It’s not really like me at all. I’m generally a doer, rather than a talker. But when I graduated with my French Studies BA in July 2007, I applied to do a comparative literature masters at UCL the following year and then, when that came around, I deferred another year, then eventually pulled out completely. Then I signed up for the DipTrans preparation course at Westminster, went to a couple of classes, got scared out of my wits at how inexperienced I was, and gave up. Then I just talked about my longing to do a translation MA for years. The problem was, it was never “the right time”.
There never is a “right time” to do an MA in translation
Only, it never is the right time, is it? With that in mind, a decade after graduating, my family encouraged me to just get on with it. I was always happy enough in my previous career, and progressing well, but it was never ‘it’, and it certainly wasn’t a job that would travel well. My husband and I had been talking about relocating for a long time, but, to do that, I would need to retrain for something more flexible.
That’s how I found myself this time last year, at the age of 32, arriving at the University of Surrey for Welcome Week, surrounded by 18-year-olds and being asked, more than once, where certain rooms were – they thought I was one of the tutors.
Surrey was an obvious choice for me for several reasons. The Guildford location suited me, but its primary appeal was that the Centre for Translation Studies was established back in 1982, and their MA course is one of the longest running in the world – which reassured me that they obviously know what they are doing!
Although I was a career changer, the choice to do the course was both a head and a heart decision, and I wanted the course to reflect this. Primarily, I needed the knowledge to set myself up as a professional translator upon completion, but I also wanted to just enjoy using my languages again after such a hiatus. The mandatory modules on the business aspects of the translation profession, on translation technologies (focusing on CAT tools), as well as specialised translation practice with an experienced translator certainly satisfied my first requirement, and optional modules on literary translation and on translation for advertising offered me the chance to be creative.
I was nervous about going “back to school” after working for a number of years, but the CTS tutors are so approachable and encouraging. They come from a variety of backgrounds, bringing much knowledge and experience. Although translation for the arts is something I was particularly drawn too, I understand that Surrey is actively pursuing research into the evolution of translation in the digital age – something that is relevant to all linguists. If this happens to be an area in which you are interested, it would be well worth looking into the research opportunities coming up at Surrey in the near future.
Like with so many things in life, the MA experience is what you make of it
Like with so many things in life, the MA experience is what you make of it. I had left my job to concentrate full-time on the course and wanted to take advantage of every possible opportunity. There are some great student discounts for workshops and courses out there – it’s great for networking, and never too early to get started on CPD! I went along to the ITI Conference for less than half the regular price, and, although it might feel daunting to newcomers, it was a great experience. Surrey also puts on a programme of extra-curricular seminars featuring industry leaders; we had the opportunity to hear the founder of Nimdzi Insights speak, as well as those working in food translation and children’s literature.
So, what are the downsides? A half downside for me was that I thought there would be more of a focus on practical translation; it’s only a half downside, because it transpired that I found the theory absolutely fascinating. It’s also important to say that your dissertation can be topic-based, so on translation theory, or it can be a translation plus a commentary, so you have the opportunity to spend three whole months sinking your teeth into something that really motivates you.
My word of caution is that some modules were withdrawn, but we weren’t notified until our induction day; although one of the modules I was keen to pursue was no longer running, it wasn’t make-or-break for me, but it was quite problematic for some. There’s no simple way around this, as universities can only run courses if it’s viable to do so, and I know that it happens at other institutions. But if you are changing your life to pursue a course, it’s a worthwhile consideration.
My MA ticked all my boxes and was the best year of my life
It may sound contrived but, all in all, my MA year at Surrey was the best year of my life. It ticked all my boxes, and so many more that I didn’t know I had. The course, and my tutors, inspired me so much and I feel very grateful to have had the opportunity to retrain to do something I truly love.
This guest post was written by Hayley Smith. Hayley is a Student Member of the ITI and the CIOL, and has just completed her Translation MA at the University of Surrey.
A passionate Francophile, she one day hopes to enter the world of theatre translation but, for now, is specialising in the translation of medical and pharmaceutical texts.