I started my translation studies at ISTI (the Institut Supérieur de Traducteurs et Interprètes, which is now part of the ULB, the Université Libre de Bruxelles) in Brussels, five years ago. After three years of a Bachelor’s degree in this department and an Erasmus at UEV in Valencia (Spain), I had fallen in love with translation and decided to continue my Master’s degree at ISTI (ULB).
At the beginning of the first year of the Master’s programme, students can choose between a career in translation or interpreting. Personally, having always loved writing, I made the decision to study an MA in translation.
1st Year of Master’s Degree
The first semester is common to future translators and interpreters, which gives the most hesitant students time to make a decision.
The second semester in the translation programme consists of a wide range of both general and specialised translation: depending on your language combination, you will take courses on medical translation, science translation, economics translation, political translation, etc. Variety aroused my curiosity and also helped me conduct research on many different topics. Most of these courses would be very useful at the time of writing a Master’s dissertation. They also help you choose a field of work, use the right research tools and justify your translation choices.
2nd Year of Master’s Degree
Second-year students of the Master’s in translation are offered the choice between the following pathways: multidisciplinary translation, international relations translation, translation and language industries and literary translation (you can find an overview of these pathways here).
My real dilemma was choosing between the last two. What attracted me to translation and language industries, and finally helped me make a decision, was the number and variety of the disciplines: terminology management, computer-assisted translation (CAT), Web and software localisation (including a section on translation project management), subtitling, subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, etc.
Most of the subjects are taught by language industry professionals eager to share not only their knowledge, but also their experience. Each enabled me to discover a new facet of the translation world. I am going to give you a short description of them.
Terminology management focuses on the creation of termbases in various formats. I learned how to structure my searches and appreciate the value of a well-built termbase in technical translations.
CAT modules allow students to improve their use of CAT tools, in particular SDL Trados Studio. In my view, this area is a must, as technology never stops evolving in the sphere of translation. These tools are there to help us improve performance and consistency and, in a world where deadlines seem to get shorter all the time, they could become invaluable.
Web and software localisation courses enabled us to discover that this type of translation can involve numerous other tasks, such as file preparation, desktop publishing, testing, style guide creation, marketing documentation translation, etc.
The tutor in charge of localisation also integrates a module on translation project management into her own course. After pointing out that there are several steps in most translation projects, she explained how a project is carried out and, above all, how it can be completed successfully. We then learned how to analyse translation projects, produce quotes and purchase orders, manage human and technical resources, prepare project schedules, etc.
Subtitling courses stimulate your capacity for synthesis and for reformulation. Subtitling is a discipline full of constraints (of time and number of characters, for instance), but which also gives a lot of freedom. The diverse films and broadcasts we focused on allowed us to address the key issues of subtitling, such as the translation of humour, cultural references, concision, etc.
Subtitling for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, although it is not translation as such, but rather the adaptation of oral into written language, is a really interesting discipline that has the wind in its sails. There are still time and character constraints, but sounds and music also need to be transcribed.
I did not really know what being a translator meant, but after those four months learning and discovering, I was sure that, at the end of my studies, a multitude of career opportunities would open up.
As part of the localisation and project management courses, and of the Spanish general translation course, we also had the opportunity to talk with professionals from a variety of careers: in-house translators, freelance translators, subtitlers, translation project managers, etc.
During the second semester, students have to complete a three-month work placement. The aim is to observe the students in a professional environment: how they deal with responsibilities, colleagues, initiatives, stress, etc.
I immediately started mine after the January exam session at Nancy Matis SPRL, the company of my localisation and translation project management tutor. During those three months, I put many lessons and skills I acquired during the first semester into practice. I worked largely as a technical resource and a project manager. It was a great experience for me. Reality sometimes is quite different from what we learn in theory. Thanks to this work placement I also learned a lot about myself and discovered a profession that I love.
Before graduating, every student has to write a Master’s dissertation. In the “Translation and language industries” Master’s programme, this dissertation involves subtitling a film of our choosing, translating a book related to language industries or conducting a study. I decided to subtitle a Spanish documentary about autism.
After several months of research and work, and with the help of my subtitling tutor, my dissertation comprised the following:
– an essay on autism
– the subtitles of the 50-minute-long documentary
– the translation of a Spanish article on language in autistic disorders
Doing the dissertation not only taught me a great deal on a topic I feel really passionate about, but also how to translate and deal with a specialised subject.
Defending a dissertation before examiners can seem quite challenging. In my case, it was more like a talk among peers, with translators that came to share their comments and criticisms. At the end of this discussion, I looked back at the progress I had made and felt proud of having become a skilful translator.
In conclusion, studying the translation and language industries pathway of the Master’s degree at ISTI (ULB) means giving yourself the chance to broaden your professional horizons, meet motivated professionals, learn about several disciplines and technologies, undertake an enriching work placement and end five years of studies with a rewarding dissertation.
Céline is a freelance translator and project manager, based in Corsica. After completing her Master’s in translation and language industries she now translates from English and Spanish into French. She is particularly interested in subtitling and localisation.
Please see the MA Translation and Interpreting Courses page for more reviews and details of programmes available in Europe.