I received my M.A. in Translation (Spanish concentration) from Kent State University’s Institute for Applied Linguistics in 2013, and I have been working as a freelance translator and editor since graduation. I entered the master’s program directly from my undergraduate studies with significant interest in translation but very little knowledge of the industry, and right away I recognized that the program was exactly what I was looking for. I was selected for a graduate assistantship, which involves teaching undergraduate language or translation-related courses. I taught two undergraduate Spanish courses per semester my first year, and I taught a hybrid Spanish course and worked in the language lab my second year. Since I did not have another job while being enrolled in the program, this allowed me to pay for my degree, and it also created opportunities for teaching after graduation.
The first semester of courses introduces translation studies and practice. Theory of Translation serves as a foundation for the rest of the coursework. At the same time, students take language-specific practice courses, applying knowledge from other classes occurring simultaneously. I appreciated that I could learn a theoretical framework in one class and attempt to apply it in the other. This aspect of the program is one that I deeply appreciate; I frequently draw on the various theories we learned to inform and defend my translation decisions. It helps me be intentional about my work and it gives me a starting point for translation. If nothing else, it keeps me asking questions and reminds me to look for those links between theory and my day-to-day freelancing.
Focus on Technology and Terminology
Students start to work with translation tools in the second semester, including MultiTerm and SDL Trados in Terminology and Computer Applications for Translators. In this course, students also learn how to design webpages. Students then move on to Software Localization. In many of these technology-heavy courses, I remember becoming frustrated because I “just wanted to translate,” but now I recognize how integral those courses have been in my career as a translator. I primarily use SDL Trados and memoQ, but I use multiple additional CAT tools if requested, and I’m able to very easily move from one to the other because of the program’s focus on learning those applications. In addition, significant emphasis is placed on terminological research and creating and managing termbases. Many graduates of the program become terminologists, and the rest of us at least recognize the importance of maintaining up-to-date glossaries and termbases.
Variety of Fields
In addition to the theoretical and technological aspects of translation, students also learn the skills to translate a variety of genres. This approach was important to me because I did not enter the program with a particular specialization in mind. The courses are offered on a rotating basis and they include Scientific, Technical, and Medical Translation; Literary and Cultural Translation; and Commercial, Legal, and Diplomatic Translation. When I graduated from the program, I wanted to focus on literary and cultural translation, and now I find that for the last several years, I have been doing primarily medical and legal translation. However, I find that I draw on skills learned in my literary translation course often, if not daily, especially when adapting to different styles of text and register. My literary course helped me to become a more thorough reader, and that skill can be applied to any kind of translation.
In the last two semesters of study, students work on a case study, which would be the equivalent of a final project or thesis. The case study includes a major translation accompanied by an analysis of translation programs and strategies used to solve them. This was a perfect capstone to the program; it allowed me take my understanding of translation theory and apply it to my decisions.
While not much time was spent discussing how to survive as a freelance translator after graduation, I also understand that this is not the focus of the program. Many graduates do become freelance or in-house translators, but many others pursue project management, terminology management or further studies in translation. In fact, Project Management is an elective course that focuses on project management in the language industry. Even though I did not plan to work as a project manager, I found the course to be helpful for understanding more about the language industry and the life cycle of a project. Another elective course did touch on business skills we might need to have in the world of translation, but I still experienced the panicked “What do I do now?” that many graduates do. This is where the network of faculty and alumni steps in. The graduate student organization, KentLingua, has made it a priority to host workshops and talks with alumni working in the industry about how to navigate the industry as a newcomer, and when I started freelancing, I received support and advice from fellow members of my cohort, alumni working in the field, and faculty.
Interpreting was not a major focus of the program when I was there, but many faculty members and students interpret as well as translate, so courses also included some discussion of interpreting. The program now has an elective Spanish medical interpreting course, which I returned to take the year after I graduated.
Faculty also help M.A. candidates find opportunities for internship and practice. I was able to obtain an internship at a translation agency outside of Barcelona, and now there is an ongoing relationship between the institution and the agency. I also worked with the Legal Aid Society of New York in a remote internship offered to students of the program. Interns deliver weekly legal translations to mentors who then provide detailed feedback. Students obtain translation and project management internships with language service providers locally and abroad as well as internships with international organizations, such as the World Intellectual Property Organization.
I loved the master’s program at Kent State, and I highly recommend it. I believe the strong faculty, relevant courses, and network of alumni are unique to this program. The program’s reputation is strong for good reason, and I believe I have been very well-prepared for my career as a translator.
Victoria Chavez-Kruse received the M.A. in Spanish Translation in 2013 from Kent State University’s Institute of Applied Linguistics. She is currently a freelance translator specializing in the life science, medical, and legal fields. She is a member of the American Translators Association and the Northeast Ohio Translators Association. In 2016 she helped launch the Black Squirrel Translator Collective along with three other Kent State University alumni; the collective functions as a small agency for Spanish-into-English projects, and the four translators manage translation, editing, proofreading, and machine translation post-editing projects. You can follow her on Twitter or visit her website for more information.
If you would like to help with me this MA review project, please read this post.