Many professionals in the translation field have invested thousands of hours of work and training and thousands of dollars in software and marketing material to establish a well-grounded career in translation or interpretation. It is a full-time job and a highly competitive field. Of course, a translation degree would be of big help to overcome the no-experience hurdle, which can make your potential recruiters view you as a more suitable candidate because of your educational background, but what if you have extensive experience in the translation field when your educational background is in medicine, law or civil engineering?
What is the importance of a translation degree?
Most people argue that their proficiency in multiple languages should be a direct bridge to a translation career without owning a translation degree. The problem with this approach is that the concept of “proficiency” can vary greatly from one individual to another. Being a native speaker does not necessarily mean you are a perfect speaker, or more importantly, a perfect writer.
Many native English speakers confuse homophones such as “your” and “you’re” and “there”, their” and “they’re” and “here” and “hear”. Some even struggle to differentiate between the use of the adverb “then” and the preposition “than”, or the verb “effect” and the noun “affect”.
Some French speakers mix up the verb ending “ai” with the verb ending “ais”, such as “devrai” and “devrais”. Others can’t make sound decisions when choosing between the conjugated form and the infinitive form of the verb, such as writing “j’ai jeter l’éponge” instead of “j’ai jeté l’éponge”. Not to mention the common confusion of terms like “sensé” and “censé” and “davantage” and “d’avantage”.
Arabic speakers struggle to know when to place the glottal stop, leading them to making spelling mistakes such as “أنا اكتب” [I write (with “write” written in the imperative form)] instead of “أنا أكتب” [I write (with “write” written in the present tense)].
Native speakers are naturally labeled as “proficient” in their native languages, but these orthographic errors are hardly a recipe for excellent communication skills or an effective translation. Do you still think linguistic “proficiency” equates translation efficiency?
If we consider that not all native speakers are blessed with unbeatable language skills, both orally and in written form, the story is a bit different.
Can proven experience substitute a translation degree?
Every translation degree is highly focused on the student mastering his or her native language. It is no surprise that our language skills have suffered immensely in the wake of social media and text messaging. The speed at which we communicate via instant messaging means that mistakes and shorthands are extremely common. We do not go through the trouble of rectifying our typographic blunders because we assume the person knows what we are getting at. This behavior is devastating our language skills because it’s incorporated in our daily routine.
What can you do if you don’t have a translation degree?
Seen from this perspective, an individual who attempts to establish a career in translation with mediocre language skills is not very likely to succeed. On the flip side, it is paramount to have an in-depth knowledge in a specialized field. A perfectly acceptable substitute to owning a translation degree is having proven experience in translation. For example, if your educational background is in information technology and you have been translating for Apple for the past three years, a translation degree might not be vital because your experience enables you to perform excellent translations. European language certificates also allow professional translation agencies to get an idea of your linguistic abilities; they also run translation tests to ensure the candidate is qualified to meet their quality standards.