Welcome to part two in our series about how our in-house translation team found their way into the industry. We’ve included our top tips for any budding translators out there. If you missed part one, check it out here.
I got into translation the “traditional” way: language degree followed by MA specialising in translation studies followed by a job at whatever translation agency would have me. I was lucky to find an in-house translation position for my language pairings pretty quickly and have been here ever since. There’s always the lure of branching out into the big wide world and going freelance, but I like the camaraderie and the variety of work (and the steady income) you get from working in an in-house team, so here I still am.
I can’t say I always had my heart set on becoming a translator, but I wanted to use my language skills and I’ve always enjoyed the problem-solving nature of the job and the creative writing involved, so it wasn’t a difficult career choice to make. I did an MA in Translation Studies to narrow down my very general BA Modern Languages degree into a more specific area of expertise that I could make use of professionally. Obviously a Master’s degree is still very much an academic qualification, but I found it helped to bridge the gap between the kind of translating I’d previously done as part of my BA and the kind done on a professional basis, placing translation in a “real world”, professional context. So, it did help pave the way for me to become a professional translator, but qualifications on their own only take you so far – you have to be able to put that knowledge into practice.
Actual experience is therefore vital, so I also did some work experience at a small translation agency to get a feel for how such a business operates and did as much voluntary translation work as I could to build up experience. I should probably add that I also did a bit of work in project management when I first started out in a translation agency, which was a bit of a baptism of fire at times but I found it really useful to see the whole process of buying, selling and organising translations.
Lindsay’s top tips: you have to be self-motivated. Translators are essentially invisible, so direct praise from clients can be rare and the rewards of the job come mostly in the form of the feeling of satisfaction you get when you’ve successfully “cracked the code” of a source text and used your creative skills to mould it into a text you’re happy with. You definitely need to be a confident writer in your native language as well, as translation is often more about your ability to play around with the target language than your knowledge of the source language. But you can never have too much knowledge, i.e. knowledge of the industry, knowledge of your language(s), knowledge of the subjects you would like to specialise in, even general knowledge (you never know what kind of obscure topics might crop up in a translation job –
for instance, I have found myself writing about radioactive wild boars not once but twice since starting out in translation). So if you’re looking for a career that challenges your brain and lets you be creative, translation is ideal!
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this second part in our series, don’t forget to come back soon to read the final instalment for some more useful tips about getting into translation.