being thrown. I'm off too. Toodle pip!



[Edited at 2020-06-24 08:58 GMT]


Having skimmed through a few of the posts that followed mine, I decided not to contribute any further to this thread - until now.

I feel sorry for Marc, who at his first foray into the wonderful world of translating has come upon a nasty game of very unprofessional and unhelpful one-upmanship between people who ought to know better.

Not a good first impression on someone who is thinking of becoming a translator.

I wouldn't be surprised if someone now makes a nasty comment about what I've just written. This thread really has descended to the level of a Twitterstorm.

So to quote WS McCallum: "I'm off too. Toodle pip!"



[Edited at 2020-06-24 10:27 GMT]


WS McCallum
 

Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
영국
Local time: 22:14
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Adding a new language Jun 24

WS McCallum wrote:

That would depend entirely on the individual and their circumstances, but Marc is young and doubtless capable of it. There is also the "piggy-back" factor: learning, say, Portuguese if you have French and Spanish already would be quicker than taking up Vietnamese, for example. If Marc wishes to be solely a translator, then it would be an added string to his bow.



As a translator working from German and Dutch I have some experience here. I learned Dutch at university, after having started German years earlier at school, so my Dutch does (or did at the start anyway) piggy back on my German to some extent. Knowing German helped a lot in the first stages of learning Dutch and, over the years, Dutch has become my preferred source language.

But if you are ever going to move away from agency work, you are going to have to sell yourself to a client in their language - your source language. This means you will need an impeccable level of spoken fluency (different from the skill you use when translating). There are a lot of translators out there with multiple source languages who really struggle with talking to their clients in their own language. It's something I have had to work really hard at with my Dutch over the years, and still am. You will be competing with translators who have grown up speaking their source language at home and are near-enough truly bilingual, so stumbling through these conversations is not an option.

The amount of work you need to put into maintaining and improving your source language(s) is enormous (reading, spending time in country, etc.). Wouldn't it be so much better to be putting that work into one or two source languages than three? And, don't forget, you also need to be working on your target language, your specialism, your business skills, and probably a lot more things too. To excel as a translator is to commit to a life of study and hard work.

Of course, if you are happy to spend your life in the lower end of the translation market then the advice may differ. But, as far as I can see, the lower end of the translation market is not a nice place to be and getting worse all the time.


Sheila Wilson
Jorge Payan
Beatriz Ramírez de Haro
 

DZiW (X)
우크라이나
English to Russian
+ ...
Foreign Languages As a Major is The Slough of Despond Jun 24

I’m sure there should be only (1) real specialist [engineers, lawyers, doctors, philologist, linguist, and so on] with (2) business awareness and (3) foreign language skills. No “pure” translators, especially when untouchable corporations are shifting q’uarantined small-mid biz so clients and employers must seek multi-specialty contractors, if possible.

Even a dirty beggar can fluently speak several languages; so what?


Jorge Payan
 

Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
영국
Local time: 22:14
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Agree Jun 24

Tom in London wrote:

I feel sorry for Marc, who in his first foray into the wonderful world of translating has come upon a nasty game of very unprofessional and unhelpful one-upmanship between people who ought to know better.

Not a good first impression on someone who is thinking of becoming a translator.

I wouldn't be surprised if someone now makes a nasty comment about what I've just written. This thread really has descended to the level of a Twitterstorm.

So to quote WS McCallum: "I'm off too. Toodle pip!"

[Edited at 2020-06-24 09:32 GMT]



I think it's a real shame that this thread has been derailed like this. This is an important conversation and it should be possible for professionals to express different opinions whilst still remaining polite.

I feel sorry for Marc too.


Sheila Wilson
 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
스페인
Local time: 23:14
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
No, no surprises Jun 24

"... unprofessional and unhelpful one-upmanship between people who ought to know better" (on behalf of the translating profession, no less)


Pot. Kettle. Black.

Long. Track. Record.


[Edited at 2020-06-24 14:23 GMT]


Dan Lucas
Joe France
Zibow Retailleau
Chris S
 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
네델란드
Local time: 23:14
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
@Marc Jun 24

Marc Fisher wrote:
Tom in London wrote:
WS McCallum wrote:
Consider getting a position in a translation agency or a large company or government organisation with a translation department: you will get to see how the profession works from the inside and will have mentors. All too many freelancers these days have no agency or office experience; they are good places for picking up the practical skills you will need and gaining specialist knowledge, whilst providing a regular income as you learn the ropes.

I would recommend seeking some type of work as an in-house translator for a firm or organisation - any kind will do. This will enable you to become a translator who is specialised in a particular field. Specialising in a particular field is essential for the successful translator.

Are these very common? I can't say that I have come across a large number of these roles bar SDL and the EU and UN traineeships?


If I read Tom's post correctly, he means that you should try to work as a translator in the translation department of a [large] company -- in other words, not specifically a translation company. This is what WS was also getting at. This will help you become accustomed to the language and terminology of a specific industry. For example, if you end up working in the translation department of a widget manufacturer, then you will learn more about widgets and widget terminology.

I'm not sure how many companies have dedicated inhouse translation departments. I agree that such a place would be an excellent place to work, because it will teach you how to translate accurately and quickly, and you'll get to know a specific field of study intimately. Even if it is not a place where you are likely to learn specialist knowledge (e.g. at a newspaper or a booking service), you'll learn invaluable skills. So, if you can get such a job, consider it a good school of learning.

I disagree with Tom's statement that specalisation is essential to being successful as a translator, but it does help: (a) in many cases, specialised work pays better, and (b) you are often able to do specialised translator faster than non-specialists, which means that (c) you can take on more jobs and (d) you can become invaluable to specific clients who need quick turnarounds.

Tom started off as a non-translator and then later became a translator. It is easier for such people to specialise in the industry where they come from. It is more difficult for translators who studied translation (not something else) to specialise in something else from scratch.

I'm not sure what WS meant by "no agency or office experience", but office skills and office administration skills (and basic bookkeeping) are very, very useful to have.


[Edited at 2020-06-24 13:06 GMT]


Sheila Wilson
Jorge Payan
 

Marc Fisher
영국
Local time: 22:14
French to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
@DziW Jun 24

DZiW wrote:

I’m sure there should be only (1) real specialist [engineers, lawyers, doctors, philologist, linguist, and so on] with (2) business awareness and (3) foreign language skills. No “pure” translators, especially when untouchable corporations are shifting q’uarantined small-mid biz so clients and employers must seek multi-specialty contractors, if possible.

Even a dirty beggar can fluently speak several languages; so what?


Many thanks for your belittling response. I will disagree with you on your comparison. A degree in Languages has given me many opportunities, skills and experiences that I would never have gained otherwise, regardless of which professional field I do choose to enter.

As for everyone else commenting on my whereabouts. Don't worry I have been following the thread and taking in everyone's comments and insightful advice, so no need to feel sorry for me!

[Edited at 2020-06-24 19:20 GMT]


Joe France
Kay Denney
 

Tom in London
영국
Local time: 22:14
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Black mark Jun 24

Marc Fisher wrote:

... irregardless ....


You get a black mark for that.


DZiW (X)
Jorge Payan
 

Dan Lucas  Identity Verified
영국
Local time: 22:14
Member (2014)
Japanese to English
That was uncalled for Jun 24

Tom in London wrote:
Marc Fisher wrote:
... irregardless ....

You get a black mark for that.

And here we have it. You're quite prepared to throw words like "nasty" around when referring to the actions of other people, but you have no compunction about putting people down with just this kind of nit-picking criticism. It's not just pointless - because this isn't a test, after all - it's downright mean. And yet if somebody has the temerity to poke fun at you, as some have done, you immediately get huffy. You dish it out, but you can't take it. Have a little self-awareness for goodness' sake. And be nicer to people.

Dan


Mervyn Henderson
Rachel Waddington
Joe France
Zibow Retailleau
Jorge Payan
Kay Denney
 

Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
스페인
Local time: 23:14
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
On your knees, lad Jun 24

Write out "I must not use irregardless" one hundred times. Yes, on the floor, with this stub of a crayon. By God, I'll teach you langwidge if it's the last thing I do.

Kay Denney
 

Chris S  Identity Verified
영국
Swedish to English
+ ...
Wasn’t funny enough Jun 24

So I’ve deleted it

[Edited at 2020-06-24 18:20 GMT]

I mean, a man’s gotta have standards

[Edited at 2020-06-24 18:21 GMT]

I wouldn’t want to let down the entire translating profession again

[Edited at 2020-06-24 18:21 GMT]

Marc, as you can tell, all sorts make it in translation. I hope you find that inspiring rather than offputting.

[Edited at 2020-06-24 18:23 GMT]


Mervyn Henderson
 

DZiW (X)
우크라이나
English to Russian
+ ...
Red label: Liberian mark Jun 24

Thou shalt not make thee any graven image
Marc, while languages help sharing the ideas and it is also important; the real business requires foreign language skills for communication purposes only, which is but a tiny fracture of the biz tasks.
Say, a parrot can repeat some words too, so? Only very few seem to be willing to pay for such a repertoire, alas. (Unless ‘parrot’, ‘words’, or ‘pay’ are used figuratively.)

However, if you cannot understand that
1) those who can do/make something useful (read: earn money) even in their native language are in much better position than those who just can speak a foreign language;

2) those who can present and win more favorable terms do much better than those who are twice shy non-businesspersons (as most self-proclaimed ‘freelancers’ are);

3) those translators/interpreters who are creative IP owners (co/authors, re/copywriters, etc) and turn-key lifesavers (aka troubleshooters) are more in demand than disposable PEMT-typists;

4) those who have two or more specialties always have a better chance than a high-class one-specialty professional;
...
--and so on, then it’s ok for you are just going to learn it a little harder way.

Although most freelancers are still rivals, no rotten things were said because Tom, Chris and others just worry about new specialists in the field, challenging you to prove them wrong. Will you dare?


Took my hat and my leave--
Good luck)


Marc Fisher
 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
프랑스
Local time: 23:14
Member (2018)
French to English
. Jun 25

OK, I see you are still here so I shall add my two cents

I agree that a third language would not help much unless you go out on a limb and learn a language that no other native English speakers learn. But that doesn't help you in the short-term with getting established as a translator directly after University, which after all was the specific question you asked.

I only have one source language. When I s
... See more
OK, I see you are still here so I shall add my two cents

I agree that a third language would not help much unless you go out on a limb and learn a language that no other native English speakers learn. But that doesn't help you in the short-term with getting established as a translator directly after University, which after all was the specific question you asked.

I only have one source language. When I see the infinite shades of nuance in my source texts, and see how I have had to stretch my knowledge of my source language even after learning it for over 40 years, I just don't believe anybody could have enough knowledge of three languages to be able to translate from them all in any given subject.

Unlike learning another language, learning a specialist subject is more of a narrowing down than a broadening out, so it's easier to achieve (apart from rocket science of course ). You can gain knowledge of a specialist subject in a variety of ways, such as in part-time jobs you take on to pay your bills while you build up your customer base (if possible in different countries or failing that, in fields where you are in contact with people in different countries). I worked for a woman in the film industry who left to work as a translator from home simply to be with her children more. She obviously knew the jargon, and also had many contacts who knew she could translate and immediately started sending her work.

Your specialist subject can also be your hobby. My primary specialist subject is fashion and textiles, and I got into that partly because I learned dressmaking with my mother, and picked up all sorts of vocabulary simply by reading pattern instructions. These were multi-lingual even back in the day, so I kind of picked that specialist jargon without even trying.
When working as a PM in an agency, I once needed a translator specialising in horse-riding. I just did a search in our database, thinking it'd be a long shot, and lo and behold, a translator we occasionally sent finance translations to had listed horse-riding as a hobby. She was utterly delighted to do all the translations, it made a great change to the dry as dust stuff she normally ploughed through.

Nowadays I do a lot of work for museums, artists and art galleries (OK this has been on hold since lockdown but it will surely pick up again). I have zero qualifications in the subject, unless you count my enthusiasm. This is a passion I share with my daughter, we often go to exhibitions together. Again, I have picked up a lot of jargon simply by reading the catalogues in both my languages.
A former colleague worked as a PA in a law firm for a while before striking out as a translator. With the name of a well-known law firm on her CV, and again, thanks to her contacts there, she quickly specialised in legal translations, and of course she can command very good rates in that field.

Another advantage of adding specialist subjects rather than another language: if you use a CAT tool, you'll quickly build up a beautiful memory and termbase which will help you for all clients in that field.

Hope that helps.
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Chris S
Rachel Waddington
Sheila Wilson
Kay-Viktor Stegemann
Zibow Retailleau
Fatine777
 

Tom in London
영국
Local time: 22:14
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Wrong Jun 25

Tom, Chris and others just worry about new specialists in the field


Me? Worry?


 
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