After three years of the Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Linguistics at the University of Ghent, I applied for the Master of Arts in Translation (Dutch, German and Spanish), also at the University of Ghent. The MA was the first in Flanders to receive the European Master’s in Translation quality label from the European Commission assigned to high-quality education.
The course focusing on the translator’s mother tongue, Dutch, emphasizes revising (translated) texts. A lot of time is also assigned to applying for jobs. There is a course on writing CVs and job applications and there’s also a three-day seminar that gives students tips on applying for jobs, the labor market, how to become a freelance translator, how to create your social media profiles and so on. I think the seminar was very interesting and can be a great help to get a job more easily.
In the translation courses we learned to translate from and into the foreign languages. Translations from the foreign language were mostly technical or scientific and, therefore, we learned how to search for and save terminology, use translation memories (TMs), databases and so on. I think this aspect of the MA is also very interesting because translators really need those tools to work quickly and effectively. In the Spanish course, we also learned how to do legal translations. That’s a very specific domain, but I think it was also useful, because as a professional translator, it’s better to have a specialization to get enough clients. It’s also important to know the (recent) history of the language areas, which we learned in the Social Developments courses.
There was also an optional subject. The MA in Translation provided us with the possibility of choosing between Language and Culture (English, French or German), Audio-visual Translation (for example subtitling), Localization and Language Technology. I decided to do Localization. The course taught us how to translate software, websites and video games. I liked this course because I love working with websites, technology, etc. Translation memories proved very helpful as well. For example, we translated part of a website on Ghent and a Wikipedia page with all the markup and we learned to translate the menus and commands of a simple software program. We were also able to take a free extra course on Translation Project Management, instructed by Nancy Matis. This course was very useful, especially if you’d like to work as a Project Manager, but also as a freelance translator. You learn how to bill and plan a translation order, how to communicate with customers, etc.
The MA student trainee work placement lasting four weeks can take place in the Easter holiday (and one week before and after) or in May-June. As we were able to look for a trainee post ourselves, we could find one we personally found interesting. It’s not really necessary to work as a trainee in a translation company: my trainee post was in a company that runs a website to gather all the news, information, etc., in the “translation sector” and that organizes workshops, etc. I worked in May-June so that I could use the four weeks around Easter to work on my thesis. Another option is the SBP (small business project), in which you set up your own translation company with other students. You have to produce a business plan, get real orders and do real translations.
The most important aspect of the MA is the thesis. There’s an extensive list of possible subjects, but you can also introduce a subject yourself, which is also a great advantage. The thesis has to be written in one of the two foreign languages. I noticed that it was an important task to prove that you can work independently and look for information that you convert into your own personal work. I wrote my thesis (in Spanish) about identity and multilingualism in the external communication of professional cycling teams. For me it was a topic of great interest because I’m a cyclist myself. I was very grateful that I could combine my studies with my hobby.
In my opinion, the only disadvantage of the MA is that it provides fairly few opportunities to study a variety of writing styles (newspaper articles, technical texts, etc.) in Dutch. I think this is important because translators and revisers need to be versed in them all to produce texts of the best quality. Also receiving more translation orders from real clients during the MA (to translate with other students) would be an advantage for more work experience apart from the trainee work placement, which is fairly short (only four weeks).
Nathalie recently graduated from the University of Ghent (Belgium) with a Master of Arts in Translation from German and Spanish into Dutch. She would like to work as a (freelance) translator or language teacher. Nathalie is also a cyclist (in competitions). You can follow her on Twitter and find more information about her services on LinkedIn.