By Daniel Ángel, Senior Translator and Editor
To be honest, I have long wanted to talk about something that, even if it may be part of the past for some of us and largely known by those who are already in this translation industry, may be of real value for all those who are now trying to get into this crazy activity which is translating. My dear student friend, this post is for you. Everything you’ll read in this post from now on may seem a cliché to you; I will certainly go over old times but, when I was in your place, also with less problems to worry about and more hair (I don’t know yet if both are linked), I had countless doubts about what I would face after finishing my studies or what the translation industry would require from me… many doubts that I could not even imagine about what was to come.
May I call you Jerry? It will be easier in this way.
When you’re in college, you receive a great amount of pre-conceptions about translation that undoubtedly determines the professional you want to become once you finish this long race. The problem arises when those entrusted to teach you what involves translating do not know what is actually translating nowadays. I mean, I don’t want to generalize on this matter but in many Spanish universities the translation practice is taught without taking into account the actual needs in the job market; in other words, they usually put translation tools and job skills aside. I’m not only talking about TAO tools, but resources to run QA checks, creating reports, query processes, etc. Even how to manage time, how to make an invoice… real staff that you won’t find in any treatise on translation. When I was a student, I would have liked that the reality smashed me in the form of speech before it actually did, and even if I don’t like to give advice, I want you to know that:
- Fact #1: Translation is not limited to audiovisual or literary translation. When you tell someone that does not belong to our industry that you are a translator, the first thing she thinks is your job mainly consists of translating books and articles. I assume you know this is not the reality. In this industry, you will translate all kind of stuff, user manuals for printers, different sections of a photography web page, subtitles for a videogame launch teaser, or even the back cover of a porn movie (no kidding). Many of us really like the audiovisual translation and we would love to work with so many different formats, but I assure you that the rest of activities that comprise translation are equally exciting.
- Fact #2: Translating will let you earn a living. Don’t be fooled, of course you’ll make a living in some or other way. This job requires a great intellectual effort, that’s why I consider our daily work should be better waged (I guess like everybody), but it provides enough resources to live comfortably.
- Fact #3: Be very curious, after all you have to like it. At this point the main problem is that to be just a bit curious at least you need to know a little of how this industry works. As my colleague Cristina said in her previous post, get used to your computer, it will certainly become part of your daily job. You must be a little geek, investigate the different tools that may be useful for you, search for manuals or handbooks in order to master them in some way and get to understand gradually the expressions and vocabulary you may find in the translation industry. Get ready to practice: obtain a translation tool, refer to the user manual, try it out, translate a 100 words sample, and learn all keyboard shortcuts. Just by paying some attention you’ll learn minimal features present in any tool that will help you to translate and earn some money.
- Fact #4: Do not wait until finishing your studies. I must confess I am also a sinner. I see now that being too settled is not good. Try to take your first steps in the translation industry if your general circumstances let you so. I assure you demonstrating such an interest while studying makes a really good impression in this industry environment.
- Fact #5: You have to be quick off the mark. I think this could be applied to any job, but this is truly valuable here. Translating implies so many variables and different ways to work; you must absorb all knowledge in order not to be left behind. Translation processes and their assessment are currently under development and all companies from our industry always contribute to innovate in this issue. In conclusion, remember to stay always up-to-date.
- Bonus track: Google Translate won’t replace you as a translator, in fact it still needs you in order to be really useful (this is called post-editing, you will see it’s so funny).
At this point I guess you have reached to understand the reasons that drove me to warn you on what you may encounter. If you have already taken into account the previous facts or you even go beyond, congratulations. Otherwise, I just can say that you are still on time. Run, Jerry, run!