Careers: Getting into specialised translation

Careers: Getting into specialised translation "Could it be that you forgot something?" by Zeptonn

This article was written by Richard Delaney, published on 25th March 2012 and has been read 8030 times.

If you have spent a year abroad, the chances are that your language skills are fairly good. Let’s face it, if you didn’t have an interest in the language(s) and culture of your chosen country/ies, you probably would never have bothered going abroad for a year in the first place. Clearly languages are useful in just about every line of work, but have you considered turning your language skills into your main asset?

Making languages your prime asset

Most people see languages as a nice addition to their skill set, but do not think much more about them. In my case, I had planned on a career in law; being fluent in German probably wasn’t going to do any harm, but it was not really going to be a unique selling point either (although my first job after Bar School was at the Berlin offices of an English law firm). I had never considered working as a translator. However, as I was working with English speaking clients in a German environment, I found that I actually quite enjoyed the challenges of translating the various legal documents. This was compounded when we were compelled to get some documents translated professionally, and the translation displayed quite clearly that the translator did not actually understand the subject matter.  

Subject-specific knowledge - medicine, law, etc.

What is needed for specialised translations is someone who has not just studied languages, but someone who has the subject specific knowledge in addition to the language skills. Whether it is a medicine graduate who would be ideally suited for medical translations, or the law graduate who decides to specialise in legal translation, if you have the language skills, then there is an alternative option available to you. This may not be the first consideration for many, as most people study a subject because they want to work in that job later. However, taking the example of law (as that is the area I am most familiar with), competition is fierce, and even many of those who are eminently well qualified have great difficulties finding the job they had envisaged. Others find, after a while, that the work is not all they had imagined it to be - whether it’s the repetitive nature of the work, the long hours or anything else, and change to a different career.

Getting a Masters in translation

This is perhaps the point where I ought to disclose a certain bias - I am a lecturer on an MA in Legal Translation at City University London (we also offer a range of other translation courses), and obviously I would recommend that anyone interested in a career in legal translation considers doing our MA, but there are over 70 specialised MAs in translation on offer in the UK, as well as a variety of other qualifications, such as the Diploma in Translation offered by the Chartered Institute of Linguists Educational Trust, so whatever your area of interest, you can probably find a course to suit you. Other points of call if you are interested in translation as a career are the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI) and the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL).

Useful links

I have included the web addresses for both the ITI and the CIOL, as well as the link to City University’s offer of translation courses, and my email address. If anyone would like to contact me about a career in translation, or legal translation in particular, feel free to do so:

City University London translation courses
Institute of Translation and Interpreting
Chartered Institute of Linguists Email Richard Delaney

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