Translation Careers

There are various career pathways available to graduates with a degree in translation, whether as professional translators or in the language services industry. Translation graduates often work in the field of translation, either as freelance translators or as employees of a translation company: as an in-house translator or project manager, for example. Others work in the language services industry, working with businesses expanding their international operations. Others pursue a Masters degree or PhD in fields related to translation, or work as a researcher or university lecturer. Translation careers can be grouped into the following categories: professional translation, international marketing, academia, teaching, and project management.

Professional Translation

Professional translation is the most common career pathway. The role varies considerably — you can work as a self-employed freelancer, own a translation company, or work as an in-house translator for an array of employers in the public and private industries. You might, for example, work for the United Nations, local government, or global sporting organizations like FIFA.

Many professional translators work as freelancers. They can be contracted directly by public or private organizations, or by translation agencies that act as a middleman between freelancers and employers. In the UK, many public sector organizations outsource translation work to local and national translation companie

Academia

Another popular translation career pathway is academia. There are various Masters programmes available, such as the MA Translation Studies at the University of Exeter, which enable students to develop specialist language and research skills. The advanced skills and credentials of the MA make it easier to land roles in translation, teaching, international business, and media.

There are also opportunities to embark on a PhD in Translation Studies or in related disciplines, such as comparative literature, cultural studies, and history. Doctoral graduates often work as research assistants, researchers, or university lecturers.

Teaching

It is also possible to enter the teaching profession as a graduate of translation studies. You may choose to teach languages subjects in a school, college or as a university lecturer, a role that often combines research and teaching.

Project Management

Translation graduates develop the management and strategic skills that enable them to work effectively as project managers for translation and media companies. This role typically involves liaising with clients and translation colleagues to deliver projects effectively and efficiently. It may also involve tasks like formatting, proofreading, and editing documents in various languages.

Language Services Industry

The ability to effectively communicate between languages and cultures is becoming more and more valuable as physical communication barriers continue to disappear in line with advances in technology. This makes careers in the language services industry extremely diverse in nature. Any company or organization that operates across cultural and lingual borders is likely to need translation skills in some capacity. Here are some examples of translation employers:

The Importance of Translation Studies

Introduction

Translation Studies is a field of study that deals with the theory, description, and application of translation. Because it examines translation both as an interlingual transfer, and as an intercultural communication, Translation Studies can also be described as an inter-discipline which touches on other diverse fields of knowledge, including comparative literature, cultural studies, gender studies, computer science, history, linguistics, philosophy, rhetoric, and semiotics.

The skills of translation are becoming ever more important and desirable. Today’s multicultural and multilingual society demands effective, efficient, and empathetic communication between languages and cultures. That’s important for various reasons, which we’ll now explore.

Not Everybody Speaks English

English is the most prominent language in the world. As a result, one might question the importance of translation, and ask, why doesn’t everybody just speak English?

The reality, however, is that not everybody can speak English, fewer still are able to speak it well enough to communicate effectively, and perhaps even more importantly: language is much more than the communication of words. It is also an expression of culture, society, and belief. Promoting a universal language, therefore, would likely lead to a loss of the culture and heritage communicated through native languages.

It Enables A Global Economy

As communication and travel advance, geography is becoming less and less of a barrier to doing business. Companies benefit from working overseas. They can take advantage of the lower cost of products and services in some countries, the professional and industrial expertise of others, and additional markets to trade in.

When they trade in countries with a different native language, they need high-quality translation to communicate effectively. When there’s a demand for translation there are opportunities for translators. When there’s a demand for translators, there’s a demand for Translation Studies. They need to learn the skills to practice at a high level, and perhaps even contribute to advancing the field even further.

Looking ahead, whilst English is the world’s most prominent language at the moment, it may not always be. When a market emerges and grows rapidly, like the Chinese market has in recent years, the demand for translation to and from its native language is also likely to increase.

The Spread of Information and Ideas

Translation is necessary for the spread of information, knowledge, and ideas. It is absolutely necessary for effective and empathetic communication between different cultures. Translation, therefore, is critical for social harmony and peace.

Translation is also the only medium through which people come to know different works that expand their knowledge. For example:

  • Arabic translators were able to keep the ideas of ancient Greek philosophers alive throughout the Middle Ages
  • The Bible has been translated into at least 531 languages
  • Translation is helping sports teams and organisations overcome language barriers and transcend international boundaries
  • TED Talks run open translation projects that allow people around the world to understand their talks, offering non-English speakers to learn from some of the best educators in the world.

The Role of Translation Studies

Effective, efficient, and empathetic translation requires highly skilled practitioners. Courses in Translation Studies are a great way for linguists, language graduates, and translators to develop a deep understanding of the academic field, and the skills to practice as a translation professional.

Translation enables effective communication between people around the world. It is a courier for the transmission of knowledge, a protector of cultural heritage, and essential to the development of a global economy. Highly skilled translators are key. Translation Studies helps practitioners develop those skills.

Further Reading

Translation Studies trip to Codex Global

Written by current student Lizzie Harvey-Backhouse

Last week, a group of students from Exeter’s Translation Studies MA braved London’s heatwave for a workshop with the translation company Codex Global. As the name suggests, Codex is an international company that works with brands worldwide from Ralph Lauren to Visa and even the BBC. We met at the company’s office, based in the heart of London’s Oxford Street; their top-floor office space was a cool and inviting reprieve from the busy afternoon shoppers many floors below.

In the office, we met production manager Ksenia Ivanova who led our session. She went into detail about Codex, the different in-house roles and the services they offer to clients, while interspersing entertaining anecdotes from her time at Codex and how she got her start in the translation industry. In-house, Codex employs project managers, vendor managers and sales roles; the translating itself is outsourced to their large pool of freelancers, all of whom have their own specialism. One thing Ksenia emphasised is how important it is for freelance translators to specialise early – this way you can devote time to becoming as knowledgeable as possible about your specialism. This means that you (and your employer) know that you’re translating a text as accurately as possible for the client, using the correct jargon or genre conventions. It’s no good translating an important medical document if your specialism is marketing and you have no idea what ‘atherosclerosis’ means in English, let alone how to translate it from your source language!

We had some knowledge of the role that project managers play in the translation process from SMLM153 (The Translation Profession module on the MA), but not vendor managers and localisation engineers. Ksenia’s presentation covered these in detail and the kind of personalities that may be suited to them. Vendor management is the headhunting of freelancers and dealing with client feedback or performance monitoring, while localisation engineers ensure that all technology and IT systems are up to date. They are also responsible for the maintenance and development of CAT tools (Computer Assisted Translation software). These roles are pretty standard in most LSPs (language service providers), so Ksenia’s presentation gave us an insight into the industry itself, not just life at Codex.

Ksenia also gave us a taster of the project management role and the decisions that go into putting together a translation project. Project managers must be able to deal with last minute requests from clients and then work quickly to analyse the project and find translators with the right specialisms for the project. Ksenia gave us a scenario that project managers are frequently faced with: a company has contacted you on Friday afternoon with an urgent project that they need translated by Monday morning. How do you deal with this? She gave us basic information about the project and in pairs, we chose our hypothetical translators (Translation Studies director Professor Michelle Bolduc and I chose ‘Ironman’, a hypothetical marketing and transcreation specialist) and worked out quotes for the client and the profit margins. This was easier said than done, as Michelle and I had apparently temporarily lost our ability to calculate percentages!

Following the group feedback, we spoke to a recent graduate of the Exeter MA, who is currently an intern at Codex, about his experiences as a PM and the transition from the MA programme to his internship. Following this Q and A, we ventured back out into the sweltering heat of Oxford Street, our minds reeling with a whole realm of new career possibilities opened to us.

We would like to thank Michelle for organising such an insightful trip, and to Ksenia and everyone at Codex Global for the opportunity to gain such an invaluable look into the world of LSPs!

Visit our webpages to read more about the MA Translation Studies programme.

What is Translation Studies?

What is Translation Studies?

Definition of Translation Studies

Translation Studies is the field of study that deals with the theory, description, and application of translation. Because it examines translation not only as interlingual transfer but also as intercultural communication, it can also be described as an interdiscipline which touches on other diverse fields of knowledge, including comparative literature, cultural studies, gender studies, computer science, history, linguistics, philosophy, rhetoric, and semiotics. Translation Studies is often paired with Interpreting, although the two are distinct fields.

History of Translation Studies

Although translators from the Romans have had much to say about the theory and practice of translation, it was not until the twentieth century that Translation Studies emerged as a formal academic discipline. James S Holmes’ 1972 landmark paper entitled The Name and Nature of Translation Studies was the foundational statement of Translation Studies: it called for the creation of a distinct discipline with its own system of classification.

Translation Studies as an Academic Discipline

Translation Studies entails the systematic examination of translation both as an applied practice and also as a means of understanding the movement and transfer between diverse languages and cultures. Translation Studies deals with the practical experiences of the translator; it also explores from theoretical and methodological perspectives the history and philosophy of translation, as well as current trends in the field. Translation Studies may examine the practices and context of translating texts that are specialist (legal, business, medical, etc.); it also may explore the art of translation as a creative act in literary translation and international marketing. Translation Studies may also explore how issues of culture, power, gender, ethics medium affect the act of translating. The study of these enables students to apply their theoretical understanding to the approaches, techniques, and choices that are used daily as a practicing translator.

What Does Translation Studies Involve?

The study of translation usually includes the analysis of key texts, enabling students to develop an awareness of the problems of understanding and interpretation. It also involves the development of the analytical, practical, evaluative, aesthetic, and expository skills required to address translation problems. Finally, it includes the development of research skills, practical translation skills, and the ability to develop strategies for managing complex linguistic and cultural transactions.

Why Study Translation?

The discipline of translation studies has grown alongside the introduction of university schools and courses, relevant conferences, translation journals, and other translation-related publications.

The skills of translation are becoming ever more important and desirable, as today’s multicultural and multilingual society demands effective, efficient, and empathetic communication between languages and cultures.

Careers in Translation

Translation Studies prepares students for various careers. Some graduates choose to start their own business as a freelance translator. Others become in-house translators or project managers for translation companies or international businesses. There are also roles in such language services industries as international publishing, journalism, public relations, and teaching.

Professionals with significant linguistic backgrounds, as well as translators, linguists, and other language professionals often choose to study a Master of Arts degree or a Ph.D. in Translation Studies. This course of study enables students to develop specialist language skills, research skills, and the credentials required to land more advanced specialist roles in translation, teaching, international business, and media.

Further Reading

MA Translation Studies at the University of Exeter

The Role and Scope of Translation Studies in the 21st Century by Shivnath Sharma

How to Become a Translator – Institute of Translation and Interpreting.