June 2010 Archives

Training as a Translator

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News from TrànslationWörks 16 June 2010

Recently, I was invited to participate at a careers evening held at a secondary school here in Bath. My role was to speak to young people individually about their aspirations for using languages in their careers and particularly in the world of translation.

I had no idea how many people would come to my desk and so I was delighted when I had a steady stream of youngsters stopping for a chat.

One of the many attractive advantages to being a translator is that one can embark upon a career in this area at almost any stage in life once one has acquired the necessary level of language skills.

Acquiring language skills is naturally the key point. My advice to the young people included:

  • making sure that in their enthusiasm for foreign languages they did not neglect their skills in the English language
  • exploring the possibility of spending some time in their "source-language" country before embarking on their degree course, gaining fluency, understanding how the foreign language really works (i.e. going beyond a school textbook)
  • gaining experience and understanding of one or more professions in which they might like to specialise, and considering taking a degree course that combines a profession with a language, such as Engineering with German or Economics with Italian - the combinations are almost endless. Taking this route has the advantage that one learns - and can correctly apply - the right terminology in both languages as well as learning the nuts and bolts of the subject area.

There are, of course, other routes into translation such as the traditional approach of taking a Modern Languages degree or a degree in Translation Studies. I'd be interested in hearing from established translators about the route they took and what, if anything, they would do differently with the wonderful advantage of hindsight!