A reader’s request for help

I recently received an email at the blog, and thought that it might be an interesting question to start a community discussion…

I have been considering doing a course in translation with a view to working as a freelance translator. I have been mulling over my options online. My background is I have a Combined Law degree in English and French Law from the University of Reading, with my ERASMUS year at the Universite de Paris X.
Can you advise on the best distance learning translation course to embark on? I live in London and am a mother to a young child, so I couldn’t possibly do full time. What are your thoughts on the Diploma in Translation (IoLETS) qualification? Yay? Nay? Better to enrol in a full Masters program?

All advice that you can offer will be welcome! Please comment below this post to share your views.

10 thoughts on “A reader’s request for help

  1. I assume the question mostly relates to legal translation. In my personal experience a degree in law supplemented by a sufficient command of a foreign language may be a good starting point to look for translation work straight away even without a translation degree. Generally if one were to work with decent agencies / other LSPs as a translator all work would then be checked by an editor to ensure quality (an editor would sometimes also be a lawyer or an experienced linguist). Happy to take the discussion offline and elaborate on further opportunities.

    • I would agree that there is nothing stopping you from seeking work in your field without further study of translation. What I would suggest, however, is that you seek out a course on the “mechanics” of translation. By that I mean the use of CAT tools, OCR readers to prepare texts, general computing skills, research techniques, and much more.
      There are countless ways of obtaining this information, formally, or in a more self-paced informal situation. I declare an interest here. My company, eCPD Webinars, has a stock of past webinars on these subjects and I invite you to look at what is on offer from the “past webinars” store. You may also wish to hone your language skills in an informal setting, rather than on a course. You could, of course, strive towards the DipTrans or join the ITI as an associate and work towards qualified membership.
      Personally I would recommend the latter.
      In fact the ITI runs an orientation course every year which explains a lot of what you need.
      Lucy Brooks (FCIL and MITI)

  2. I’m happy to speak up for the distance-learning Masters. (Like Lucy, I have to declare an interest: I am the programme director for a distance MA in Translation at the University of Bristol.)
    Among the benefits of an MA are that it gives a good preparation across the board: it combines the general practical translation skills with the application of theory, ethics and so on; and it also covers the industry and technology side of things.
    The MA at Bristol has dedicated units on CAT tools and the translation industry, as well as the language-specific practice and the applied theory. It’s also good on building research skills. So it’s a good grounding which is designed to equip you to go into the translation profession either in an in-house post or as a freelancer.
    It’s also a good place to network and begin to build up contacts for your future professional work.
    I hope this helps – there is more information about the Bristol MA in Translation course, in case anyone wants to look it up, at http://www.bristol.ac.uk/sml/courses/postgraduate/ma-translation.html. (Currently offered with Czech, French, German, Italian, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.)
    Good luck to the OP with finding the right course for you!

  3. While the MA and the DipTrans are often lumped together in the same breath, there is a world of difference between the two. The MA is a comprehensive course in translation, while the DipTrans is an exam. Of course you can do a course to prepare for the DipTrans, but it doesn’t represent a course in itself.

    There are myriad factors to take into account when choosing what to do (spare cash and time both being very important). In a nutshell, I think the DipTrans is a good option if you are already a competent translator, but without any relevant qualifications, as an exercise in strengthening your CV. On the other hand, the MA is a great option for people who are a) not yet competent translators and b) professionals who love what they do and want to study and learn more about translation as a discipline.

    To jump on the band wagon of offering links, I’ll be talking about my own experiences and insights gained in obtaining these two qualifications in a webinar on proz.com in February: http://www.proz.com/translator-training/course/9307-post_graduate_translation_qualifications%3A_diptrans_ma

    I also recommend this insightful blog post by Emma Goldsmith comparing the DipTrans and MITI exams: http://signsandsymptomsoftranslation.com/2013/06/11/diptrans-miti/

  4. Thanks so much to Nadya, Lucy, Carol and Gwenydd for their very helpful comments that are full of useful advice.

    Do keep the comments coming everyone – I think this post could turn into a nice resource for people asking the same question as the original reader.

  5. Hello everyone! I am the original poster and wish to thank you all very much for the very informative and insightful responses. I will be reading the links and blogs with great interest . Hopefully,I will make a decision soon and be able to report back on how I get on. Thanks again. Regards, Gbemi.

    • Hi Gbemi, I thought you may be interested in a real example. I was in a similar situation to you, in that I have a law and languages background (I am a solicitor with a degree in Spanish and Portuguese), and I wanted to move into translation, but living in London and having kids limited my options for full-time study.

      I decided to just take the plunge, and I’m happy to say that I was able to find freelance legal translation work straight away (although I do still offer some legal consultancy as well). I have been really enjoying building up my experience over the past year, and I have become much more confident as a translator with each project.

      Like you, I wanted to study, to improve my skills and background knowledge, and I went through the same dilemma regarding the choice of DipTrans or MA. In the end I chose the Bristol MA in Translation because it offers a great mix of practical skills and applied theory, and I really am loving it. It is also a part-time distance course, so perfectly possible to combine with work and family, and another major benefit is contact (albeit online) with other students who have many of the same questions, concerns, interests etc.

      Good luck with making a decision on your next move.

  6. Wow, Faye. Thanks very much for posting! You’re right, a real life example is great. It makes it seem eminently more doable. Good stuff!

  7. Hi Gbemi (nice to be able to address this to a real person now!)
    I’m the author of the blog post on Signs & Symptoms of Translation, comparing DipTrans and MITI that Gwenydd mentioned above. The DipTrans would be very challenging if you haven’t got much experience as a translator. You have to do three papers, but only one can be on law. If you want to do it, however, I recommend the Susan James on-line course http://www.translator-training.com/ . It’s reasonably priced and you can do it at your own pace.

    While I agree with Nadya and Lucy that you will soon find work with your combined English/French law degree without any further training, I think you’d find it very useful to get a grounding in translation skills and good business practices through an MA or other training resources such as eCPD Webinars, (check out the business course: http://www.ecpdwebinars.co.uk/page_2799144.html ).

    ITI offer a “career affiliate” category for people entering the translation industry from other careers: http://www.iti.org.uk/become-a-member/membership-categories/20-membership/360-career-affiliate . I think joining a professional translators’ association would provide you with great support, training and networking opportunities.
    Good luck!

    • Many thanks for your contribution Emma.

      It’s great that Gbemi has been able to get all this precious advice, and hopefully this page will also be a resource for others in her situation.

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