This week saw a really informative talk about careers in Translation from Andrea Majarrez who has just completed her MA in Translation at the University of Birmingham. She is now a Freelance Spanish Translator and Proofreader, and gave some tips for those interested in a career in translation. Having completed a degree in Madrid, she moved to Birmingham and became a private tutor and later support teaching staff in the city centre. However, she then discovered the MA at the University of Birmingham where she could use all of her knowledge and experience, stressing that you can always alter your career path when you find new things that interest you.

Here are some key points that Andrea mentioned, alongside examples from her talk:

  • Get a translation qualification. 90% of a places will ask for a qualification before hiring a translator, so it is important in most cases to have completed an MA in Translation / Interpreting or another similar qualification.
  • It is never too early to start getting experience. Experience can be very useful in terms of gaining new skills, references and contacts. Whilst she was completing her MA, Andrea gained a lot of experience translating from English to Spanish, both voluntary and paid. Her first experience was voluntary, translating talks on, adding subtitles to various projects. Through this, she learnt about subtitling and how it differs from other forms of translation. Other volunteering projects can be found with Amnesty International and Translators Without Borders. She also became a Spanish translator for Universitas 21, and became involved in a 6-month website translation project for the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues. It can be extremely helpful to get experiences in different areas to help you figure out what you would like to specialise in, or even whether you would like to specialise at all. You don’t necessarily need to specialise in an area you have a degree in as you would acquire vocabulary and expertise over time.
  • Consider whether freelance is for you. Freelance work is especially good when getting started as a translator because you can accept lots of different opportunities to gain experience. As a freelance translator, you can work for several companies, and it is good for those who may not want to specialise in a certain area of translation. In freelance, it is important to be flexible, and to appreciate that a lot of time may be spent looking for jobs and work may not always be constant.  However, there is a lot more freedom in terms of both what you choose to do and the working hours, unless the project has a strict deadline. Urgent work can involve long hours until it is completed, but these projects generally pay more.
  • Consider in-house as an alternative to freelance. In-house translators have steady working hours but it may not always be as well paid as freelance. Sometimes, a lot of experience is needed to work as an in-house translator, although it can be very helpful if you have already done a placement with a translation agency or company. These companies can include international organisations such as the EU, the UN, UNESCO, Unicef and NATO among others, but there are also much smaller translation agencies or businesses that hire in-house translators. For many of the big organisations, you need to know at least two other languages as well as your native language and complete a test as part of the application process.
  • Promote yourself through a blog or website. This is especially the case if you are freelance, but equally as a student of Translation seeking opportunities, it is helpful to have an online presence, whether this be a website or an updated LinkedIn page. This way, clients can more easily find you and those you apply to work for can see your previous work.
  • Keep up to date with opportunities by joining forums or associations. The main translation associations are the Chartered Institute of Linguists and the Institute of Translation & Interpreting. These associations have different membership grades to suit your level of experience, and can help you keep up to date with the profession and develop your skills. There are also websites where opportunities and agencies are listed such as TranslatorsCafé.

The final tip is to look to the future. As a translator, you never stop learning. There are always new projects, new technologies and new courses to do. By continuing to learn about different areas of the profession, you can make your own path within it and choose areas you are interested in. Translation is also becoming increasingly international, and Andrea has the ability to work with companies all over the world. This gives the opportunity to meet and learn from other translators with different experiences and perspectives – always keep an open mind.

-Written by Jessie Read, CAL SET Member and Modern Languages student.