I completed my MA in the Theory and Practice of Translation at SOAS last September 2015. I was eager to learn a subject that would be useful to my career, yet by the end of the year was disheartened by what little I felt I had gotten out of the program.
Don’t get me wrong, the lecturers were great and they wanted to help us learn. We covered translations of a variety of texts between Japanese and English, and I had a fantastic class with a PhD student who taught CAT tools like Trados and about Aegisub.
But I felt there was a core part missing from the course. Vocational lessons. Things we could use in the real world. 90% of the course was academically focused, and although might have been great for those who wish to become linguistics lecturers, it was not so great for the majority of students who wanted to become translators.
It wasn’t until now, 9 months later, that it finally clicked what was lacking, and what I need to do to succeed as a translator.
What an MA in Translation Doesn’t Teach You:
- How to approach clients/agencies.
- How to write an email to prospective clients (in English and Japanese).
- How to market yourself (especially as a beginner).
- How to write a translator’s resume (which is different from regular resume).
- How to set your rates.
- How to write an invoice.
- How to use online tools to find clients.
Basically, an MA in Translation won’t teach you how to make money out of translation.
You might think, of course it’s a linguistic degree not a business degree. Yet when you’re paying £7,000+ on a qualification (triple that for international students), you’re making an investment in your own future and expect some return on that investment. I understand it’s interesting to learn about the different theories of equivalence, but at the end of the day a translation agency aren’t going to care too much about the theory.
They want to know that you are a professional who can manage themselves and provide them with the best possible work for a good rate. That’s difficult when you’re not equipped with the right tools to be taken seriously, like a professional. These people don’t have time to hold your hand and explain how things in the translation industry works.
What You Can Do To Educate Yourself To Succeed
I recently signed up with Success RX run by Jenae Spry after watching a free webinar on Productivity in Translation. She provided a free consultation where we discussed my issues finding clients and provided some advice.
The content she has for freelance translators is focused on running a translation business, that seem so obvious now but didn’t click until she told me.
Here are some other resources I’ve found incredibly useful:
- Success RX (website)
- Production and Successful Translators/Interpreters (facebook group run by Jenae)
- Marketing Tips for Translators (the podcasts are great, and they suggest even more resources)
- How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator (book)
How I Plan to Continue to Develop Myself
As well as ever improving my Japanese and translation skills, I’m trying to work out what I enjoy translating the most and what I want to focus on as a translator.
I enjoy manual, and clear cut direct translation of documents. Yet I also enjoy marketing and SEO (search engine optimisation) and computers. Then again I love Japanese culture. It’s a strange mix to think that I could focus on technical, translating websites, and translate for tourism, yet those are the areas I find myself being drawn to more and more.
I’m working through the resources I mentioned above to build up my brand. I’m building my own website, investing in a better computer and software for translating (what I can afford as a beginner with little funds), and working on new ways to approach possible clients.
I’m also looking at a course in translation and interpreting (I’ve always wanted to become an interpreter), as well as some online courses on computing and SEO. My goal for this year is to take the JLPT N1 exam as well as attempt the ATA Certificate.
I have so many ideas and plans, and although I’m still just a beginner, I’m looking forward to road ahead and new possibilities.
I hope that anyone interested in a career in translation will think more about how they plan to get to their goal. It’s a complicated and difficult road to take, but an incredibly rewarding one too.