Are you considering a career in translation? Perhaps you don’t know how to get into the industry or want to know whether you’re already qualified. To coincide with the current position we have open now for a junior translator, this is the first in a three-part blog about how AST’s in-house translators got to where they are now and their top tips for getting into the industry. Come and meet the team!
I didn’t really decide to become a translator until towards the end of my first MA (Modern Languages at the University of Bristol). I had been intending to apply for a PhD but realised how little I enjoyed academic writing. After considering everything I did enjoy, I decided on translation and applied for Bristol’s MA in Translation at the last minute. I became sure that translating was the right career for me while studying and particularly after doing an internship at an agency in London, which made me want to work in house.
I received a request on LinkedIn out of nowhere after I’d just started my MA in Translation from a UK shop fitting company asking me to translate some product specifications for them. This became my first freelance translation job and I kept them as a client until I joined AST. I did quite a lot of freelance work in the few months between my internship in London and joining AST because the agency I’d worked for sent me some translation, proofreading and transcription and I gained a couple more agency clients who offered me some work. My biggest job was probably working in a proofreading team on a large medical project for an agency in America. Apart from that, I was mainly offered jobs that I could tell agencies were struggling to place, which often needed to be done at the weekend.
Anna’s top tip: My top tip for people wanting to become translators would be to do an internship, because it will teach them about the reality of working in the translation industry and what kind of texts they like translating and give them some experience. It might also lead to a job or to freelance work.
I really enjoyed the translation element of my degree but it was used much more as a language-learning exercise than as preparation for the industry at that stage. We would spend hours splitting hairs over subtle nuances but never had to consider deadlines, customers or costs. To me, a career in translation either meant becoming a fusty academic and dedicating my life's work to rendering some obscure author's novels in English or trying to get my spoken language up to scratch and spending my days in an interpreting booth somewhere in Brussels...
After finishing my degree, I spent a year as a resident tutor, sports coach and supply teacher at a boarding school to get a flavour of the teaching world. I loved working with the kids but found teaching wasn't for me. I missed using my languages and missed writing! While at the school, I came across an entry-level post at a translation agency to work on a big Italian project they had coming in, but the client pulled out and the job fell through. Instead, I started freelancing for the agency and found I really enjoyed the work. This prompted me to consider a career in translation more seriously and I decided to get properly qualified.
I carried on building up my freelance work while doing an MA in Translation Studies at Sheffield, boosted by some experience with AST on its mentoring scheme. I then went solo for a few months after graduating and worked from our teeny tiny house in Derbyshire before moving to work at AST full time.
Charlotte’s top tip: think about how your interests outside of translation could develop into future specialisms.
Internships at AST
Anna and Charlotte run our intern and work experience programmes. If you’re studying languages at school and would like to complete a week of work experience at AST, contact Charlotte at email@example.com. If you’re a university student or recent graduate in modern languages and would like to do an internship at AST, contact Anna at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also run a project management internship programme and welcome university students or graduates interested in project management to contact email@example.com. We do ask that all applicants have German as a working language.
We hope you’ve found our translator testimonies interesting and helpful. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment for more useful tips!