On Translators

This post originally appeared on Kevin L. Hull’s blog and it is republished with permission.

This post is an assignment I did in English 101 in the summer of 2017, and I would like to share it with the world. The assignment was to do a paper on careers, and I did mine on translators. I hope that those of you who hope to work in translation find this helpful.

I have to admit that I am having a hard time determining my career path! I haven’t even chosen a major! All I know is that I want to do something different from what I have been doing. For this reason, I have started researching careers that interest me, based on my interests, skills, and values. In this essay, I will analyze four articles related to the career of translating.

Review of “Interpreter and Translator”, by Sally Driscoll

The first article I will discuss is “Interpreter and Translator” by Sally Driscoll. In this article, she lists the interests, work environments, duties, and responsibilities of interpreters and translators. She shows how interpreters and translators differ. She gives the pay and growth rate of these occupations. She concludes by listing the education, training, and experiences that are helpful, even necessary, to become a translator or interpreter.

This article is meant to inform people about the professions of interpreter and translator, and it presents good ideas in a clear, coherent, and orderly manner. Her information has increased my interest in becoming a translator. Driscoll writes, “Interpreting and translating attract those who are linguistically gifted and enjoy foreign cultures. Translators tend to be introverts who prefer reading and writing…” (under “Occupational Interest” heading) Well, I am an introvert who loves other cultures, has considered being a writer since childhood, and enjoys reading.  Furthermore, I have a better idea of which courses I need to take should I decide to become a translator. Thus, my conclusion is that Driscoll has made her point well, and I would refer aspiring translators and interpreters to the article.

However, I do have a critique. Driscoll didn’t address global employability. While she  mentioned “Employment & Outlook: Faster Than Average Growth Expected”, she neither addressed whether or not red tape is reduced when translators seek work outside their home countries nor gave tips on where to seek foreign employment. Since she mentioned “foreign cultures” under “Interests’, this would imply that some translators would like to work outside their home country. So it would seem logical to reference it.

On the other hand, perhaps that topic was beyond the scope of the article. After all, she did mention the practicality of travel and study abroad programs, and said that sometimes internships are needed. Perhaps she included foreign employment under that umbrella.

Review of “Differentiated Instruction and Language-Specific Translation Training Textbooks”, by Anastasia Lakhtikova

The next article I will discuss is Anastasia Lakhtikova’s “Differentiated Instruction and Language-Specific Translation Training Textbooks”, in which she reviews two Russian language textbooks (Russian Translation: Theory and Practice by Edna Andrews and Elena Maximova; Introduction to Russian-English Translation by Natalia Strelkova) and one Spanish translation textbook, Manual of Spanish-English Translation by Kelly Washbourne. Lakhtikova is not impressed with Russian Translation, because she assesses that it contains a lot of dated exercises (such as a medical text from 1942, on p. 154) and requires an advanced level while marketing it to people with only two years of college Russian (p. 155). On the other hand, she highly praises Strelkova’s Introduction to Russian-English Translation, calling Strelkova “a Julia Child of translation giving enthusiastic advice to apprentices”, and “Students would find it useful to read it over and over again before going to bed” (p. 156). Lakhtikova also heaps praise on Washbourne’s Manual of Spanish-English Translation. She praises both as practical, but says that Washbourne’s work is even better, in that, unlike Strelkova’s, it is useful for translation students in general. That is, what Washbourne includes is useful even for translation students not working with Spanish, provided they find similarly-themed material to the stuff included in the exercises. Lakhtikova sees this as developing skills that translators use.

The purpose of this article is to inform readers on the quality of three translation textbooks, and it presents good ideas in an orderly, clear, and coherent manner. I find Lakhtikova’s tips to be useful in determining resources, should I embark on a journey to become a translator.   There are a number of things I like about Lakhtikova’s review of Introduction to Russian-English Translation. “Its discussion of written bureaucratese (i.e., administrative language) and colloquialisms is aimed at non-native Russian users…the text focuses on ‘accuracy’ (Chapter 3), ‘readability’ (Chapter 5), and ‘correctness’ (Chapter 6)” (p. 156), all of which is useful. However, due to my desire to be able to translate multiple languages, I particularly like the review of Manual of Spanish-English Translation. Since the latter book teaches the skills needed to actually do the work, and is applicable across languages, a multilingual translator could apply the principles to other languages as well. So, I think Lakhtikova made a good point.

However, this is not enough, in my opinion. Right now, this is just someone’s opinion. What I would like to know is what the rate of user satisfaction among both instructors and students is. I would like to know about research done on these textbooks, on whether or not they are effective.

Review of “Some Misconceptions Concerning Bilingualism and a Career in Translation”

The third article that I will discuss is “Some Misconceptions Concerning Bilingualism and a Career in Translation” by James Bell. The bottom line is that a career in translation requires more than bilingualism. First, the author mentions overhearing a conversation between two students who were complaining about their English Comp class. One student said that the English Comp class was one of the reasons that she was majoring in Spanish. She told her friend, “I want to teach Spanish, but if I can’t, after taking a couple of professional translation classes and being bilingual, I can always translate or interpret.” (p. 38). Bell arranged to meet with her later to clarify things. At that meeting, after telling her the average annual pay for translators and informing her that the industry is expanding, he told her that she has to have a good knowledge of both languages. The author then responds to a couple of the student’s questions. The first question was why translators need to translate into their native language, “since translation appeared to be a two-lane road…both leading to the same direction.” (p. 40). His answer was cultural knowledge, and that cultural misunderstandings can lead to misleading translations. The second question was, “So why am I going to take ‘Introduction to Professional Translation’ and ‘Advanced Professional Translation’ as part of my Spanish major?” (p. 41) Bell’s answer is that translation enhances Spanish learning (p. 41). He concludes by saying that the reference to “Professional” should be dropped from the course title.

In this article, the author tells readers a story in order to inform readers that there is more to being a translator than being bilingual. He tells the story and presents his information in a clear, coherent, and orderly manner. As someone who did not know what being a translator entails beyond bilingualism, I find this article enlightening. I have a strange feeling that the student and I are not the only ones. Because of this, I think this is good advice for aspiring translators. I especially like the following quotes from M. Eta Trabing’s article “Beyond Bilingualism”: “Having two languages does not make you a translator or interpreter any more than having two hands makes you a pianist” (quoted by Bell, p. 39); and “For translation you must know the target language (the one that you are translating into) in great depth, and your grammar, spelling, and punctuation should be nearly perfect.” (quoted by Bell, p.40). I see the point of the latter, in that, in my experience, knowledge of grammar in English has helped me learn other languages. I also like his mention of the need for cultural awareness: “Culture is arguably the main reason a translator, especially a beginning translator, should translate into his or her native language, rather than a second language.” (p. 40). Due to the existence of culture-specific terms and the existence of figures of speech, I find this advice to be wise. Furthermore, I like the fact that Bell takes the student’s objections seriously and replies to them. In my view, this makes him seem more informed. With his replies to the student, his mention of language competence in both languages, and his comment on the need to be culturally aware, Bell’s article gives direction on a couple of areas of knowledge that aspiring translators need to seek.

I do think, though, that the author could have given more information on what is needed to become a translator. My question is, “What else is needed to become a translator?” On the other hand, the author was responding to a specific incident, and trying to correct a misconception that one merely needs to be bilingual to be a translator: thus, that may be beyond the scope of the article. Ultimately, this article is helpful for those seeking to become translators.

Review of “What Does It Take to be a Good Translator?”

The last article that I will discuss is Jim Healey’s “What Does It Take to be a Good Translator?” In this article, Healey asks four professional translators their thoughts on a Parade article called “What People Earn”, from 15 April 2007. Healey’s questions focused on the line, “not all jobs require a four-year degree… ‘Some of the best opportunities are for workers with an associates degree or some kind of vocational training. One type of worker in particularly high demand is interpreter/translator.’” (quoted in Healey, p. 29). Among the translators, there is agreement that bilingualism is insufficient to be a translator. In addition, more than one mentioned the need for good writing skills and cross-cultural knowledge. However, they differed on the necessity of a college degree. Two of the translators, Dena Bugel-Shunra (a freelance translator specializing in IT and sub-specializing in legal translation [p. 29] ) and Lori Thicke (co-founder of Eurotexte, which was renamed Lexcelera [p. 32] ) said that a degree isn’t that important. Bugel-Shunra says that clients generally do not ask about degrees (p. 30); however, she recommends getting one for the societal advantages that it gives (p. 31). Thicke says, “In the 20 years since I moved to Paris and co-founded Eurotexte (now known as Lexcelera), I have noticed that certain characteristics are shared by virtually all good translators, and that a degree in translation is not one of them.” (p. 33) She then goes on to list seven traits she feels define a good translator better than any degree. On the other hand, Cliff Landers (a freelance literary translator) and Donald Barabe (vice president, professional services, at the Canadian Federal Translation Bureau [p. 29] ) say that a degree is required. Landers is concerned that a lack of degree sends the message that one only needs to be bilingual to be a good translator. Barabe, observing declining language skills among the younger generation, says, “Recruits not having the basic skills normally acquired by a three-year university program in translation require additional training and supervised coaching.” (p. 35). Barabe then continues by discussing the Translation Bureau’s training program. The article concludes with Healey’s summing up his findings, with the following conclusion: “It becomes clear that there is no single path to becoming a qualified and successful translator. The profession has many avenues of entrance, not to mention the hard work, discipline, dedication, sacrifice and a love of languages that accompany this career choice.” (p. 36)

The purpose of this article is to inform readers: in particular, to analyze a claim made about the translation industry, and it was written in a clear, consistent, and orderly manner. I find Thicke’s aforementioned list of traits of good translators to be helpful. These traits are intelligence, discrimination (that is, between literal and figurative language), ethics (specifically quality work), writing style, experience in the source language culture, continuing access to the target language, and specialized knowledge (pp. 33-34). Concerning writing style, she says, “Good translators are good writers…often better writers than the original authors.” (p. 34) Since Landers also mentions cultural experience, I would like to share his thoughts on the topic: “Familiarity with German culture is likely to be more valuable in translating an Austrian novel than a Dutch one, and all but useless if the work is from Albania.” (p. 32) Not only do the translators clarify the misconceptions in the Parade article, they also give aspiring translators direction and advice on what they DO need. I think that with the advice given here, aspiring translators will have information to make plans on how to obtain their goal.

I also like that both opinions on the necessity of a degree were given. This allows people to make their own judgments based on their own personal situations. My personal opinion is that it is better to get the degree, in that it won’t hurt. In addition, the degree will increase employment prospects. Furthermore, getting the degree can help with specialization, something that Thicke mentioned helps make a good translator. (p. 34)

Concluding Thoughts

Having reviewed these articles, I find myself more informed on the translation industry. As I mentioned in my review of “Interpreter and Translator”, I have an interest in other languages and countries. This is what got me interested in the profession in the first place. However, as a couple of the articles revealed, bilingualism is not enough to be a translator. I have also learned skills about the skills that I need to become a translator, and thus am better prepared to take the steps needed to move in that direction. I still remain undecided, but I plan on taking my courses in such a way that being a translator is an option. Even as I have found these articles useful, I believe that they will be useful to other undecided students who are considering becoming translators.

Works Cited:

Bell, James. “Some Common Misconceptions Concerning Bilingualism and a Career in Translation”. Journal of the Georgia Philological Association, 2008, pp. 38-42

Driscoll, Sally. “Interpreter and Translator”. Salem Press Encyclopedia, January 2016

Healey, Jim. “What Does It Take To Be A Good translator?”. MultiLingual, Vol. 18 Issue 5, July/Aug. 2007, pp. 29-36

Lakhtikova, Anastasia. “Differentiated Instruction and Language-Specific Translation Training Textbooks”.  Translation & Interpreting Studies: The Journal of the American Translation & Interpreting Studies Association, Vol. 10 Issue 1, 2015, pp. 153-160

Six International Language Associations to Join

Language associations are a great way to connect with people of different backgrounds who share a similar appreciation for learning foreign languages. By joining a language association, you have the opportunity to engage with speakers at various levels of proficiency and practice your language skills with native speakers. You’re probably already familiar with the American Translators Association since this blog is run by ATA volunteers, but what about other international associations for languages?

Learning a new language can be very difficult and it’s also a challenge to maintain proficiency. Language associations allow you to stay proficient in the languages you have worked so hard to master while also connecting with new people.

If you’re looking to improve and increase your foreign language skills, take a look at these six international language associations you should join!

  1. The International Language Association (ICC)

The International Certificate Conference (ICC) is a non-government organization that sets the standards for a transnational network of language learners. This international language association offers foreign language teaching and learning with exchange of ideas and culture.

This association provides the following to its learners:

  • Proven expertise in projects
  • Quality assurance
  • Networking
  • Theory and practice
  • Personal development
  • Independent voice

As a platform for ideas, projects, teachers, and courses, the ICC encourages research and development in language teaching by collaboration. In addition, the ICC has a local impact, representing the field of language learning and teaching, and promotes quality in both aspects.

  1. American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)

The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) is committed to the improvement and expansion of the teaching and learning of all languages at varying levels of instruction. Established in 1967, this organization now has over 13,000 members including language educators and administrators ranging from elementary through graduate education, with some holding positions in government and industry.

The ACTFL strives to advance the value of world languages and empower learners to become linguistically and culturally competent through the following strategic priorities:

  • Equity, diversity, and inclusion
  • Outreach and advocacy
  • Teacher recruitment and retention
  • Professional development
  • Research

If you’re looking to make your mark on the language education field, become a member of the ACTFL today.

  1. Association of Departments of Foreign Languages (ADFL)

The Association of Departments of Foreign Language (ADFL) supports the language, literature, and cultural studies communities in the United States and Canada. This association has a broad range of members, with representatives of departments and programs in diverse languages at postsecondary institutions.

The ADFL membership base provides a network to review the issues faced by language-related humanities fields and works to develop solutions and fieldwide policies. Through seminars, journals, discussion lists, and their website, the ADFL provides a forum for collegial exchange about important issues and legislation that affects the field of work.

Looking to find out more information about the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages? Check out the ADFL website.

  1. The Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations (AFMLTA)

The Australian Federation of Modern Language Teachers Associations (AFMLTA) is a professional body that represents educators of all languages in Australia. This association strives to provide vision, leadership, representation, advocacy, and support for promoting quality foreign language teaching and learning.

The AFMLTA strategic plan outlines actions they intend to complete in order to achieve their goals and support their members in the following key areas:

  • Member services
  • Governance and operations
  • Leadership and representation
  • Research and professional practice

For additional information on the AFMLTA and membership opportunities, contact the AFMLTA team.

  1. Association for Language Learning (ALL)

The Association for Language Learning (ALL) is an independent registered charity and the United Kingdom’s major subject association for individuals involved in the teaching of foreign language at varying levels of proficiency. It is their goal to represent and support language teachers and their ongoing professional development. The ALL supports their members by offering opportunities to access local, regional, and national training or networking events.

Founded in 1990, ALL is run by teachers for teachers and consists of thousands of members across the United Kingdom and further afield. To learn more about how the Association for Language Learning can help to improve your foreign language skills, check out the ALL website.

  1. Association of University Language Centers (AULC)

The Association of University Language Centers (AULC) is an organization for staff working in language departments and centers located in the United Kingdom and Ireland. With approximately 70 universities as current members, the AULC provides opportunities for networking for all staff involved in management, teaching, and resources.

The major goals of the association include:

  • To encourage and foster good practice and innovation in language learning and teaching
  • Effective resource management and administration
  • To conduct regular meetings to facilitate discussion and an exchange of information on the diverse activities hosted by the various language centers
  • To facilitate contacts with university departments internationally
  • To monitor emerging international and national language standards and work to develop quality assurance mechanisms

To learn more about their membership guidelines, check out the AULC site.

About the author

Molly Downey works with the Kent State Master of Arts in Translation program. This department provides a variety of courses in foreign languages, cultures, and literatures.  

Teacher’s Top Ten: Business Practices

One of the main reasons we encourage students to join ATA is to take advantage of the wellspring of knowledge surrounding best practices—the kind that make working for yourself a smooth ride rather than one riddled with potholes.

Over the years, I have assembled a collection of ATA materials that I share with students and mentees alike. Because when we present ourselves as professionals, we all benefit.

Here then are my top ten professional business practices resources:

10. Questions to Ask Before Accepting a Project This blog post gets you started building a checklist that you should consult when communicating with a client about a potential project. I had a checklist next to my phone for years until I committed it to memory.

09. Translation Certificate vs. Certification This one pairs nicely with What is a Certified Translation. If you’re still confused about the difference between a certificate, certification and a certified translation after reading this, go back and read them again.

08. “Hot” Specializations Past President Corinne McKay takes on the question of specializing in her ATA Chronicle column.

07. Transitioning from Classroom to Career in Translation A free ATA webinar from someone who made the transition herself, packed with practical information.

06. Tips For Navigating Your First ATA Conference A rite of passage for many students, the ATA Conference is a transformational experience that for many marks the beginning of their professional career. Because it’s an investment, it’s a good idea to come prepared, which is what this free ATA webinar does.

05. Preparing to take the ATA Certification Exam While it’s intended to be a mid-career exam, many talented students will sit for the exam after a few years. Watching this free ATA webinar will give you an idea of whether you are ready to take the exam, and how to prepare for it if you are ready to take the plunge.

04. ATA Compensation Survey (the Executive Summary is free, and the full report is available to members) One of the hardest issues T&I practitioners wrestle with is how much to charge. The ATA compensation survey provides a context for understanding what colleagues are charging. The full survey breaks things down by language and geography, and is also useful for influencing policy makers. Be sure to spend some quality time with it before you get to number 3:

03. Is This Still Worth It? A classic article by veteran translator Jonathan Hine that walks you through the full process of setting your rates. Bonus hint: look on the ATA website for the US CalPro Worksheet, a spreadsheet file that does the math for you.

02. ATA Guide to a Translation Services Agreement and ATA Guide to an Interpreting Services Agreement Free, editable downloads of modular contract language that you can include and customize to meet your own needs and situation.

And the number one resource I want every student of translation and interpreting to have:

01. The ATA Code of Ethics and Professional Practice and Commentary Far from being a dry, lifeless legal document, the ATA CEPP embodies our professionalism. The accompanying commentary is a living document that illustrates the concepts with easy-to-grasp situations. Since you signed on to uphold it when you joined ATA, you should probably be very familiar with it—and bookmark it.

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About the author: Caitilin Walsh is an ATA-Certified French-English translator who delights in producing publication-quality translations for the computer industry and food lovers alike. A graduate of Willamette University (OR) and the Université de Strasbourg (France), and a past-President of the American Translators Association, she currently chairs the ATA Education & Pedagogy Committee. She brings her strong opinions on professionalism as an instructor of Ethics and Business Practices at the Translation and Interpreting Institute at Bellevue College, Chair of the T&I Advisory Committee for the Puget Sound Skills Center (both in Washington State), the ALC Bridge Committee, and the Executive Board of the Joint National Committee for Language (JNCL-NCLIS). When not at her computer, she can be found pursuing creative endeavors from orchestra to the kitchen. She can be emailed at cwalsh@nwlink.com, and you can follow her on Twitter @caitilinwalsh.

What professors don’t teach you about translating professionally

During my undergraduate degree in translation, I felt like I was very prepared for a career in translation. I excelled in my language classes and the translation classes prepared me to thoroughly read a translation brief and identify tone, audience, and purpose so that I could carefully craft a beautiful translation. What more is there to know?

Oh, how unprepared was I… While translation programs are great when it comes to language mediation and translation theory, they seem to be lacking in the areas of client acquisition, marketing, payment practices, and starting a freelance business. (This is my personal experience; however, I have heard similar thoughts from other newly graduated translators.)

As a recent graduate and newbie freelance translator, I felt lost when it came to anything outside the realm of language. So, through lots of research in forums, books, blogs, and translators’ websites, I learned the fundamentals of being a professional translator. I am still learning, but here are some of the concepts that I wish I had known before I graduated:

You will not be translating for 40 hours a week

When I imagined working as a freelancer, I thought of myself translating away for eight hours a day. Little did I know that a lot of my time would actually be spent talking with clients, managing invoices, surfing translation job boards, updating/creating my website, and much more. I really only spend about half my time translating.

You will be an entrepreneur

Freelancing sounds amazing; you don’t have a boss and you work the hours you want. In that same regard though, if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Learning to manage my time took a while and motivating myself to get up early to work even if I don’t have a project to do that day is hard.

Success doesn’t happen overnight

Getting established as a freelancer takes time. Sometimes you will work for a client that has a tight deadline and you will stay up late and wake up early to finish the project. Yet other times, you will not have any paid work in the pipeline. I learned that putting myself out there often was absolutely necessary if I wanted to find more agencies to work with. Patience is a trait I have been learning to lean on.

You should file as a business and pay taxes

As an entrepreneur, you will have to organize your own business. Whether you decide to create an LLC, a corporation, or a sole proprietorship, you must establish your business in the state that you do business in. Make sure that you do your research to figure out which business filing is best for you. Being a business owner was something I never even thought about during my studies.

You will also have to do your own taxes for the business and pay yearly, quarterly, etc. This can seem very daunting, so hiring a professional accountant to help might not be such a bad idea.

You have to find your own clients

As I said before, you have to keep putting yourself out there, because otherwise no one will know that you even exist. I cannot count the number of agencies I have contacted asking if they need translators in my language pair and then heard nothing back. Researching prospects takes a lot of time but will be worth it.

This also means that having a website and an online presence is essential so that potential clients can find you. Even just having an updated and professional LinkedIn profile is important.

Money matters

I didn’t have one class that talked about what we were all wondering about: money. In the translation industry, it is almost taboo to talk about what to charge because of price fixing. Yet this means that when I started out I didn’t know if I should be charging 2 cookies a word or 20 cookies a word, or if I should charge by the hour. How could I calculate that? Through more research and the help of Corinne McKay’s ‘Deciding what to charge’ worksheet I was able to realistically get an idea of what I can charge and still pay rent.

Accepting payments is also something I never thought about. I’d do the project, the client would send the money, and that’s it. Not so simple. Some agencies only send payments through PayPal or TransferWise, but others will pay you through bank wire transfer. Figure out which option works best for you and your clients. Sometimes wire transfers are too expensive, and PayPal doesn’t accept all currencies. In the end, it takes money to make money, so finding a completely free option might be hard or unsafe.

In reality, the argument for why translation programs don’t teach about the business side of translation is that they are teaching you how to translate, not how to run a business, which I understand as well. So, to the translators who are still pursuing a degree in translation: ask your professors questions about the profession while you still have the time. I sat down with one of my advisors and asked a lot of questions at the end of my last semester, which helped immensely. Read through the great resources for translators out there (The Savvy Newcomer!) and start networking with established translators who may be able to guide you in your first year.

About the author

Olivia Albrecht is a French and Spanish to English translator and copywriter specialized in marketing and tourism. She has a B.S. from Kent State University in translation studies and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in digital marketing. She splits her time between living in Canton, Ohio, US and Cali, Colombia. You can find out more about Olivia on her website at www.oneglobetranslation.com or on Twitter at @OneGlobeTR.

 

The Monterey Institute: A Translator’s Tale

The purpose of this post is to help you answer the question: Is it worth it for me to get a degree in translation? By degree, I mean a formal, one- or two-year academic program that teaches the theory and practice of translation. Clearly, the answer to the question will depend on the individual and their circumstances. To help you decide, I will describe my experiences at the two-year master’s degree program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey in California (MIIS), way back in the late eighties.

Two caveats come with this post. First and foremost, as I’ve just said, I attended the institute back in the Jurassic Period, when it was still known as the Monterey Institute. I’m sure the school has changed its curriculum and its entire program to some degree. Yet I still think it will be valid for me to talk about the teaching methods, the organization of the program, and the benefits I derived from attending.

The second caveat is that you should not assume I believe that a specialized degree in translation is the only way to go. A fair number of us have arrived at the destination of professional translation through many a winding turn and side road. I am certain that plenty of excellent translators out there never attended such a program. For me, however, the experience proved essential.

When I was at the Monterey Institute, the translation and interpretation program was divided into two years of two semesters each. Candidates had to pass a screening process that included demonstrating fluency in at least one other language, their B language. Your A language is your native language (not necessarily English), a third language is your C language, and so on.

The first year was devoted to honing English skills through exercises that taught us how to analyze a text, and introducing us to the various methods of interpretation: sight translation, consecutive interpreting, and simultaneous interpreting. We also learned how to translate. Translators who learn on the job can certainly figure out an approach to their craft, but I am grateful that I had experts teaching me exactly how to read a text, how many passes to go through to produce a final translation, and what each pass should consist of.

At the end of the first year, I opted for the translation-only track. Classes consisted of small groups of six or seven students; we would go around in a circle reading aloud one section of a translation we had prepared in advance as homework. One class was technical translation into and out of the foreign language; the other was general texts in the same two directions. “Technical” texts included anything from an article on local area networks to a description of the Chernobyl disaster. “General” texts tended toward international affairs and politics because many of the teachers worked for the European Union. They were practicing translators and interpreters, able to give us critical exposure to real-life skills and methods.

Meeting in small groups meant everyone had to participate, and everyone was able to receive feedback from professionals. Working into our B and C languages provided useful insights into why those languages use the styles they do, and how to go about molding them to fit the usage norms of our native languages. I think it would be difficult or impossible to reproduce these aspects of the program on your own.

The Monterey Institute teaches students to be generalists, on the theory that if you know how to research a topic and how to translate, the specializations will come as you build your career. This training contrasts with that of translators who have received degrees in a specialized field such as law or biology, most likely in their native language, and then learned how to translate as they went along. Ideally, a student would have both types of education, in a much longer academic program combining undergraduate and graduate studies. But life is rarely ideal. A college education requires a great deal of time and money. My own view is that while a master’s degree in translation is not essential to becoming a translator, a bachelor’s degree certainly is. Four years of undergraduate work provide the exposure to the wide breadth of basic knowledge that translators need to understand the texts they are translating.

Another benefit of the Monterey program is what I think of as the network effect. Because of the professional connections with the EU and Brussels, graduates often moved to Brussels with their degrees to begin work. When a friend from my class and I did the same, we had three instant contacts in the city to show us the ropes. As with any college program, you get to know a group of people, and they become potential job connections, along with the school’s alumni.

A graduate degree program is not feasible for everyone. I was fortunate to have attended the Monterey Institute; I learned lessons and gained experiences that I never would have otherwise. Luckily for all of us, a plethora of online and in-person training programs and courses also exists to help us perfect our craft.

Image credit: Pixabay

Author bio

After graduating from the Monterey Institute, Diana Rhudick worked briefly in Brussels as a translator before returning to the States to teach and start her freelance career. Following a short stint as a translation agency project manager, she began her own translation and editing business.

Currently, she divides her time between her freelance work and project management for a boutique translation company.