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Just getting started in interpreting and translating, but I never finished my bachelor's degree.
מפרסם התגובה: Kelly Peters

Kelly Peters
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Apr 13

I'm 37 years old and I live in Austin, TX. I'm taking translating and interpreting classes at the local community college, they are continuing ed classes, and I plan to get certified in medical and legal interpreting. I have some college, but no bachelor's degree. If I were to go back to college and finish, I would probably have about a year left to finish. I still have that as a goal in the back of my mind, but should I pursue translating and interpreting in the meantime or just not even think ... See more
I'm 37 years old and I live in Austin, TX. I'm taking translating and interpreting classes at the local community college, they are continuing ed classes, and I plan to get certified in medical and legal interpreting. I have some college, but no bachelor's degree. If I were to go back to college and finish, I would probably have about a year left to finish. I still have that as a goal in the back of my mind, but should I pursue translating and interpreting in the meantime or just not even think about it since I don't have a degree? I did ask one of my teachers about this and she said it doesn't matter because if you get certified that trumps a degree.

I would love to just go back to college, but I don't have the money for that right now and I'm married to someone who makes enough money when combined with my income (I work retail, he's in IT) it's too much to qualify for financial aid but not enough to pay for college like that. We don't have children, so that's not a problem.

I went to a meeting of a local interpreting and translating organization, and while I know each meeting is different, that particular meeting had a panel full of professionals who had multiple PhDs and I left that meeting feeling very intimidated and discouraged. They haven't had any more in-person meetings however because of COVID-19.

Am I wasting my time?
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Lincoln Hui  Identity Verified
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Yes and no Apr 13

There are plenty of agencies that target their recruiting towards people with degrees, or at least prioritize them. Not having a degree doesn't cripple your career, but it's considerably harder to get started without one. Assuming you are attending a public university, finishing that last year should only take $10k or so, and it should pay for itself in 2-3 years.

FWIW, I don't think the degree matters so much in interpreting, but you're in Spanish and English, so you really need an
... See more
There are plenty of agencies that target their recruiting towards people with degrees, or at least prioritize them. Not having a degree doesn't cripple your career, but it's considerably harder to get started without one. Assuming you are attending a public university, finishing that last year should only take $10k or so, and it should pay for itself in 2-3 years.

FWIW, I don't think the degree matters so much in interpreting, but you're in Spanish and English, so you really need anything that will give you a leg up, or at least not drag you down. You may qualify for some financial aid, as UT can offer aid to families up to $125k in gross income.

While I wouldn't dismiss PhDs outright, I don't see any ways in which they would matter in the field.
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Sheila Wilson
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Kelly Peters
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Only $10k or so? Apr 13

Lincoln Hui wrote:

finishing that last year should only take $10k or so,


That’s a lot of money.


 

Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
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@Kelly Apr 13

Kelly Peters wrote:
I went to a meeting of a local interpreting and translating organization, and while I know each meeting is different, that particular meeting had a panel full of professionals who had multiple PhDs and I left that meeting feeling very intimidated and discouraged.


It's not something to be discouraged about. The value that you bring to your clients is not that you are able to outshine other translators at translator meetings.


[Edited at 2020-04-13 07:25 GMT]


Christine Andersen
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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
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What will help you stand out? Apr 13

Lincoln Hui wrote:
you're in Spanish and English, so you really need anything that will give you a leg up, or at least not drag you down.

This is what you.need to be thinking about, IMO. Don't concentrate on what you haven't got; think about what you HAVE got to offer clients.

You can't beat the tens (hundreds?) of thousands of other translators in your pair in terms of rate. Many will be "hobby" translators who are happy with one or two cents per word. Don't go there! You can't beat them on qualifications (at the moment, anyway). So what will you offer potential clients in the hope of attracting your share of the market?

The best way to stand out is to identify and then highlight your USP. In the early days, you may well have to accept anything you're offered that you can do reasonably well, but your marketing needs to be tailored to that USP. We know nothing about you, but I'm wondering why you offer to translate in both directions. We normally translate into our native language as that's normally our strongest. Even if you regard yourself as native in both (which is perfectly possible), it might be better to restrict your marketing to one. But the subject specialisations are really important too. What experience (inside or outside the language industry) do you have that will give you an edge? What knowledge, skill, aptitude, or even passion do you have? Some translators can command high rates and maintain high-enough volumes simply on the basis of being the go-to person in a niche market. Alternatively, if you're really good at IT, then you might want to offer post-translation DTP services too and/or stress your ability to translate in InDesign, etc.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
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Subject experience is more important than ver high linguistic qualifications Apr 13

Ultimately, every translation is tailored to a specific situation, although obviously many are more or less generic.
As Sheila points out, a USP is vital, and that trumps a PhD - although a good PhD may be useful, or it may not in purely practical terms. Some are highly theoretical, and do not relate directly to the daily life of a working translator!

Then you have to find clients who match your USP. Use your network and look for direct clients. I don't have a lot of experienc
... See more
Ultimately, every translation is tailored to a specific situation, although obviously many are more or less generic.
As Sheila points out, a USP is vital, and that trumps a PhD - although a good PhD may be useful, or it may not in purely practical terms. Some are highly theoretical, and do not relate directly to the daily life of a working translator!

Then you have to find clients who match your USP. Use your network and look for direct clients. I don't have a lot of experience of them, but some are more interested in your hands-on skills than in how many degree certificates you have.

Not all agencies give priority to lots of academic degrees, although they all respect whatever you may have. Smaller agencies are easier to work with all round in my experience, so check them out. Conversely, if they make a big issue of being ISO-certified and the like, they will look at your certificates or diplomas. They also look at how many years of experience you have, so don´t write them off, but you may not find it so easy to get a foot in the door.
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Liviu-Lee Roth
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Kelly, Apr 13

you got excellent advice from my colleagues and I would like to give you a little more info.

Getting certified, especially in your pair, is a MUST! Keep in mind that in order to get a certification as a medical interpreter, first, you need to take the "Bridging the Gap" course (40 hrs, about $400) and then apply for the certification exam. Something similar for court interpreting. The process may take up to two years (orientation courses, written portion of the exam - ethics, legal
... See more
you got excellent advice from my colleagues and I would like to give you a little more info.

Getting certified, especially in your pair, is a MUST! Keep in mind that in order to get a certification as a medical interpreter, first, you need to take the "Bridging the Gap" course (40 hrs, about $400) and then apply for the certification exam. Something similar for court interpreting. The process may take up to two years (orientation courses, written portion of the exam - ethics, legal knowledge, vocab, and then the simultaneous and consecutive interpretation exam).
You are still young, go for it! I started at 42 and have 25 years behind me, supporting my family.

Good luck!
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Christine Andersen
 

DZiW
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Give it a try Apr 13

I … I … I … I plan to get certified in (1) medical and (2) legal (3) interpreting.
Kelly, it takes at least two no-gap years to learn the ropes well under a specialist’s supervision. There’re about 23 types of doctors and about 8 types of laws, let alone paramedic, and paralegal interdisciplines. Which ones?

While interpreting is often overgeneralized as business etiquette, even a single mistake in these two people-to-people stressful and sensitive fields may turn out as a client’s huge fine, imprisonment, or death. Or yours.
So, what makes you eligible to work in those areas?

It’s no discouragement, Kelly, just a few random thoughts on the matter. Hardly one could easily combine some two years of practicing in different fields. Thus, I would rather consider something else or just ask your husband to train you in IT, so you could go for Google or something as a recruiter or interviewer.

On the other hand, it’s just my opinion and the (mis)belief ideally there should be no “pure” translators / interpreters, but (1) specialists in real fields with (2) business awareness and (3) foreign language skills.

Cheers


Jorge Payan
 

Kelly Peters
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Being self-taught Apr 14

DZiW wrote:

I … I … I … I plan to get certified in (1) medical and (2) legal (3) interpreting.
Kelly, it takes at least two no-gap years to learn the ropes well under a specialist’s supervision. There’re about 23 types of doctors and about 8 types of laws, let alone paramedic, and paralegal interdisciplines. Which ones?

While interpreting is often overgeneralized as business etiquette, even a single mistake in these two people-to-people stressful and sensitive fields may turn out as a client’s huge fine, imprisonment, or death. Or yours.
So, what makes you eligible to work in those areas?

It’s no discouragement, Kelly, just a few random thoughts on the matter. Hardly one could easily combine some two years of practicing in different fields. Thus, I would rather consider something else or just ask your husband to train you in IT, so you could go for Google or something as a recruiter or interviewer.

On the other hand, it’s just my opinion and the (mis)belief ideally there should be no “pure” translators / interpreters, but (1) specialists in real fields with (2) business awareness and (3) foreign language skills.

Cheers


Does being self-taught count for anything?


Oleksandr Ivanov
 

DZiW
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Learning = Internalization Apr 14

Kelly, did you know that many psychologists and philosophers believe that everything is the teacher? It's very the student who gets new structured pieces together by any means and integrate them into his or her existing worldview. The result is externalization--understanding the matter and capability to put the knowledge to use, achieving the goals (problem-solving). Just weight your motives and go ahead.... See more
Kelly, did you know that many psychologists and philosophers believe that everything is the teacher? It's very the student who gets new structured pieces together by any means and integrate them into his or her existing worldview. The result is externalization--understanding the matter and capability to put the knowledge to use, achieving the goals (problem-solving). Just weight your motives and go ahead.

Unlike most intermediaries, the real (end) client just wants to have the job done (1) properly, (2) timely, and (3) as agreed. Can you?--Only you decide!

As always, a little of purposeful training, practicing, and persistence should do.
First, as a prospective interpreter, you may want to learn how others hear and perceive you. So use a dictaphone, a mobile, a camera, a mirror, or just ask a specialist to feel the difference.

Cheers
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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
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On being self-taught; translation / interpreting Apr 14

I agree with a lot of what has already been said. I would add the followng points:
- many excellent translators have no formal language training, and vice versa
- many not so good translators have extensive language training, and vice versa

You need to be able to do produce work that you can do to a high standard. You will learn something from each job and improve over time. However, be wary of not using your clients as guinea pigs!

You need to be able to ru
... See more
I agree with a lot of what has already been said. I would add the followng points:
- many excellent translators have no formal language training, and vice versa
- many not so good translators have extensive language training, and vice versa

You need to be able to do produce work that you can do to a high standard. You will learn something from each job and improve over time. However, be wary of not using your clients as guinea pigs!

You need to be able to run a business. (You need to know how you are going to pay your rent, eat, etc. You also need to know how you are going to organise working, your working space, your working time, family obligations. You need to know the tax implications of the job for your particular situation. You also need to have in mind how much money you need as you are setting up and building your business... then multiply it by at least twice that). You can also just fly by the seat of your pants and go for it anyway. It sometimes works too!

You need to be able to write convincingly which means working in areas you know something about or enough that you know where to look and then, of course, to understand what you are reading.

You need to be able to have pretty decent computer skills, use the internet, be able to evaluate critically the quality and the pertinence of your sources.

You need to know who your competitors are. A number of translators working in the medical field will have medical experience or scientific training. Various levels of knowledge, training and experience will be relevant. Medically-trained individuals with excellent language skills may still have quite different levels of skill and competence as a translator.

To sell your skills, you need to be able to convince potential clients. Agencies are unlikely to consider someone for medical translation without specific training in that area (medical, scientific, linguistic, even all three). It's a vast field though and so you may already have sellable skills that fall within a wide definition of "medical".

Bear in mind that translation and interpreting require different sets of skills. Some people can do both, some can do one but not the other.



[Edited at 2020-04-14 11:35 GMT]
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VictoriaV
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RobinB  Identity Verified
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Hi from ATX! Apr 15

Hi Kelly,

I'm in SW Austin. Please PM me and we can discuss things privately. I have quite a lot of time on my hands at the moment, after all...

Best,
Robin
https://www.linkedin.com/in/robin-bonthrone-PFLT/


 

Kelly Peters
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Because I want to! Apr 15

Sheila Wilson wrote:

We know nothing about you, but I'm wondering why you offer to translate in both directions.


I’m not the only one who translates in both directions either. I’ve seen many profiles here who offer to do that.


 

jyuan_us  Identity Verified
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Your certification in interpreting will have nothing to do with your translation work Apr 16

Kelly Peters wrote:

I did ask one of my teachers about this and she said it doesn't matter because if you get certified that trumps a degree.



Was your teacher confused?


 

Kelly Peters
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Why would she be confused? Apr 16

jyuan_us wrote:

Kelly Peters wrote:

I did ask one of my teachers about this and she said it doesn't matter because if you get certified that trumps a degree.



Was your teacher confused?


Interpreting was what I asked her about.

I’m taking classes for both interpreting and translating though.

Are you confused?


Oleksandr Ivanov
 
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Just getting started in interpreting and translating, but I never finished my bachelor's degree.

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