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Translators on… brings together a collection of industry professionals, each sharing their experience and advice on certain topics of their career, offering a wider, more authoritative range of opinions than a single source. Want to know more about the series? Watch the launch video.


Following on from the last Translators on… post, which analysed how we can harness our personal linguistic experiences, we now move on to extracting the unique traits of our qualifications to form another building block in the value-added package we offer to our clients.

Amidst the profound soul-searching as to who you are and what your business stands for, it can be easy to forget that our uniqueness in professional terms needn’t come from interests close to our heart or an early vocation (misspent or otherwise) before you ever see the light of translation. You don’t need to have a mid-career revelation. Identifying a talent for translation early on can be hugely beneficial as you can make conscious choices about the pillars of your profession at degree stage.

The first step is to examine these choices retrospectively in order to identify where you and your contemporaries differ in academic terms. This is something that some of our contributors have come to recognise.
2B-1Going on to identify how the particular content of your particular course at that particular university, taught by those particular lecturers, makes you and the next translator (even with the same language combination) as different as chalk and cheese will do a world of good for you and the confidence you have in your business.

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Combining a qualification and residency in a source-language country is another gold star in my books. It is a time that can be spent laying the groundwork for your career by building links with a source-language area.

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But what if you don’t have a degree in translation? I’ve certainly had no problem building the career I have strived for without a postgraduate qualification. It’s not just in-house experience I credit this to, but my undergraduate language degree. Rather than filling my time up with pointless modules I had no interest it, I took on extra languages, specifically Dutch and Catalan. And my clients, particularly my agency ones, value the knowledge of these languages because I’m a one-stop-shop that they can rely on. My background also comes in handy for Flemish texts, which may contain French influences, or Catalonian ones, where it is not uncommon for a text to be written in Catalan and to change to Spanish half way through (or vice versa).

Even if you have fewer source languages, examine the other modules you studied on your undergraduate language degree. What knowledge did they equip you with that you can apply to certain fields of translation? And don’t forget to analyse the value of your year abroad.

The next instalment of Translators on… will look at how practical experience in other industries can form a solid foundation for a career in translation. We’ll also see what kind of role volunteer/pro bono translation plays in our career.