Army linguist to professional translator?
מפרסם התגובה: Susan McMillan

Susan McMillan  Identity Verified
ארצות הברית
Local time: 14:58
חבר (2017)
מערבית לאנגלית
+ ...
Jan 24, 2017

I’m an Arabic linguist in the U.S. Army Reserve. After completing 2.5 years of language and job training, I’m back to the civilian world and starting to look for work where I can use my language skills. I’d like to work at least part-time in translation, but I don’t know where to start.

Here’s what I have going for me, in my estimation:
- Strong Arabic reading skills (on my last DLPT I scored a 4 on the ILR scale)
- Excellent English writing and editing skills
... See more
I’m an Arabic linguist in the U.S. Army Reserve. After completing 2.5 years of language and job training, I’m back to the civilian world and starting to look for work where I can use my language skills. I’d like to work at least part-time in translation, but I don’t know where to start.

Here’s what I have going for me, in my estimation:
- Strong Arabic reading skills (on my last DLPT I scored a 4 on the ILR scale)
- Excellent English writing and editing skills (I was a newspaper reporter for six years and also edited and trained writers in various journalism contexts)
- AA in Arabic from the Defense Language Institute
- BA from a prestigious American university
- Specialized knowledge of journalism/media, education and politics based on my education and work experience

What I don’t have:
- Formal education in translation
- A translation credential of any kind
- Experience

Even though I haven’t done this before, I am fully confident that I can. I’m just looking for some guidance to get me going. For a variety of reasons, it’s not practical for me to go back to school right now, unless it’s online/local and reasonably short (i.e., less than a year). I do, however, have a bit of savings to live on for now, and I’ve been studying on my own to further improve my language skills.

So do I go after some sort of translation studies certificate? Should I do volunteer translation work to build experience? Are there translation certifications other than ATA (since that’s a “mid-career” credential)? Or do I just go for it and start looking for paid translation work?

I would appreciate advice on where to direct my energies.
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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
הונג קונג
Local time: 02:58
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2c Jan 24, 2017

None of what you don't have are necessary, although you should eventually plan to get all of them to some extent.

People have established careers based on far less on their resume than what you start with. You should be able to compete from the get-go in your fields of expertise and creating a presentable profile page is where you start. Expect at least a full year before you start to make more than you would at Walmart, then it gets easier from there if you're competent.


 

Roy OConnor (X)
Local time: 20:58
מגרמנית לאנגלית
Only part time Jan 24, 2017

As a student member of Proz I assume you are still young and have a long future ahead of you. Now I will probably get hammered from my colleagues for saying this, but there is no future in translating. I've been translating a long time and have seen the business dwindle due to the Internet and globalisation. By all means have a go part time, but you might do better in the long run if you concentrate more on using your language skills in the reporting field or in some international business activ... See more
As a student member of Proz I assume you are still young and have a long future ahead of you. Now I will probably get hammered from my colleagues for saying this, but there is no future in translating. I've been translating a long time and have seen the business dwindle due to the Internet and globalisation. By all means have a go part time, but you might do better in the long run if you concentrate more on using your language skills in the reporting field or in some international business activity. Also writing your own stuff is far more creative than just translating other people's work.

Whatever you decide, I wish you luck!

Roy
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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
דנמרק
Local time: 20:58
חבר (2003)
מדנית לאנגלית
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Play on all strings Jan 24, 2017

You have plenty going for you - experience is ultimately worth more than exam certificates in translating, and you already have proof that you can translate (and perhaps interpret?) in real-life situations.

I have no knowledge of the situation in the US or with Arabic specifically, but I am fairly certain there are plenty of business areas where you could find work.

I am at the end of my career, but wonder if that just means I will have better time to influence others
... See more
You have plenty going for you - experience is ultimately worth more than exam certificates in translating, and you already have proof that you can translate (and perhaps interpret?) in real-life situations.

I have no knowledge of the situation in the US or with Arabic specifically, but I am fairly certain there are plenty of business areas where you could find work.

I am at the end of my career, but wonder if that just means I will have better time to influence others and revive translation as a profession, not an industry. From my viewpoint, globalization is making it more and more necessary. Different, yes, but skilled translators are going to be needed for a long time. Machines can take over some of the routine work, but they are not going to be reliable enough to replace humans entirely for the next couple of decades at the very least.

Contact the ATA - they do a lot more than just provide credentials. Someone who knows the situation generally and can look at your qualifications specifically may be able to give you some advice.

Look in the directory on this site and see whether there are any colleagues you could approach specifically, who know about your languages.
You could start with the Moderators: http://www.proz.com/?sp=moderators&sp_mode=current_mods
Or the Mentors http://www.proz.com/pages/mentors

This site is all about giving and getting help, and they have volunteered specifically, but you will find many others who are happy to point you in the right direction if they know what you need.

Translation can be a very isolated profession, and that suits some of us just fine! Working part time as a translator suits others, as they find it combines well with teaching or practising in their specialist subject areas, or maybe something quite different. You have to find your own balance.

Best of luck!

[Edited at 2017-01-24 13:48 GMT]
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Susan McMillan  Identity Verified
ארצות הברית
Local time: 14:58
חבר (2017)
מערבית לאנגלית
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Re: student account Jan 24, 2017

I'm not technically a student, haha. I chose that account type because I thought it wouldn't be fair to call myself a professional when I've never been paid for a translation. But I guess I should change it — it's sort of the online equivalent of "dress for the job you want," right?

 

Miguel Carmona  Identity Verified
ארצות הברית
Local time: 11:58
מאנגלית לספרדית
... Jan 24, 2017

Why don't you get a mentor? Get a truly experienced Arabic-English translator to judge your translations. But please avoid somebody who is trying to get experience by mentoring! You can learn a lot that way, and see your degree of proficiency. In your case, I would even pay an experienced reviewer to take a look at my translations and get comments from a professional.

You have the Army courses, tests and scores, but you might find out that things are different in the private sector,
... See more
Why don't you get a mentor? Get a truly experienced Arabic-English translator to judge your translations. But please avoid somebody who is trying to get experience by mentoring! You can learn a lot that way, and see your degree of proficiency. In your case, I would even pay an experienced reviewer to take a look at my translations and get comments from a professional.

You have the Army courses, tests and scores, but you might find out that things are different in the private sector, for instance expected level of knowledge.
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philgoddard
ארצות הברית
חבר (2009)
מגרמנית לאנגלית
+ ...
You're extremely well qualified... Jan 24, 2017

... particularly as you're a native English speaker. Most Arabic to English is done by non-natives, so you're a rare commodity. I would

1. Play down your lack of formal translation training when you market yourself
2. Create a website and a proper ProZ profile with samples of your work (these are very important)
3. Invest a short time each day answering KudoZ questions to get yourself near the top of the rankings, so potential customers see you.

Good luck!


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
ספרד
Local time: 19:58
חבר (2007)
אנגלית
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Mentor, basic training and ProZ.com Jan 24, 2017

I don't know of any basic courses in your pair but maybe there's something online. It would be good to learn the techniques, e.g. how to deal with proper nouns, acronyms... Failing that, or in addition to it, formal mentoring or proofreading would be great. You need that sort of feedback to start with.

You also need to learn about running a business, if you haven't done that before, plus you need to get up to speed with CAT tools. You can get an awful lot of information here on Pro
... See more
I don't know of any basic courses in your pair but maybe there's something online. It would be good to learn the techniques, e.g. how to deal with proper nouns, acronyms... Failing that, or in addition to it, formal mentoring or proofreading would be great. You need that sort of feedback to start with.

You also need to learn about running a business, if you haven't done that before, plus you need to get up to speed with CAT tools. You can get an awful lot of information here on ProZ.com, especially as a paying member. There's a mentoring programme, for a start. So make really good use of the site, starting with the Site Guidance Centre. You'll see there's a great emphasis put on your profile, aka your shop window, and there's a free webinar to help you build an ace one.
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Susan McMillan  Identity Verified
ארצות הברית
Local time: 14:58
חבר (2017)
מערבית לאנגלית
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TOPIC STARTER
Thank you! Jan 25, 2017

Thanks to all of you for your advice. I will definitely work on my profile and look into finding a mentor. I'm really excited to get started!

 

Matthias Brombach  Identity Verified
גרמניה
Local time: 20:58
חבר (2007)
מהולנדית לגרמנית
+ ...
I agree Jan 25, 2017

philgoddard wrote:

Most Arabic to English is done by non-natives, so you're a rare commodity.


Perhaps you should concentrate on review / proofreading tasks resp. mentioning these services in your profile too, to gain first contacts with outsourcers.


Create a website and a proper ProZ profile

I would consider a profile name consisting of your real name, accompanied by a pro looking photograph (not looking like mine )

Invest a short time each day answering KudoZ questions to get yourself near the top of the rankings, so potential customers see you.


Excellent idea.
And perhaps you should also create a profile in relevant translator groups in the so-called social media (like FB, LinkedIn etc.), but don´t use them to share too much nonsense and kidding.
Your absolutele strength seems to be your practice in Arabic in the Army. Should be more worth than any degree gained in studying "Arabic literature in the age of the Caliphate of Córdoba".

[Edited at 2017-01-25 08:56 GMT]


 

Michael Wetzel  Identity Verified
גרמניה
Local time: 20:58
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Short-term you need to learn to translate ... Jan 25, 2017

... but I don't see any reason to do so through formal education. Read some books about translation and start practicing translating. You could do that through work for low-budget agencies or independently in the evenings, while supporting yourself through a temporary job.

Once you feel comfortable, you should make sure that everyone you know from your time in the Army and from your work as a journalist and from your BA program knows that you are translating and looking for translat
... See more
... but I don't see any reason to do so through formal education. Read some books about translation and start practicing translating. You could do that through work for low-budget agencies or independently in the evenings, while supporting yourself through a temporary job.

Once you feel comfortable, you should make sure that everyone you know from your time in the Army and from your work as a journalist and from your BA program knows that you are translating and looking for translation work. Rather than ProZ, I would concentrate more on LinkedIn or Facebook and groups there that are directly relevant to you. And you need to actively pursue clients that you are well-suited to help. I can't imagine there isn't a great market of direct clients or possibly niche-agencies and outsourcing colleagues who would be very happy to have a native-English Arabic to English translator with a background in the military (obviously) or journalism (I would guess many Arabic news sources have a lot of material translated into English).

And what exactly is an army linguist if you have been one and have zero experience translating?
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Susan McMillan  Identity Verified
ארצות הברית
Local time: 14:58
חבר (2017)
מערבית לאנגלית
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
the nature of Army work... Jan 25, 2017

Michael Wetzel wrote:

And what exactly is an army linguist if you have been one and have zero experience translating?


Army linguists do translate, but I have two issues with counting that as experience:
1. My entire service in the Army thus far has been in training, so all translation work I've done has been in a classroom setting, not a professional context.
2. The translations I did as part of my training are all classified.


 

Miguel Carmona  Identity Verified
ארצות הברית
Local time: 11:58
מאנגלית לספרדית
... Jan 25, 2017

Susan McMillan wrote:

Michael Wetzel wrote:

And what exactly is an army linguist if you have been one and have zero experience translating?


Army linguists do translate, but I have two issues with counting that as experience:
1. My entire service in the Army thus far has been in training, so all translation work I've done has been in a classroom setting, not a professional context.


@Susan,

Your honesty is worth gold. You are not trying to embellish or exaggerate what you have achieved so far. You are on a very solid basis to continue putting together all you will need for your translation career.

All the best.

P.S. In case you do not know, there is an Arabic forum on ProZ. At the bottom of this page there is a link: Non-English forums, then click on Arabic, and lastly on View forum.

You might try posting in Arabic to discuss Arabic-English translation matters and, why not? to see how well you communicate with others in your second language.

[Edited at 2017-01-25 21:23 GMT]


 


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