We started working as freelancers in the translation industry just over a year ago. As we both have a similar background (we graduated with the same master’s degree, TSM—Traduction Spécialisée Multilingue—from Université de Lille 3, North of France) and we completed an internship in the same SME, we thought this post would be a good opportunity to look back and see to what extent our studies have impacted (and still impact) on our daily professional lives/careers.
To illustrate this point, we have decided to mainly focus on the second year of our MA, for the following three reasons:
Even though the two years of this training really complement each other, we both agree that they can be addressed separately. While the first year’s more theoretical approach turns it into a general introduction to the translation industry, the second, perhaps most decisive, year is a first real step towards professional life, which we are concerned with here.
Our first-year experiences were totally different as one of us completed it in Germany, within the framework of an Erasmus exchange.
The other took a gap year between the two MA years and noticed on her return that the courses she had followed one year previously had already evolved to mirror market requirements even more accurately.
A comprehensive, specific introduction to the current market
As its name implies, the Master Traduction Spécialisée Multilingue at Lille trains future specialized translators and also gives its students a comprehensive overview of the market to arouse their curiosity on a full range of aspects. The goal is not to develop advanced skills for each of these fields, which would obviously be impossible. Instead, several introductory courses are designed to teach you the basics of captioning, interpreting, terminology, localization, machine translation and to lay the groundwork for the subjects that will be spread over the two years the MA lasts, for example Corpora, Project Management, CAT tools and the Translation Project.
As mentioned above, this masters’ degree is an interesting gateway to working life and we now know that the two mandatory internships (three and five months), the small number of students selected for the MA, the staff comprising mainly professionals together with the practical classes are key factors in the process. They allow students to strengthen their translation skills with exercises taking place in real conditions. These include one carried out within the framework of the project management course, in which students are asked to work in small groups to handle a translation project from A to Z as a real translation agency would do. This particular test forces students to utilize all the knowledge they acquired throughout their entire course and make the link between all the classes.
In addition, the program content is constantly updated. Most of the teachers are professionals and are, therefore, perfectly aware of the current market, which is automatically incorporated into their courses or in the “events” they organize. For example, in our case, we had the opportunity to attend several conferences and workshops led by professionals with very different backgrounds in the translation week (organized to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the master’s degree). We were also introduced to one of the main current concerns in the translation industry: machine translation. This special class was given by a representative from one of the market leaders: Systran.
A first step in our professional lives
Initially, neither of us had a clear idea of how our careers would unfold immediately after our MA. But one thing is for sure, this program gave us a good overview of the various options and nearly 100% employability was quite reassuring.
In our situation, the idea to become freelancers emerged increasingly and naturally over time and, to be honest, our six-month internship in the Belgian SME One2Trans greatly influenced our decision. This period was a good opportunity to apply and enhance the knowledge we acquired in class and especially discover, once again, some new features of the translation market allowing us to determine our strengths and weaknesses in real conditions (a crucial point when you start working on your own).
Apart from a good professional experience, this internship drew our attention to the importance of networking in the profession. In fact, this master’s degree is a very good way to establish valuable contacts: the teachers are a good example, but the dynamic created around this program also allowed us to meet graduates from prior years and benefit from their experience, which is always enriching.
Conclusion: our current professional situation
As freelancers and because this master’s degree gave us the opportunity to get a general overview of the market, we have chosen to follow virtually the same path and mainly organize our professional schedule around translation and project management tasks. Even if we don’t deal with the same clients, we end up working together quite often, both as a resource or a client, which is very interesting.
Besides specialized knowledge, this master’s degree provided us with a real working framework. Yes, we are freelancers, but we never feel alone as we are now part of a strong network of trusted members, each with their area of expertise. At first glance, becoming a freelance translator/PM can be scary as you never know if being independent will give you enough work all the time, if your knowledge will suffice to face daily demands, etc. The master’s degree gave us the fundamentals to kill these worries dead.
To sum up, the MA aspects that made the difference are:
The staff of professionals, all working in the translation industry and perfectly aware of current requirements.
The general overview of the translation market. Even if some classes don’t allow students to develop advanced skills, the strong basis combined with enough curiosity can open many doors.
The network of trusted freelancers/SMEs.
Marie Hidot has been a freelancer in Translation and Project Management since September 2015. Marie obtained her Master’s degree in translation in English and Spanish in September 2015 from the Université Charles de Gaulle ‐ Lille 3 (EMT European label).
Marie Ferrand has been a freelancer in Translation and Project Management since September 2015. Marie obtained her Master’s degree in translation in English and German in September 2015 from the Université Charles de Gaulle ‐ Lille 3 (EMT European label).
This guest post is part of this blog’s series on MA courses in Translation and Interpreting (currently divided into European and Non-European sections). If you have done an MA relatively recently and would be interested in writing about your experience to help future students, then please get in touch. You’ll find more information about writing for this blog and a list of all guest posts here.
Please read this post if you would like to help with me this MA review project.