Hello everyone. This is my first blog post. I thought I’d start out with a little piece about why I chose to work as a translator, and what it means to me.
Translation wasn’t something that I went into straight out of university. It wasn’t even my favourite part of my undergraduate course. So how did I end up here, setting myself up as a freelance translator and putting myself through the gruelling DipTrans exams?
In fact, at first I was put off by the idea of translation. Everyone assumes that as a languages graduate you will go into teaching or translation. And I don’t like to follow other people’s expectations! When I pictured the translation industry I saw desks piled high with papers, a translator wading through reams of boring instruction manuals. That wasn’t me, I thought! I wanted to get out and see the world, I wanted to make the decisions, take the action – and I didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk!
That was my view at 22! I had adventures in mind and a world ahead of me. I didn’t want to follow the familiar route of teaching or translation… However, as it happens I ran out of money while volunteering in Mexico, and picked up the phone to a few language schools to see if I could land some temporary work TEFL teaching work.
I landed a job at a translation and language services company called Linguas, where I had my first taste of professional translation. In the main I worked as part of a small team on articles for tourist magazines and tourism brochures and products. This was a far cry from instruction manuals I had imagined. I enjoyed the writing process. In this field, the source language is important, but the creation of a natural and authentic English text is essential. The end product should be a text that is well-written and engaging, a text that cries out to be read. At Linguas I learned to work as part of a translation team, and being the only British English speaker – I learnt a lot about American English too.
Back in the UK, I was considering what to do next. I had friends who had gone down the Masters route and started working in the translation industry straight from university. They spoke of the high costs of the Masters course and the slow progression in their job roles. They explained that even after several years they had colleagues who weren’t actually doing any translation but just updating databases or proofreading.
Once again, I didn’t feel translation was for me. I started to hunt for a mythical job opportunity that combined my love of languages and my passion for international development. It didn’t quite happen, but I landed a role as a consultant with a multi-lingual recruitment agency and I enjoyed meeting the candidates and using my Spanish. In my free time I continued to do some freelance translation work on the side, working in a voluntary capacity for a Washington-based NGO, Echange and then later for Progressio.
Then suddenly I am married with a 2 year old son and have been volunteering in translation for over 3 years! I am looking at myself and my career and wondering what will I be doing for the next 10 years. Moving away from London for my husband’s job meant I left behind many opportunities for international roles – yes, including the mythical ones that I was originally after.
Now I wouldn’t change my life or swap back lovely Bristol for London town and I love being at home with my son… but I would love the opportunity to use my Spanish in a more challenging way that just the chit chat at home. I think about my skills, my experience, my interests and what would be a good career move for me in this next chapter of my life.
Then I realise that in fact all along translation as been an excellent fit for me. I just hadn’t realised it. I had been too focused on this image of the technical translator. I realise that translation is really about writing, and I love writing. Most of my jobs have included some amount of writing and more recently I’ve been blogging since my son was born about bringing up a bilingual family.
Going further back to pre university days, I start to remember my love of English as a school subject and my original interest in a career in journalism; the work experience that I did with a local paper. All this had got rather lost in an exitement to travel and discover the world, in my passion for foreign languages I had forgotten about my love for my own native tongue. I realise that translation could really be the right fit for me after all. I realise that I don’t have to be that person in my imagination, buried under piles of instruction manuals – I could go freelance. I could choose the clients I work with, I could focus on offering excellent customer service and really build up solid relationships with them. I would be the antidote to a faceless agency, where you never know who is working on your translation. I could make it all about the people. I could focus on brands and causes that I am passionate about.
All sounds great! I just need a qualification. Despite my experience, I do need that piece of paper. No problem. I find information about the DipTrans exam online. It seems a pretty straight forward route into the industry. I sign up for a course and register for the exam. No problem. I’ve been translating for over 5 years and I have an excellent level of Spanish, I’ll be fine. I know lots of friends who have passed the Masters with no problem. The DipTrans seems to be the MA equivalent without the massive price tag – excellent.
Shocker – I learn more about translation during my 6 month course, than in my all my practical experience! I realise to a much greater extent, the importance of good written English for success as a translator. I realise that the DipTrans is going to be a lot trickier than I imagined.
The DipTrans exams were in January 2015. I am now waiting for my results. In the meantime I have heard that my application for Professional Membership of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and reached the next level. They will let me take the entrance exam….. Watch this space!