Translation is a Profession, Too.
In Part 1 of Translation is a Profession, Too, we looked at one of the quintessential conundrums in the translation profession: that despite having all the hallmarks of a profession, translators are not accorded the respect, and often not the level of payment, that a professional should be able to expect. We analysed the causes for this situation, enumerated what it means to be a professional, and looked at the two key pitfalls – the Dunning-Kruger Effect, and Impostor Syndrome.
In Part 2 we’ll look at some of the methods and resources a young translator can use to edge towards true professionalism, to earn respect, and to earn a higher income.
So assuming we’re agreed that the idea is to edge towards true professionalism, there are various different approaches to take (and this isn’t an exhaustive list):
- Post-grad courses
But before we look at each of these in more detail, it’s worth noting the one overall thing we need to do: we need to adopt a mindset of continuous learning. All of the ways we’ll look at below are about learning; the world translation market is growing; the technologies involved are racing forwards; the sub-types of translation are multiplying and growing into entire separate specialisations. It’s an exciting time to be in this profession – and to stay in it, we need to keep learning.
Attending conferences, either as a participant, or as a speaker, is a great way to get up to speed with what’s going on in the industry, and to let people know about you. This is just a selection of the translation and interpreting conferences we have had in the last 18 months:
And there are many more – smaller, local to you, cheaper to attend; bigger, international, expensive to attend and invaluable for contacts and learnings.
There are the geekfests, for becoming experts at using CAT systems, such as MemoQ Fest. There are there international ones, such as GALA. There are national ones, like UTIC (Ukraine) and Translation Forum Russia. All of these events will provide an amazing experience and give you a different level of understanding of the profession – a level that many of your less active competitors won’t have.
A number of language service providers provide internship opportunities, Eclectic Translations included. They are a great opportunity to gain experience in a variety of fields, even fields you will never want to go back to again! My only internship was in the House of Commons in England. I worked there for 3 days when I was 16. It was fascinating. It was an amazing building to be in, full of politicians that you’d see every day in the news. But it was bloody awful. And I realized that no, I don’t want to be prime minister, thanks.
Anyway, investigate and sign up for internships, anything from a week to 3 months – you can even sometimes get paid for them.
Volunteer projects are more on-going opportunities, for after you’ve done your internships. Look out for worthy projects that you could be interested in volunteering for – there’s so much that needs a volunteer’s help. For example, you could work for local charities as a translator. You can join Translators without Borders. You can translate the subtitles for TED talks. There are non-commercial events, like film festivals – Message to Man happens every year in St. Petersburg. There are things like the St Petersburg International Economic Forum – a great opportunity to use your language in real life.
You can get online and explore websites like idealist.org – you’ll find jobs there that meet your ideals, and opportunities to contribute. The United Nations has an internship program, if you want to improve your CV, that’s a great place to start. There’s translationsforprogress – another volunteer site. All of these opportunities allow you to assist on and off, you don’t have to commit long term. You’ll get direct practice, learn to work with other people, find areas that you’re good and, and those where you’re not so strong.
This is one of the most important things for Eclectic as a company. This is what feedback looks like:
You submitted a file you’ve translated, somebody – an editor – has gone through it after you, they’ve made comments about you not researching someone’s name, they’ve changed your carefully selected words, picked up a few typos, changed ‘roubles’ to RUB. Then a proofreader went over it, too – they copy-pasted things around! They changed the word order! They accepted a bunch of the editor’s comments!
A bloody mess, isn’t it?
Not all translation companies will give you feedback, and certainly not this detailed. But you must ask for it; the nature of being a freelancer means you’re unlikely to get many other learning opportunities. But learn from feedback you must, no matter how hard it is to look at the mess on the page. Despite your first conviction, that they’re stupid, you’ll soon find out that they have their reasons. Context. Client requirements. Historic errors, carried forward. Personal preference. Whatever. So, let down the barrier, put your ego to bed, and go and ask – why did you change this? I thought this was the right way to spell that person’s name? How did the decision get taken to change this to that? Insist on feedback, ask questions, you’ll learn, you’ll get better – and you’ll be able to charge more for your services.
Next week, in Part 3, we’ll look at the last four items in the list, by which time you’ll have a full instruction manual for reaching true professionalism in the translation industry.