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The Next Generation of Translators

This is the first post I am writing that does not criticize a piece of technology as it relates to the translation industry. In fact, it has nothing to do with technology at all; but it does have to do with translation and not in a way you would think.

I recently went back to my graduate school alma mater to speak to its “Careers in Foreign Language” class. This was not a new occurrence for me; I do it every year to give something back to the university that gave me so much. Being a normal school, the vast majority of its graduates pursue careers in teaching after graduation. Among the many graduates of the languages department, I am one of a select few who went into translation. It was during this year’s presentation that I started thinking about when I got started as a project manager in August of 2009.

I had already been translating documents for visa applications for two years by the time I started with my first company as a project manager. It is interesting that I have built my career around translation technology when I could not tell you the difference between translation memory and machine translation when I started. At that time, I did not even know that translation memory technology existed. I was thrown into the translation industry blind and I had to find my own way through the myriad of software tools that existed. Translator’s Workbench 2007, WinAlign, TagEditor, ProMT, MemoQ, OmegaT, Wordfast; not only were these tools new to me, but also, the concepts were new as well. I quickly came to realize that while academia had done a superb job at creating a young linguist, it had not prepared me for a business career in language, short of some translation courses I took in undergrad and a stylistics course I took in graduate school. So what did I do? What could I do? It was not as if I had the political power to try and persuade language departments to create a translation curriculum – that is an uphill battle considering time and money alone.

In the early months of 2012 a few months after I had left my post as a project manager and gone freelance, I was invited by an instructor from my alma mater to present something on translation to her Careers in Foreign Language class. This was my outlet; this is where I can help those who are in the same situation I was once in. I gladly accepted the invitation and gave my first presentation on “Translation as a Profession.” The presentation explained roles in the industry, language pairs, necessary education and specialization, and a basic introduction to the concepts behind Translation Memory and Machine Translation, and I ended the presentation with a demonstration of MemoQ and showed how we gain leverage from repetitive text in a document. Over time, the presentation changed based on the interest of the attendees, sometimes we discussed different ways to get started in the industry, things they could do before graduating from college to better prepare themselves, other times we discussed what employers were looking for in resumes and what they did not want to see, but one thing has remained constant over the past few years, the joy of sharing my love for the profession. Are there times as a freelancer when I wanted to wring a project manager’s neck? Sure. Have there been times as a project manager or administrator when I have wanted to yell at a freelancer to get out of the profession? Of course, we all have those days and instances, but nothing gives me more pleasure than sharing the translation industry with students of language.

So, before I get too sentimental and sappy, I would like to encourage you, my colleagues, to take some time out of your year to give back to your almae matres. If you do not have a line of communication with the translation or language department, send a quick e-mail, introduce yourself, and offer to speak to their students for an hour. I believe that this is how we can inspire the next generation of young translators and interpreters – and we should. Aside from the translation work itself, it is our job to inspire and show language learners that translation can be and is a great field to get in to, rich with technological innovation and a variety of subjects to specialize in.

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