Last week’s post resulted in a healthy debate on the importance of having a higher degree in translation or not, and consequently, on what universities courses lack. So I had the idea of writing about this lack.
I remember my first translation project ever. It was for a translation agency, a PowerPoint presentation. As a newbie, I did not have any CAT tools yet, so I was translating and adjusting formatting. Let’s face it: a PowerPoint preso isn’t a translator’s best friend, especially when the poor thing (the translator, I mean) does not have any experience at all.
However, so far, so good.
The problem was that there were non-editable images on the file. I panicked. Tight deadline, weekend, and I had no clue of how to translate those images! I did not know what to do. It was a Saturday night so it was not possible to contact anyone from the agency for help. I ended up inserting the translation on top of the image.
Cutting the story short, the project was later returned to me, because I obviously didn’t know (and how should I?) that non-editable images should be translated on the comments area. At that time, that was exactly what I thought: “How should I know? Nobody ever told me that!”
That’s right, a BA nor an MA in Translation will teach you practical things you should know when actually working as a translator.
Is that a problem? Is that something those courses lack? I’m not sure.
Usually, university teachers are academics, researchers, not professional translators. Lectures are theory-oriented or practical, but toward the translation act itself. You translate and, at most, you learn one thing or two about one or two CAT tools. That’s it. No project management, no handling projects, no accounting, no branding/advertising.
How are you supposed to know all those things then? Practicing. Or attending extracurricular classes, courses, conferences, events, lectures, reading blogs, joining professional groups, asking, researching, and so on. In other words, going out there and getting it yourself, not waiting for it to fall from the sky on your laps.
This is not such a big deal. The internet makes it quite simple actually. You just need to be willing to spare some time to engage on social media and the like.
Here are a few tips on how to learn those things:
- Follow people (translators, agencies, companies) on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.). There are also some specific Facebook groups for translators you can possibly join. They offer great tips and discussions, and allow you to ask your own questions to all the members.
- Follow translation blogs. You can find all sorts of useful information on blog posts.
- Participate in translation events, like conferences, symposiums, etc. Social media can also help you stay tuned on events being held near you.
- Make the most of your degree. Check if your university offers extracurricular activities that may interest you.
- And last, but not least, engage with people, network. Ask when in doubt. Always try to learn from the experience of others.
It would indeed be perfect if universities offered a practical lecture on management and dealing with clients, or if there was a management specialization on translation. But since that is not the case (yet?), we have to do our part and chase it ourselves.
Story of a Translation Student: You are in Control of Your Life
What are your thoughts on this matter?