My Freshers’ Week as a postgraduate

Written by Daina MA Translation student

As I progressed to my MA straight from my undergraduate degree, I took to the opportunity to be a Welcome Team volunteer during Freshers’ Week. I hadn’t done this during my undergraduate degree so I thought that I would take part this academic year. This is a team of students that help new students orientate themselves during Arrivals Weekend and Freshers’ Week. I helped new first-year students move into on-campus accommodation, answered questions and was a friendly presence on campus for everyone. If you are progressing from an undergraduate degree, I would really recommend taking part: you get to know a new group of people and the volunteering slots are flexible so you can still have fun during Freshers’ Week whilst volunteering.

Aside from volunteering, during Freshers’ Week I also had academic induction as I was starting a new course. This is a chance to meet your lecturers and coursemates before the start of term, which I found very useful, so I would recommend going to this. It’s also a good chance to ask any questions in person. You may have to do work in preparation for the first week, so make sure you make time for this! Personally, I found it a bit difficult to get back into studying after finishing my final exams, so Freshers’ Week is a good time to prepare yourself for the academic year ahead.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that Freshers’ Week isn’t fun! If you are new to the University, it’s a good time to orientate yourself around campus and the town so that you can find where you need to be easily. I would encourage you to try out different society taster sessions, there are more than 200 societies catering for all interests including media, music and recreational sport. As a postgraduate you can join Postgraduate Society, the only one at the university exclusively for master’s and PhD students. During Freshers’ Week it holds a Welcome Dinner for new postgraduates, so be sure to get your ticket!

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what Freshers’ Week as a postgraduate is like. Have fun!

Preparation for uni life as an international student

Written by Feilin MA Translation student

Another academic year is on its way, and I’d like to give some personal advice, from the perspective of a Chinese international student, on how to prepare to start university after you receive an offer from your dream university.

Booking the accommodation

It’s no doubt one of the most important things before you come to a new country to find a good place to live. And it’s a critical decision to make because generally speaking, you need to sign the contract for at least one year and pay for the deposit and part of the rent in advance, which means if you are not satisfied with the accommodation you booked, it would be quite problematic to change to another one. There are various choices for students coming to Exeter, including apartments both on campus or out of campus as well as private houses. In general, the conditions (services, facilities and indoor environment) of apartments would be better than that of private houses while the latter normally cost relatively less money. So it’s important to think about what you want most before you make the decision. Our university ensures the accommodation of first year student and you can find more details here: A reminder, book your accommodation as early as you can so that there will be more choices for you, and the fees may be cheaper. Also, be careful if you want to book accommodation from a private landlord.

Tuberculosis Testing

According to the regulation off the UK government, one coming from some countries needs to have a tuberculosis test if s/he wants to stay in the UK for over 6 months, and China is among these countries. You need to have the test at tuberculosis testing clinics approved by Home Office (full list: and the test should be finished before applying for visas. And here is some information you may want to know about taking the test,

 Visa application

Another important thing to do. The type of visa we need to apply for is Tier 4 (General) student visa. You must provide the confirmation of acceptance for studies, the so-called CAS offered by your university as well as the tuberculosis test results when applying for the visa. Besides, you need to prove that you have enough money to support your life and education in the UK. That means you need to have enough money (tuition plus living costs for 9 months in the UK) in your account for at least 28 days. The bank statements are not necessary when you apply for the visa but you need to provide it if you get a spot check. It’s hard to say how long it will take to get the result, so my advice is to apply for it as soon as you get your CAS and after you have your money in your account for enough days.


Now you have everything done before you leave and the last step is to do the packing. Studying abroad could be exiting and fearful for students who have never been so far away from home. One may have no clue for what to take and not. Here is my advice:

◆ A rice cooker. There are fewer choices for it and the functions are simple here in the UK. So it’s better to take a small and good one from home.

◆ A laptop or/and a tablet. These electric devices are necessary because you are studying here not just traveling. A kindle is also a good choice.

◆ Skincare and beauty products. Although you can buy lots of European products with a better price here in the UK, for ones who are used to Asian brands such as Korean and Japanese ones, you’d better to take your daily stuff with you. It’s not so easy and cheap to buy them here.

◆ Clothes and shoes. I don’t think you need to take too many clothes and shoes with you cause you will always want to buy new ones. But for girls who are small (such as me!), it’s not easy to buy these in small sizes. It’s a sad story.

◆ Medicines. Medicines British people take are quite different from what we take in China. It’s not only expensive but also difficult to buy Chinese medicines here, especially traditional Chinese medicines. So take some commonly used medicines with you when you come here.

Here are some important things you need to do before coming here. And most importantly, prepare yourself to a new life in a whole new place and enjoy it!

A Chinese student’s view on MA Translation

By Dan, from China, MA Translation Studies graduate and freelance intern at Cadenza Academic Translations

My year studying MA Translation at the University of Exeter has been one of the best of my life. The MA provides excellent training in both theoretical and practical aspects of translation, and my skills have improved beyond measure. I have not only learned to use tools such as computer-assisted translation, but have acquired invaluable new perspectives.

Interacting with classmates from different countries including Italy, Ireland, Poland, Spain and India has been a joy and has expanded my horizons. In lectures and seminars with small groups of students, and in tailored language-specific workshops, I have established a strong rapport with academics and peers, and the support I have received from Exeter’s dedicated core of academic staff has enabled me to adapt to the English style of teaching. In addition, guest speakers and lecturers including experts from Chartered Institute of Linguistics, experienced translators, and former MA Translation students have shared their real-world experiences with us, improving my understanding of the language services sector and helping me plan my future career. My experience at Exeter was also enriched by my two wonderful language partners, one Hungarian and one English. With their support, patience and friendship my spoken English has flourished, and I have enjoyed helping them improve their Chinese-language competency. During our time in Exeter the three of us formed an enduring affinity, and we remain firm friends.

The academic staff of Translation Studies at Exeter are true language lovers and organize the biennial Translation! Festival which celebrates language and culture from around the world, and I had the pleasure of participating in Translation! Festival 2019: Languages in Motion.

Working with Irish and Polish classmates we helped to plan events and publicise the festival on Chinese social media such as WeChat and WeiBo, enabling more people to experience the charm of different languages and cultures. I also had the opportunity to contribute directly to the festival, serving as a volunteer speaker/guide for an event called “Translating Clothing: Tour in Chinese at RAMM”, and giving a 20-minute talk on Mayan clothes.

Through Translation! Festival 2019, and my personal tutor’s recommendation I became acquainted with the editor-in-chief of Cadenza Academic Translations, paving my way for an intern-based position with the company. I currently work freelance, assisting them in building their English-Chinese translation team and assessing Chinese texts and metadata. The city of Exeter and its university have so much to offer, and living and working here has been an unforgettable and enriching experience.


A day in my life as a uni student at Exeter

By Feilin Liu, from China, studying MA Translation Studies

I have been a student at the University of Exeter for two months, and I’m gonna talk about my typical day here.

As a postgraduate student working on MA Translation Studies, in general, I only have classes on Wednesday and Thursday in the first term. Therefore, I have plenty of time to arrange myself. But if you think this means I have lots of time to hang out with my friends or even travel around, you are totally wrong. That’s because we have non-stop readings and assignments to finish. It is really busy for me as an international student studying abroad for the first time. Therefore, I’ve spent most of my time in the library (I’ll tell you how much I love the library in St Luke’s library in my next blog maybe) in my spare time.

My to-do list in 1st term

Now, I’ll show you my timetable on a normal day with no lectures and workshops.

7:00-8:00 a.m.: Get up and prepare my breakfast (usually a cup of milky tea and a sandwich both made by myself).

8:00-8:30 (sometimes 9:00) a.m.: Have breakfast, browse Weibo (Chinese equivalence of Twitter) and WeChat (main Chinese social media) moments etc. I like to get to know what’s happening in the world and around you know .

9:00-12:30 a.m.: Start studying. Work on my readings and assignments (this always make me crazy  .) I like to use Forest app to help me concentrate.

the booth in St Luke’s library

a screenshot of Forest

12:30-14:00 p.m.: Have lunch. Sometimes a sandwich, sometimes go back home and make a quick lunch. Have a short rest.

14:00-18:00 p.m.: Continue studying…

18:00 p.m.-00:00 a.m.: Have dinner. I always have some Chinese food at home (maybe there will be a blog about this too). Binge watching on Bilibili (video sharing website popular among the young), talk with my friends,etc. This is my happiest time of day . BUT! Sometimes when there is an assignment due around the corner, I have to go back to the library again   . I then go back home at around 10 p.m.

00:00 a.m.: Go to bed. I’m wondering if I should go to sleep a little earlier…

That’s a regular day for me here. Maybe it sounds a little boring, but I really enjoy it (except for the deadline time  ).


Machine Translation: Will it put freelance translators out of work?


This blog post will attempt to shed some light on Machine Translation (MT) and the impact it is having on the translation industry. Most freelance translators use CAT tools (Computer-Assisted Translation), to assist them with producing and managing effective and efficient translations. CAT tools are not to be confused with MT; they are software systems that enable translators to build and expand translation memories, that store previous source and target translations for quick and easy reference when working. CAT tools also assist with producing the finished translation in the required format and offer an extensive range of quality management tools. In a nutshell, they allow translators to produce high quality, accurate work faster. MT, on the other hand, is the full translation of a text by a computer without the need for any human involvement.

MT is not as new as some might assume; the concepts can be traced back to the 17th century, although research into producing a fully automatic MT system gained pace in the 1950s. If we fast-forward to the present day, advances in MT have been significant and MT systems are now available commercially to work alongside CAT tools and are freely available on the internet for public use.

There are three main types of machine translation: rule-based, statistical and neural.

The rule-based approach is system based, a manually determined set of language and grammar rules to define the correspondence between the source and target languages. Statistical MT has no knowledge of language rules and works by training the translation engine with a very large volume of bilingual and monolingual corpora. Neural MT is the latest approach that makes machines learn to translate using neural networks.

This easy accessibility of MT certainly has its advantages: if I still had contact with my childhood Dutch pen pal, whom I met on a campsite in France, I would not have to rely on my next-door neighbour who ‘spoke a little Dutch’ (I don’t speak any) to glean the gist of her letters. Google translate would give me a pretty fair idea of what Jessica was saying in a matter of seconds, even if not written in an altogether idiomatic manner.

In addition to the benefits for individuals, the advances in the availability of MT systems and the quality of the translations they produce have, understandably, impacted upon the translation industry. However, is it realistic to consider that MT will eventually eradicate the need for human translators altogether? My experience so far tells me that, no, this is not on the cards anytime soon. The translation industry is very much alive and the demand for human translators is real.

As with most things, there are constraints and limitations with MT. Translation is extremely complex and requires translators to make a great number of decisions about every minute detail of the text. Translators must use their knowledge, not only of lexical meanings, but also of social, cultural and political contexts, of the norms associated with terminology use in specialised fields. Translators have to identify nuances and ambiguities and know how to react appropriately to these to transfer them into their target language. Translators must bear in mind the intentions of the original author and attempt to realise the same effects on their target audience. Those translators who have completed specialised training courses, such as the MA in Translation Studies at Exeter, are trained to do exactly this. These areas are where humans have the definite advantage.

There are, however, circumstances where it is understandable for a company to opt for translations produced using MT. Perhaps it is only the gist of what a particular website is saying is needed, or a technician requires nothing more than an overview of an instruction manual and there is no requirement whatsoever for it to be disseminated further or published. In situations like these, MT can prove a much faster and a more cost-effective solution.

However, for content that is creative or literary, or content for which a translation of publishable quality is required, then the skills of a human translator are usually deemed necessary. Marketing texts are particularly problematic for MT and examples of poor-quality translations that have been published or displayed in some format or other are abundant. (These are the translations that leave you laughing out loud!)

Whilst I do believe there will always be a need for human translators, I do also feel freelance translators can embrace these technological advances and use them to their advantage. With MT comes the need for both pre and post-editing services, that can prove to be less time consuming than full translations (if working with a quality MT system). There will, I feel, for the foreseeable future, be a need for a pair of human eyes to read through a text and check for errors of meaning, vocabulary, syntax etc., as well as cultural relevance and appropriateness. Both language and culture are constantly developing, changing and evolving and the human ability to recognise this and adapt accordingly is crucial.

Translators should not feel threatened by MT, but instead feel proud they are able to use their knowledge, expertise and intuition to deliver higher quality translations, than those produced by automated systems. There will always be customers relying on high-quality translations and currently MT, with no human input at all, cannot reliably deliver. If anything, I feel that MT should allow companies to value the skills of human translators over machines and freelance translators should embrace the opportunities presented to further their editing skills and range of services offered, safe in the knowledge that MT does not yet give them too much of a run for their money!

“Anyone who is bilingual (or who speaks another language) can be a translator” – is this true?

By Rebecca Ellerker, Freelance Translator

translating text

Yes and no.

It is commonly perceived that anyone who speaks another language can translate and this topic has received a fair amount of attention from scholars and translators alike. Those of us who are bilingual, or have the skills to communicate in another language, will have often been asked to do ‘a quick translation’ to help family and friends. I remember being on many family holidays, even as a teenager (early on in my language learning journey), and my monolingual parents asking me to translate in supermarkets or tell them what street signs were saying. I was able to do it; we purchased the things we needed, and we got where we needed to go. However, this type of ‘translation’ or ‘communication’ is a far cry from the work I do as a professional freelance translator.

To arrive at a satisfactory answer to this question, we need to consider what it means to be ‘bilingual’ (or have the ability to speak another language) and what a translator actually does. A concrete definition of bilingualism is hard to come by; definitions range from the, ‘the fact of being able to use two languages equally well,’(1) to ‘a fluency in or use of two languages.’(2) The important point to note here is that there are two strands featuring in these definitions of bilingualism: language use and language competency.

Speakers of more than one language will often find that their proficiency in their second language is defined by the circumstances in which they have learnt or used it. For example, when I graduated from my undergraduate degree, I had spent extended periods living abroad and had consequently developed a strong level of fluency; I could conduct my daily life in France and Spain without any problems whatsoever. However, when I started my first graduate job, a matter of weeks post-graduation, working in European finance for a large multi-national company, I rapidly realised that I had much to learn in terms of corporate financial terminology!

Turning now to the act of translation: this can be an activity as simple as transferring words from one language into another. Rather like the kind of ‘translation’ I performed on my early family holidays. However, often professional translators work with complex, specialist or technical texts. Translating then becomes much more than the simple transfer of words and the translator must focus on producing a target text that transfers the meaning of the source text in a manner that is accurate, reliable and appropriate to its intended audience and function.
Professional translators must have their wits about them. An overly literal translation is rarely acceptable and the translator must consider every aspect of their translated text: lexical, functional and cultural elements, to name but a few.

A translator must have an eye for detail and will have, more often than not, an in-depth knowledge of their chosen specialism. Translating a legal document, for example, requires the knowledge and skill to produce a flawlessly written legal text in the translator’s target language. Likewise, translators specialising in marketing slogans must have a thorough awareness and understanding of both the source and target cultures to ensure that their translations are appropriate and effective for their target audience. A quick internet search for ‘marketing translation fails’ reveals countless brands that have made errors due to a lack of cultural understanding and awareness. Errors that professional freelance translators cannot afford to make.

So, if we have established that a person with knowledge of a second language can translate words from one language to another, but that this fact does not necessarily make them translators, then, logically, we should consider how linguists can learn the relevant skills to become proficient, capable translators.

A course such as the MA in Translation Studies at Exeter provides the perfect opportunity for those who have the knowledge of a second (or third…) language, to develop their ability to translate and become skilled translators. I recall many years ago being asked to translate a legal letter for a family friend who was in the process of purchasing a house in France. Whilst I had the ability to understand the words, and look up the direct meaning of the words I didn’t know, I realised that I certainly wasn’t capable of reproducing the letter accurately and, importantly, reliably in English. I learnt then to truly value the skills of the professional translator and understood that being bilingual did not mean that I could automatically consider myself a translator. Having now successfully graduated from the Translation Studies course at Exeter, I am proud to say, at last, that I feel able to call myself a ‘Freelance Translator’!



Career paths after studying MA Translation Studies

By Rebecca Ellerker, Freelance Translator

MA Translation Studies

Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey 2018 reveals that students undertake a postgraduate taught programme, such as the MA in Translation Studies, for reasons related to career and employment prospects. Typically, students studying the MA in Translation Studies are motivated by their personal interest in languages or a particular area of the translation industry. They often embark on the course with a view to pursuing a career in the translation sector, or even a career change towards translation.

An MA in Translation Studies is an industry recognised qualification and prospective employers are increasingly seeking professionally qualified applicants. Graduates of the programme, at the University of Exeter, know that they have the skills to set them apart from less-qualified rivals and are employed across a range of jobs in the translation and languages sector. A commonly asked question by prospective students of the programme is, what jobs do graduates actually end up doing after their studies?

This blog entry will explore some of the common career paths followed by Translation Studies graduates.

There are several career pathways available in the translation sector that hold different levels of appeal for each individual. The impact a career has on lifestyle is an important factor to consider: where to live; whether to work individually or as part of a team; a willingness to live abroad or to relocate to a new town / city; flexible working hours or a more fixed routine. Other considerations relate specifically to the area of the translation sector an individual is wanting to pursue, such as making use of any pre-existing specialisms, a tendency towards literary / non-literary translation, or a desire to be creative and have more freedom.

Having considered these areas, many graduates follow one (or more) of the career options below:

• Freelance translator

Freelance translators are self-employed and usually work from home. Freelancers are able to pursue a range of different translation options including both literary and non-literary texts, general translation and many opt to develop their own specialism. Freelance translators work with clients directly or secure work through an agency. The freelancer is responsible for every aspect of their business; in addition to concentrating on providing quality translations to their clients, they must also dedicate time to securing work, responding to emails and developing their marketing strategy, producing accurate quotes and invoices and showing commitment to maintaining their professional development. Freelancing and self-employment can be wonderfully flexible and rewarding; however, working alone from home may not suit everyone.

• In-house translator

Many large international companies who have a regular high demand for translation will employ in-house translators. This can be a great way for translators to gain valuable experience and build a specialism. While the work may not be as varied as freelancing (depending on the company in question), being employed (rather than self-employed) can offer more job security and has particular benefits. Often graduates who take positions as in-house translators will progress their careers and secure promotions either in a different company or in the same one. It is fairly common for graduates to gain experience in-house before looking to go freelance.

• Translation Project Manager

This is another employed option where successful graduates work in the translation industry, often for a Language Service Provider (LSP) or a translation agency. Project Managers ensure that translation jobs are completed on time and to a high standard. They will liaise with clients to secure work and negotiate appropriate rates, and then analyse the documents to find a suitable translator to complete the translation. Project Managers are responsible for the work flow from initial client enquiry through to final delivery. This can be an excellent way to gain industry experience and develop contacts. Translation Project Managers can progress within their roles to more senior positions with additional responsibilities.

• Post-translation Editor

This position can overlap with certain elements of the Translation Project Manager role; however, many translation agencies employ editors specifically to review the work of translators. Editors fine tune a text before it is delivered to the client, ensuring that it is of high quality, that it is accurate and written in an appropriate style. Editors will look for orthographical and typographical errors and will make appropriate corrections. They are also responsible for ensuring that the original meaning of the text is retained and is expressed in authentic natural-sounding language, any quotations included are referenced accurately and any style-guides used are adhered to.

• Transcreation and copy-writing

There are times when translators will be called upon to be more creative and rather than work from a finalised source text, they are required to use their cultural knowledge to adapt a source text when necessary to ensure that it will function in the target culture as intended. This can often mean changing a text substantially from the original and requires the translator to have a thorough understanding, not only of the languages and cultures in question, but also of the purpose and function of the text. The translator must ‘translate’ the text and at the same time ‘recreate’ it. It may be that there is no concrete source text at all, but rather a comprehensive set of instructions from a client about what it is that they are wanting to achieve. This type of work offers much more scope for creativity and many translators offer a combination of services including transcreation and copy-writing.

• Further academic study

Some graduates choose to continue their academic study and embark on a PhD programme in a field related to Translation Studies. Students who choose this option will either apply for funding or self-fund their programme.

To find out more here about the University of Exeter’s MA Translation Studies course.

Mentoring and professional development – part 2

‘Industry Panel Days’ are often organised for MA Translation Studies students


Written by MA Translation Studies graduate Rebecca Ellerker

The previous blog post concentrated on the culture of mentoring between academic staff and students. In this post I would like to highlight the many opportunities for students to work with leading industry professionals, in addition to the many different ways in which the MA in Translation Studies programme has been designed to ensure that graduates have rigorous professional training.

At the very heart of the programme there is an emphasis on providing students with the industry’s required knowledge, understanding and skills. In fact, the quality and standard of the MA in Translation Studies at Exeter is recognised by the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL). The university is rightly proud to be one of the CIOL’s preferred education providers, meaning that successful students (following external verification and moderation) are awarded exemption from one of the units in the Diploma in Translation (the CIOL’s gold standard professional qualification). In addition, the Institute of Translating and Interpreting (ITI) recognise the standard of the MA programme and offer the prestigious MITI status to high achieving graduates (those with a translation dissertation and a distinction overall and or those with a merit overall, but having gained a distinction grade in their translation dissertation), who have demonstrated sufficient professional experience.  Students are eligible (and encouraged) to join both organisations as student members, allowing them to experience the professionally high standards of the industry and the many benefits of belonging to these organisations.

Focusing on the academic content of the programme, the course has been developed to ensure that students have wide exposure to as many different areas of the translation industry as possible. Such is the emphasis on professional development that many of the assignments have been devised to provide students with opportunities to hone the skills required not only to work as a translator, but also to secure work and understand the professional role and responsibilities of a translator. Students can experience industry-standard activities such as a mock-pitch to a potential publisher, subtitling a short clip and acting as an interpreter at a conference. In fact, interpreting proved to be such a popular experience that a new module, ‘Introduction to Interpreting,’ was launched in September 2018. Alongside modules in translation theory and the practice of translation, module choices  are available to allow students to concentrate their professional development in areas that interest them most, be it specialist or literary translation. There is also the option of embarking on a work placement/project, or a module that focuses specifically on the translation profession and the use of CAT tools (computer-assisted translation).

Alongside this very thorough academic programme, the course tutors have worked tirelessly to use their networks, contacts and alumni to provide an enriching programme of events and experiences designed to boost students’ professional development and their exposure to the professional industry. There are many opportunities to meet and engage with leading industry experts, many of whom work in local translation companies, are freelance translators, or have close links with the professional bodies. There are special guest lectures on offer where professionals share their experiences and mentor students on topics ranging from setting up a freelance business, to working in particular translation fields, such as academic or technical translation.

Other professional-training events have included an ‘Industry Panel Day’ organised for Translation Studies students, at which a panel of five industry experts agreed to share their experience and top tips for working in the translation industry, as well as answer any questions posed by the students. The inspirational mentoring the students received at this event was invaluable and provided an insight into first-hand experiences of how to make a successful career in translation. Perhaps the most profitable part was the opportunity to informally network and make lasting contacts over lunch.

Translation Studies students may also take field trips, such as the one I went on to London to visit one of the top Language Service Providers (LSP) in the country. Students were given a presentation by the company and were then invited to complete a mock-project management exercise. As before, the students were able to gain a real understanding of how the industry operates in practice and were able to add to their list of potential contacts.

This wide range of enriching experiences highlight Exeter’s commitment to ensuring their graduates are well-equipped in order to succeed and compete as professionals in the translation industry. It is clear that professional development and mentoring during the MA in Translation Studies go hand-in-hand; students are privileged to benefit from high quality input from the academic staff, as well as a diverse range of opportunities to profit from professional industry experts.

Mentoring and professional development – part 1

Written by MA Translation Studies graduate Rebecca Ellerker

Mentoring plays a key role in the Translation Studies MA programme at Exeter. The Translation Studies department is built around a team of highly-qualified and skilled staff. Their knowledge and expertise with all that relates to translation, its theory and history, as well as the practical and specialist side of translation is second to none. The staff are at the core of Exeter’s carefully crafted syllabus; they are skilled mentors and have designed a programme that meets the needs of the students and provides ample opportunity for them to grow and develop their practice and theoretical thinking. The result of this mentoring is that students are enriched with the knowledge and skills they require to pursue their chosen careers in translation-related fields.

However, the staff, as mentors, are not there simply to provide students with ‘the answers’ but rather to guide them towards finding ‘their own answers.’ At the very core of this mentoring is the relationship between the mentor and the mentee: most often (but not exclusively) the tutor and the student. As a recent Translation Studies graduate I am certain that the course’s greatest strength is the fundamental emphasis placed on the relationship between staff and students and how this enables students (and perhaps even staff too) to reach their greatest potential.

At Masters level many of those enrolled on the programme bring with them vast and varied life-experiences that are both welcomed and valued. Part of the mentoring process that is so integral to the programme is that students are encouraged to contribute to the content of the course, allowing themselves to develop the skills required to succeed, whilst contributing also to the mentoring of their peers. There is a very genuine sense that staff and students alike are valued for the knowledge and experience that they bring to the course.

So, what does this look like in practice? The programme is delivered through a series of lectures, seminars and workshops (amongst other activities – see part 2) – all of which require active participation not only from the staff, but from the students as well:

  • During lectures, tutors deliver content, but also take time to ask probing questions, designed to develop and deepen students’ thinking and understanding;
  • During language specific practical workshops, students are encouraged to take the lead in sharing and discussing their own translation strategies and solutions. Tutors then carefully structure their input in order that students can reflect and improve upon their own practice;
  • In seminars students are asked to take turns in preparing and delivering presentations. The tutors join the remaining students as active listeners and use their own knowledge to further challenge and develop the group.

Underpinning this entire process are, of course, the strong relationships that are fostered between the staff and the students. These relationships are developed from the very beginning of the programme, when staff treat students as fellow professionals from the outset. The Translation Studies students have a dedicated Translation Studies laboratory, equipped with dual-monitor computer stations and up-to-date translation software; there is also a Translation Studies study room and lounge where students can relax with a coffee and the latest translation journals from the professional institutions, or benefit from a quiet environment in which to work on their latest assignments. Tutors take time during one-to-one sessions to get to know the students. One-to-one sessions are offered at several points during the programme to allow students to discuss arising issues, assignment feedback and to seek further guidance and assistance if required. Students also have sessions scheduled during assignment writing periods to enable in-depth discussion with their tutors relating specifically to their own ideas. The mentoring received really comes into focus in this environment as students are able to reflect on the these conversations and improve upon their practice and academic writing.

Post-graduation, I am now working as a freelance translator and I feel extremely privileged to have completed the MA in Translation Studies at Exeter and to have worked alongside such a dedicated and committed team of tutors. I am absolutely certain that I have the confidence, skills and knowledge to pursue this career path largely thanks to the mentoring and lasting-relationships that I developed during the course. In part 2 of this blog I will explore the many professional development opportunities that the MA in Translation Studies offers.

The benefits of an MA in Translation Studies for professional translators

Written by MA Translation Studies student Rebecca Ellerker

Firstly, let’s state the most obvious benefit: MA in Translation Studies graduates are awarded a qualification that is recognised by employers, clients and professional bodies. In a competitive industry, translators who have successfully gained an MA in Translation Studies stand out from those who haven’t committed to a higher-level qualification. When bidding and competing for work, this could be the key to securing contracts. In addition, professional bodies in the industry offer student membership options, providing access to a wealth of resources and support. These can be converted to a full membership upon graduating and entering the industry in a professional capacity.

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) has published ISO 17100:2015 relating to Language Service Providers (LSPs). It states that all translators employed by LSPs must have either a degree in translation (or related subject) or several years of experience. For the novice translator without a degree in translation, this represents a problem and the most effective solution is to embark on a programme of postgraduate study.

It must be said that having an MA is not in itself a guarantee of a quality translator; however, the programme at Exeter is structured to build rapidly students’ skills with a carefully balanced mix of practice and theory. Successful students engage critically with the course content and develop the required knowledge and abilities to succeed as professional translators. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits the course offers:

  • Throughout the core practical modules, students work with a range of texts that have been chosen specifically for their level of challenge. The opportunity to work alongside teaching staff and peers, and to discuss the translations in depth, is invaluable. It allows students to build their own translation processes and methods as they develop in confidence and ability.
  • The MA in Translation Studies can be tailored to cater for individual interests. Students benefit from a wide exposure to different areas of translation, such as specialist translation, literary translation and professional training in the use of CAT (Computer-Assisted Translation) tools.
  • The course places a great deal of emphasis on building professional skills and preparing graduates to work in industry. Students who engage fully with the summative and formative assessments are able to hone many of the required skills: how to effectively use CAT tools to increase productivity; how to pitch effectively to a publisher; or strategies for translating technical terminology.
  • The summative translation assignments completed during the programme form the beginnings of a professional portfolio. The University of Exeter has links with the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL), allowing students who reach a sufficiently high standard, to have their work assessed by a CIOL moderator for exemption from one of the corresponding DipTrans exam units.
  • Students can choose to benefit from a work placement module. This provides the opportunity to work in the industry and gain experience and contacts, as well as try out and improve newly learnt translation skills.
  • The final component of the MA at Exeter is the dissertation, and for those wishing to work professionally as a translator, it is the perfect opportunity to work on a larger project of individual choosing, tailored to suit students’ preferred specialisms and/or areas of expertise. Similarly, a high level of attainment in this module allows graduates exemption from the examination to achieve the sought after MITI status (Member of the Institute of Translation and Interpreting).

The MA in Translation Studies is more than a means to an end and offers successful graduates much more than a piece of paper. Arguably, the wealth of experience from the teaching staff, fellow students and alumni, the emphasis on professional preparation, along with life-long contacts and networks, are amongst the most important benefits of the course.