A guest post today, from someone starting out in their translation career. Kathleen Clegg is just completing her Masters at Glasgow University, and kindly agreed to write a post describing her experience over the last year and her feelings as she embarks on her translation career. So read on, for a fresh perspective on the translator’s life.
Translation Studies MSc: a student’s perspective
What was the first thought that came to mind when I began the MSc in Translation Studies: Translation & Professional Practice at Glasgow University? Sheer terror and just a little bit of excitement. Semester one did feel like I’d been thrown in at the deep end but could I stay afloat? I’ve come out the other side, so the answer, thankfully, was yes. But in order to tell you where I am now, I’ll have to take you all the way back to September 2013 and it’s been quite a journey…
Semester one of the Translation Studies MSc
Semester one did seem to pass in a blur of reading lists, translation theory, and an ever-present feeling of panic as I adjusted to the pace of work (bring back undergrad). I didn’t even realise that there was literature on translation theory… I do now! For me personally, there was slightly too much emphasis on theory and not enough on practice. But, having said that, theory has influenced how I approach translation. My perspective has definitely changed now that my translator’s brain has been rewired to ask two simple questions before a translation begins: What type of text am I translating and who is my target audience? I’d say that’s a pretty good place to start any translation.
A translation student’s typical week
I must admit how much I loved the small class sizes; usually no more than 10 of us, put under the spotlight every week for two hours as we discussed our translations and our strategies for tackling them. And for those of you that don’t love that idea, it was a lot more fun and relaxed than I’ve just made it sound! The range of texts was impressive too – marketing texts, literature, news and magazine articles, and theatre…It’s strange how much I enjoyed it, given the amount of time I’d spend trying to find the right word, only to arrive at class for someone to tell me the exact word I’d been looking for all along! Not to mention the countless number of drafts I’d print off in the pursuit of perfection. Despite the inevitable challenges that came with each type of text, I’d have loved to have done more translations each week. The small number of contact hours each week did mean that I didn’t get to know my classmates as well as I’d have expected. Translating did surprise me in that respect for being a rather solitary process.
But there was the added bonus of being able to meet up throughout the year for translation masterclasses; professional, dare I even use the word ‘renowned’, translators would come to the university to talk to us about breaking into the profession. Although there wasn’t shock, there was awe. We couldn’t quite believe that they had come to talk to us. Their pearls of wisdom were gratefully received. Only one question remained after their departure. Could we be like that one day?
Semester two of the Translation Studies MSc
Semester two brought with it much of the same, with a foray into technical translation and the inevitable headaches that came with legal and medical translation. As we ventured back into the world of non-technical texts, the translation of children’s literature was a pleasant but confusing change. With semester two came two new additions – an introduction to subtitling and subtitling software and the love/hate relationship (mostly hate) that came with mastering Trados translation software. We were doing a Masters after all; how hard could it be? Very hard is the answer. After much frustration and shouting at my laptop later, I passed the beginners’ Trados exam, so you’ll be pleased to know that there was a happy ending and a still intact laptop… I can’t comment on the laptops of others.
My dissertation: Medical Translation
Currently, I’m in the middle of my 14,000 word dissertation and I’m going to surprise you all now when I tell you that I’m really enjoying it. My dissertation comprises a translation project followed by a commentary with a theoretical foundation. OK, I admit when I say it like that that it may not sound like the most exciting thing that you’ve ever heard of! My translation project involves translating a French medical textbook for both a medical professional audience and a non-professional audience; the latter will be in the form of a magazine article. While my classmates have no clue why I’d willingly delve into the world of medical translation, I’m not regretting my decision… well, not yet, at least. I’m just hoping that my supervisor isn’t regretting her decision to supervise me!
What lies ahead after my Translation Studies MSc?
I took the plunge a few months ago and joined the Institute of Translation and Interpreting‘s Scottish network, ITI ScotNet, in an effort to stave off the feeling of being a lone wolf. I can’t emphasise how lovely the Scottish translation community has been and it feels great to know I’m not alone; help is most definitely at hand if I need it. So what’s next for me after escaping academia? Well, nothing in this life is certain, but here’s my plan. In the near future, I’m intending to join the ITI and become a member of their medical network. After graduating I’m hoping to apply for an internship or work for a translation agency. I know that right now it’ll be impossible to live the life of a jetsetter and attend every major medical conference going, but I’ll be happy taking my first steps into freelance work. Can I make it as a freelance translator? Hopefully, my MSc in Translation Studies is just the beginning…
Kathleen Clegg lives in Glasgow, where she is currently working on her dissertation: the last stage in her MSc in Translation Studies at the University of Glasgow. She translates from French and Spanish into English. In 2013, Kathleen graduated from the University of Strathclyde with a BA (Hons) in Spanish and French. During her degree course, she spent her fourth year abroad as a language assistant in Seville. Kathleen is a keen and passionate linguist who hopes to embark on a career in medical translation following graduation. She loves reading Scottish crime fiction (when she finds the time), and listening to Scottish folk and Spanish classical guitar music.
By Marian Dougan