It is safe to say that I decided to devote my work fully to translation somewhat later than I should have done. But, as the saying goes, better late than never! That said, if I had decided to pursue studies earlier, I would not have gained the wealth of experiences that I am now able to include in my translation toolkit!
I studied BA(Hons) at the University of Bristol in the nineties and followed with a PGCE in Secondary Education. I aimed to become a language teacher, but life took me into hospitality management and, later, into project management and logistics in the European bespoke furniture industry.
I loved the challenges of both careers, but when my youngest son was due to start school in 2018, I knew I wanted to get back to work but that I wanted to work from home. After a serendipitous visit from a school friend, a Switzerland-based freelance translator, I had a lightbulb moment. Languages and informal translation, even interpreting, had always been a part of my work, probably the part I enjoyed most. I wanted languages and, specifically, translation to be the focus of my work, not incidental to it.
Members of translation and interpreting associations will know that a lot of emphasis is placed on CPD (continuing professional development). The ITI (Institute of Translation and Interpreting), which I’m a member of, recommends we log 30 hours of CPD every membership year (in my case from May to April) and issues a certificate when the record is complete.
Given that ongoing training is so important, we discussed our future CPD plans in a hosted session of the Group Translation Chats (GTC), moderated by Jenny Zonneveld, back in February. This is a summary of what we talked about containing many links to CPD you might like to try.
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.
After an overview of the initial results in part 1, in parts 2 and 3 we focused on comments made about the main survey questions.
Specifically in part 2 we examined whether the respondents were thinking of doing any of the four surveyed qualifications (MA/MSc, Diploma in Translation, ATA certification and ITI exam) and which of these four they thought was better.
In part 3 we looked at responses to three questions: Which of the four qualifications are more highly regarded by translators (1), by agencies (2) and by direct clients (3).
This fourth and final part of the results includes some general comments made at the end of the survey and also some insights given under the specific questions that I didn’t manage to fit into the previous three parts of the results as they are more wide-ranging.
This article by Gwenydd Jones looks at the pros and cons of doing an MA in Translation Studies. It’ll help you think ahead and figure out whether doing an MA is the right choice for you.
With the cost of university study continually rising, you’re probably asking yourself whether doing an MA in translation studies is worth the investment. The answer will depend on your own circumstances and goals, as this article will explain. By the end, you should have a better idea of whether or not doing an MA in translation studies is worth it for you.
You’ve probably found your way to this article by googling to find the pros and cons of doing an MA in translation studies compared to the other options available for training and qualifying as a translator.
This is the third and penultimate part of the results of the translation qualifications survey, which focused on the DipTrans, MA/MSc, MITI exam and ATA certification.
In Part 1, we looked at the graphs and pie charts resulting from the survey. However, as I decided to reopen the survey to gain more responses, you’ll find all the definitive graphs and pie charts in Part 2 and in this post.
In Part 2, we examined the results of the first survey questions in more detail as well as some of the comments made to explain respondents’ choices.
In this Part 3, we’ll look at the comments for the last three questions: Which of the four qualifications surveyed are more highly regarded by translators (1), by agencies (2) and by direct clients (3).
As many of you will know, a large part of my blog is dedicated to posts by guest writers reviewing their MA or MSc in translation or translation and interpreting. Budding translators often need help deciding which MA course to take and so they come here to read about previous students’ experiences and ask for advice.
Colleagues who haven’t followed the MA route but want to get qualified often wonder (in my circle at least) whether they should take the DipTrans, ITI or ATA exams. And some who have studied an MA feel they need to go a step further and take one of these exams as well. Consequently, knowing which of these four qualifications is more likely to get them translation work would be helpful. Hence the reason for this survey.
One of the challenges many translators face is finding good professional development courses that suit their needs. This is even more challenging if you want to study them in a language other than English or the language spoken in the country where you live.
As an English and Dutch into Italian translator living in Amsterdam, I know the struggle.
Fortunately, the courses by the Italian company CTI – Communication Trend Italia came highly recommended by both fellow university students and renowned experienced translators. They are also recognized by the Italian translator’s association AITI.
Back in February last year, I asked you all to answer some questions about translation qualifications in a survey. I kept extending the deadline because I was hoping for more responses. And then when I should have being doing a write-up of the results, Brexit and the UK general election, family issues and the ever-present threat of the climate emergency filled my head and my spare time leaving me with no energy or enthusiasm for the blog.
Now that we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, my work has all but come to a halt so at least I can finally get around to thanking everyone who took part in the survey and giving you the results.
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.