Last year we posted a blog for International Translation Day, showcasing 12 translators telling us about their first ever translation. This blog was so popular we thought it was only right that we share some more stories, one year on!
We’ve got 5 translators ready to tell you their #myfirsttranslation stories. Let’s get started…
“My first translation project was about as disastrous as it gets. I went to school for French literature, but I had never encountered formatted documents before I started freelancing. This first project was some sort of official document–perhaps a birth certificate–I’ve fortunately blocked the details out of my mind. I was unaware that such a translation needs to be formatted exactly like the original, so I didn’t even bother creating a document for it. I just typed the translation into the body of an e-mail (I’ll give you a minute to pick yourself up off the floor after reading that…), fired it off to the client, and thought “This freelance translation thing is so easy!” Needless to say, the client was–justifiably–livid and horrified, and I soon realized that succeeding as a freelancer is anything but easy. Moral of the story: no matter where you’re starting in the language professions, it’s hard to know less about the business side than I did. Seek out expert advice and acknowledge that there’s a lot more to freelancing than knowing how to translate.”
“I have always had a passion for translation. Even when I first started learning French as a child, I bought what was probably the only French book at the used book store in my small hometown and attempted to translate it, hoping it would help me learn. I went on to study translation at university, where I completed many, many translations, all in an academic setting. I completed my first “real” translation, where someone was relying on my skills and knowledge to be able to glean information from a previously incomprehensible text, when I was an intern at a trade development office in Beijing after completing my university studies. I was one of two native English speakers in the office, and the text was a report on development opportunities in the Jingjinji Metropolitan Region that the office hoped would be useful to its stakeholders. I received a lot of great information about what was written Chinese from my officemates and turned in something I thought was pretty good. Now that I’ve gone on to specialize in business and financial texts and gotten an MBA, I have a feeling I’d see a lot of room for improvement were I to reread it now!”
“It is just like what people say: no school or degree prepares you for the real market. Even though I had a BA and MA in translation, I had a hard time with #myfirsttranslation. Right after returning to Brazil after taking my Master’s degree in the UK, I was lucky enough to find a Brazilian translation agency that was looking for freelance translators. Perfect! That was exactly what I wanted to do, so I could not risk blowing it off. They sent me a PowerPoint presentation that contained some non-editable images. I had absolutely no clue how to translate those images! And I would not dare ask my client, right? I wanted to make a good impression and show I knew what I was doing. I asked my cousin, who is tech-savvy, but of course he did not know what to do. He suggested I added the translated text on top of the image, and I did it. Obviously, that was not how I was supposed to do it (I should have added the translation on the notes section). Now, I know that it depends on the client (some of them do not even require to translate non-editable images) and that I should always ask them when in doubt, but the market can be a daunting place for real beginners! Living and learning, right?”
“My first translation involved a manual of construction requirements and specifications for an industrial building. It was during a summer job at a construction company. I was still in high school and already knew I wanted to be a linguist, and I was asked to translate this book that had been provided by the client, but of course I didn’t have the knowledge or the tools to do a professional job. The supplies I got to work on this first translation job were a yellow legal pad and a set of mechanical pencils – I had to handwrite the translation! I didn’t have any industry-specific dictionaries or reference materials, and the Internet was still several years away, so I felt unprepared and nervous about doing a poor job. Looking back, I can’t help but think about how different things would have been with the proper training and tools.”
“To be perfectly honest, since I did my first paid translations such a long time ago now, I’ve forgotten what the first one was. Probably a sure sign it wasn’t very exciting. An early job I do recall was an article for a magazine on a nature reserve and its plants and wildlife. As the Internet was still in its infancy back then, I had to go to a bookshop to look up the terms I needed. I can distinctly remember standing for ages at a table with books open, furiously noting things down with pen and paper. I’m surprised no one asked me to leave, but I guess I wasn’t in anyone’s way.
We are so lucky to have so much information at our fingertips now. Researching difficult words and phrases is far easier today than it was back then when the translation of some terms could sometimes take you an hour or more to track down.”
Would you like to read more #myfirsttranslation stories? Check out last year’s stories!