Review of MA in Translation at the University of Manchester

Let’s be honest, after completing a four-year undergraduate language degree (and spending the previous 15ish years in education), the last thing you probably want to do is go back into education. That’s how I felt at least. I had just graduated from the University of Nottingham with a degree in German with Dutch and decided I wanted to be a translator. I started to look for jobs in translation, but it seemed as though they all required an MA, so I did some research into Translation MA courses. There were two universities I was interested in: Surrey and Manchester. I had no preference, so applied and was accepted to both. Shortly after, my partner received an offer for a job based near Manchester and we decided to relocate together.

What’s so great about studying at the University of Manchester?

But what’s so great about studying at the University of Manchester? To start with, Manchester is a wonderful place to live. I grew up in the south of England (Dorset, not London) and while I do love the beautiful beaches that my hometown has to offer, I genuinely prefer Manchester as a place to live. The city is the perfect size – it has everything you need and plenty of things to do, without being as crowded as London or Birmingham, and it’s also way more affordable. I find that the people up north are incredibly friendly and helpful, so that’s another bonus. The university itself has a rich history and superb facilities, with plenty of spaces to study, do group work and grab a bite to eat. The MA Translation course at the University of Manchester was excellent and proved to be more valuable than I anticipated. I did the course part time, because honestly, it was pretty expensive, and I needed a job alongside it. We had core modules, Translation and Interpreting Studies and Research Methods, which taught us all about the theory and history of translation and equipped us for the dissertation. As a part-time student, my first semester was entirely core modules and I didn’t really enjoy that – I wanted to get stuck in with some fun practical modules. It also involved a lot of reading, which is not my cup of tea. I know, I’m probably the only translator who doesn’t like reading, but it’s okay because I generally focus on audiovisual translation.

The exciting part of the course started when I got to do some optional modules

The exciting part of the course started when I got to do some optional modules. Among others, I chose Audiovisual Translation, Literary Translation and Translation Technologies. Audiovisual Translation was my favourite, although we did start from the very basics with that one – our lecturer literally handed out sheets of paper for us to create subtitles by hand, counting the number of characters and calculating the characters per second limit. At first, I thought it was crazy, but it gave us a good insight into what the software was actually doing for us when we started using it. Literary Translation gave us the freedom to do more practical translation work and discuss it with our classmates. I remember translating some German children’s poetry for an assignment, which I particularly enjoyed. Translation Technologies taught us how to use translation software such as SDL Trados Studio, MemoQ and a few others. This was incredibly valuable, considering how technology based the translation industry is nowadays.

The course provided the basis of what I needed to pursue a career as a freelance translator

I would say that overall, the course provided the basis of what I needed to pursue a career as a freelance translator. It gave me in-depth knowledge and understanding of the industry as well as various practical skills, but it also lacked somewhat in terms of guidance into freelance translating. I found that I had to learn a lot on my own about starting up my business, marketing my services, networking, and even basic things such as creating invoices and paying tax. The most valuable thing I gained from my MA was the audiovisual translation element and the understanding of translation technology. If you are thinking of studying an MA in Translation at the University of Manchester, I would say it’s a wonderful and valuable course, but have a think about the path you might like to go down after graduation, and take a look at the module options to make sure that it offers what you need and are interested in. If you want to find out more, I recently started a podcast called Meet the Translator, and in the first episode, ‘MAstering Translation‘, I chat to Chris Drew about our experiences studying an MA in Translation at Manchester. We also hear from a few other translators who share their experiences, so I would highly recommend that you have a listen to that. I’m also happy to have a chat or answer any other questions you may have, so feel free to get in touch. This guest post has been written by Dot Roberts. Dot is a native English freelance translator and subtitler based in Manchester, UK. She’s been translating German and Dutch into English professionally since January 2019 and she’s worked with a variety of major companies and agencies. She has an MA in Translation from the University of Manchester as well as a BA in German with Dutch from the University of Nottingham. She recently started a podcast called Meet the Translator in which she chats to a different translator each episode, hears their story and discusses a topic related to translation. You can find out more about Dot or get in touch with her via her website, LinkedIn profile or on Instagram. You can listen to Meet the Translator on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and via her website. Library image by timajo from Pixabay  This post is part of the MA review series on this blog. Lists of MAs in Translation and Interpreting are currently divided in EuropeanNon-European and Distance-learning Courses. Please get in touch if you completed your MA recently and would like to take part in this series. You’ll find more information about writing for this blog here

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4 thoughts on “Review of MA in Translation at the University of Manchester

  1. I’ve never really understood the necessity of getting a Masters in translation as a “vocational” qualification if it requires you to write a dissertation: I’m very glad that I was able to do “just” a postgraduate diploma, which required an extended translation rather than a dissertation! I am a little disturbed, though, to find that even nowadays little may be on offer in terms of the practicalities of how to set up in business for yourself, considering that a large proportion of newly-fledged translators/interpreters will be having to start with freelancing rather than an in-house job.

    I would also agree that “buyer beware”: I’ve met a number of would-be translators who were disappointed that their translation courses turned out to be excessively academic/theoretical, when they’d been hoping for a more thorough grounding in how to translate. There’s nothing wrong with the academic/theoretical side, provided that’s what you want to do, and it seems quite possible to spend your entire career on that track, but I would assume that most people applying for a Masters-level translation course would be hoping to get into the practical side of the profession.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your comment! I think what you said serves as a reminder to have a detailed look at the modules offered by the MA course you’re interested in. It seems difficult to avoid translation theory from what I’ve heard of many courses, but I think as long as there’s enough valuable modules alongside it then it’s worth doing. I do agree though, that the MA course could offer more support with the practical business side of things.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the ITI’s SUFT course tries to bridge the gap between translation MAs and working. Part of me agrees with what you’re saying, but shouldn’t MA courses focus on the art of translation rather than the business side of things?
    Do agree, however, with your point about theory. Translation practice should be the major part of any MA. Perhaps theory should be provided as optional modules for those interested in that side of translation.

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