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5 Pieces of Advice for Rookie Translators

When translation and interpretation students are about to finish their studies, it's only natural for them to feel uncertainty about their future and to experience a fear of the unknown. Why not? But fear is part of human nature and the only way to get around it is to try and overcome it at the risk of making mistakes.

Let's take a look at five pieces of advice that I would give to new graduates who are now attempting to hollow out a niche for themselves in the professional market place.

1. Don't Stop Learning

When you've no more than gotten your diploma under you arm, it might well seem like a paradox to say that you have to continue learning and studying. Be that as it may, a serious mistake that some people make is to graduate believing that they have a vast working knowledge of their language pairs and that they have gained boundless experience while at the university. Nothing could be farther from the truth: even if you have completed some specialization, there will be many terms, expressions and even fields of knowledge that will be unknown to you when you have just been commissioned to translate some unexpected text. That's why it's essential to continuously read blogs and magazines on the topics on which you wish to be up-to-date. Furthermore, if money and time allow, it is never a waste to broaden your education still further in your field of expertise, or even to get a Master's degree.

2. Become a Specialist

We have just looked at how important it is to be up to date on the subjects you choose. And there is a reason for that: your productivity and confidence will be much greater, if you translate topics that you are very familiar with. True, in the beginning, the market will specialize you, rather than the other way around, since you'll still have a lot to learn. But it is important, nevertheless, to find a niche and concentrate your efforts on it. For example, my specialization is in web site localization, video games and software, the areas that I have the most experience in and command of. Of course, going back to the first piece of advice, which is to learn, as time goes by you'll be able to specialize in some other vast area of knowledge as well.

3. It's No Good Rushing

A mistake I made at the beginning was to think that the important thing was producing volume so as to give the impression that I was fast. Nothing could be farther from reality: Until you have gathered a few years of experience in a field, it is better to go at your own pace even though you may have to spend more time than expected on such a translation, because it's better to be known for being meticulous and a perfectionist than for being fast but of doubtful professionalism. It's true that some customers may not even catch your mistakes, but in the long run it is better to take it slowly and get it right.

4. Use the Spellcheck

I include this in a list of basic pieces of advice, since not doing this is common among translators who are just starting to work professionally (and I include myself among the "victims" of this error). At the university, we usually translate very small texts in comparison with what is translated commercially, and since, in school, we have the chance to review a text numerous times, there's little chance of our missing any spelling or grammar mistakes. When we are faced with a 10,000-word translation, however, it becomes a different matter entirely. That's why making use of the Spellcheck (or other spelling corrector) before we turn in our translation is so very important, not just because we might have spelling mistakes, but also to catch typos, which tend to be the last errors we notice. For this same reason, if you have not translated using an MS Word format, I suggest you copy and paste your text on a Word document and Spellcheck it there, since, up to now, it has proven the most reliable method that I have tested.

5. If You Don't Have Enough Experience, Find a Way to Get It

If, in spite of having graduated, having your specialization under you belt and having taken additional courses, you still feel uncertain when translating, why not broaden your experience, by doing translations for non-paying projects such as NGO web pages or free software? To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, before I became a translation and interpretation student I used to translate some videogames in my free time. This allowed me to get to know the "ins and outs" of this type of project. When I was tested to work at Nintendo as an English-Spanish translator, I felt very comfortable thanks to my previous experience with such texts.

Money, then, is not necessarily the single-most, true value of translating (unless, of course, there is someone else making money at your expense).

Pablo Muñoz Sánchez

(Algo más que traducir http://algomasquetraducir.com/ )

Translated by Lamberto Victorica

Illustrated by Juan Manuel Tavella www.hombreilustrando.com.ar