10 crucial questions to choose the best Spanish translation qualification
Different Spanish translation qualifications will affect how you grow in your career as a translator.
A Spanish translation qualification is a big deal in the competitive online jungle. Agencies select translators on the basis of the strength of their CVs. The ideal Spanish translation qualification enhances your strengths and compensates for your weaknesses.
But, whichever qualification you choose, it will mean big investments: money, time and effort. This article will help you think a little more about the best study program for you. Before you make a final commitment to your Spanish translation qualification.
1. What do you want to get out of your Spanish translation qualification?
An MA in Translation Studies will help you become a better translator. These courses raise your awareness about the entire translation process. They help you become an expert in translation as a university discipline. On the downside, they prove your knowledge rather than your professional skills.
Experienced translators may not want to invest time in studying translation theory. If that is you, an exam may let you get your translation qualification in fewer hours. A leading translation exam is the Diploma in Translation (Chartered Institute of Linguists). The 25% of translators who pass each year are awarded a post-graduate diploma. This is a qualification that proves your vocational skills as a translator. Find out about my course to help Spanish-to-English translators prepare for this exam.
If you already have a Spanish translation qualification, perhaps you should address your specialisation. In this case, a qualification in a different field may better suit your objectives.Are translators better off with qualifications in translation or in their specialist areas? Click To Tweet
2. What do your translation customers want?
The main goal in doing a Spanish translation qualification is normally to get work. So, you had better make sure there is market demand for the qualification you’re planning to take.
Investing time in studying the market you want to go into can save you from making the wrong decision. For instance, if you want to sell to translation agencies, you may find they prefer the DipTrans to the MA. They may look for other degrees as well. Ones that show you have specialist knowledge, like law, medicine or technology.
Translation agencies like to cover their backs. You could be the best translator in the world. But, employing a translator without a translation qualification is a leap of faith. Agencies want to show their customers they are selective about their collaborators. A post-graduate translation qualification is one way of showing this. And if you can combine it with a specialisation, you will become an extremely desirable collaborator.
An end customer may never ask you about your qualifications. They may value the reassurance you provide every time you work with them. Particularly if you understand their business and do an excellent job. Without causing them any problems. In this case, a course related to their area may better equip you to speak to them in their language.
Look at where you are in your career, and where you want to get. That will help you make sure you choose a qualification that will make people want to give you a job.
3. Do you need a more saleable specialisation?
Some MA courses combine translation with a specialist field. An example is my own MA in legal translation, from City University. The main focus on that course was the law in Spanish- and English-speaking countries. Besides translation theory, students received a wealth of knowledge in the legal specialisation. That MA changed my career. It let me add an extra, in-demand specialisation to my CV. Combined with my business and marketing specialisations, it has attracted a lot of work.
If you’re an experienced translator from a linguistic background, it may make sense to get a degree in a different specialisation. Gaining expertise in the right area could open new doors in your career and help you make more money.
“Remember that this qualification is a stepping stone on a much longer trail.”
4. What study format will best suit your lifestyle?
You can normally do an MA on a full or part-time basis. Most universities have online and in-person formats, and some combine the two. My first MA in Translation Studies was 100% online. This was very convenient for time management. It also worked out cheaper because I avoided having to go anywhere. On the downside, it was lonely. Although there were discussion forums, and emails with the tutors. These days there is normally also a Facebook group, which adds another dimension for networking.
The combined format in my second MA was ideal for me. It allowed me to work full time and choose my timetable. The exception was that I had to spend a week at the university four times a year, over a two-year period. It was tough financially, but I met some amazing people. I also loved the focus of those intensive lecture weeks.
5. Will the qualification allow you to network?
Networking is best achieved when you attend a course in person. As a result of doing my translation MAs, I know many more people in the business than I would have otherwise. I’ve received significant work out of making those contacts. I wonder though, if I had done MAs in other subjects, would I have met potential end customers on those courses?
The Advanced Spanish-to-English translation course that I offer is 100% online. So, we get our networking through our secret Facebook group. We’ve used this to form a support system of colleagues, which continues once the course is over.Do you network with other translators through Facebook groups? Click To Tweet
6. What are you going to do once you’ve got your Spanish translation qualification?
Remember that this qualification is a stepping stone on a much longer trail. It could lead to work, further qualifications and specialisation. Perhaps it will help you become a member of professional associations. It could lead to diversification into other areas.
Think about where you’ve been and where you’re going, to see if the qualification is a logical step on your career path. There is nothing wrong with taking a new turning if you’re unhappy where you are. But, doing random qualification after random qualification may make your CV confusing. It will also make you look flighty.
“You could be the best translator in the world. But, employing a translator without a translation qualification is a leap of faith.”
7. How much do you have to spend?
I worked full-time while doing my MAs because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to support myself. Despite my efforts, I ended up burning out and not being able to work as much as I needed to. These studies were the source of major on-going financial strain.
When you’re working all the time, it’s very difficult to reconcile so much work with having no spare cash. At the end of my first MA, I had to move back in with my parents to complete the dissertation because I was going broke.
The DipTrans is cheaper, but it isn’t cheap. A preparation course is essential to help you pass. It’s an easy exam to fail. So, it’s best to take the initial cost of sitting the three papers with a pinch of salt. Get inspiration from Lucy Williams, who got a pass and two merits.
8. Do you have time?
If you decide to take a complex course like an MA then you can forget free time. If you’re not sure about the time investment, you could dip your toe in the water by doing a shorter course. Universities will often let you do single modules. Some will let you exit with a post-graduate diploma before the dissertation. Plan carefully. Once we’re talking degrees, then you’re going to spend too much money to have to give up midway.
9. Can you cope with the level of difficulty?
On MAs you have to learn about a broad range of aspects. They involve reading widely among academic papers, to become an expert. You have to do research and produce your own essays, including a dissertation.
The Diploma in Translation requires a professional standard. You have to prepare yourself and develop professional translation skills before sitting it. Otherwise, you’ll be setting yourself up to fail.
If you do a master’s degree in your second language, remember that you’ll have to write academic essays in that language. I’m always amazed at how well people cope with that extra challenge.
All these obstacles will make you stronger and wiser. But, make sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for. I offer a free level test for people interested in doing my DipTrans preparation course.
10. Have you considered all the possibilities?
One thing is learning, another is throwing money at something that represents learning. Consider your motivations and needs. Is this an exercise for your CV or for yourself?
Most post-graduate courses involve a great deal of reading. That is something you can do all by yourself. Websites like Coursera provide high-quality courses for free. The biggest problem is having the motivation to keep it up.
My Advanced Spanish-to-English translation course is suitable for linguists from different backgrounds. It’s a good option if you have strong Spanish skills and want to become a translator. Translators who want to develop their skills, or prepare for the DipTrans also get a lot out of it. It includes plenty of information about translation theory and translating in different genres. And best of all, you get detailed, personal feedback and support from me. Email me if you’d like to do a free level test.
Want a summary of my latest articles?
Get my awesome newsletter.
Gwen and Lucy