10 things you realize as a translation student

Here are 10 things you most likely realize at some point during your translation studies. I hope you can relate.

  1. Most of your fellow students were born in another country and have a foreign accent. If you study translation in the country you were born in, you will …

completely feel in the wrong place. Utterly worthless. Like I do. I can assure that it’s pretty awkward, since you feel like a bungler if you grew up speaking just one language. And you feel like you couldn’t compete with all the other polyglots surrounding you in lecture halls. This diversity is everywhere… This is so terrifying and hard for me, I’m literally crying. No, I’m not. But it’s weird, if not grotesque, I can tell you.

  1. You’re not doing much translation or interpreting during your first years of translation and interpreting, which, incredible as it sounds, is the absolute truth. It’s more about writing texts, learning about the origins of translation, the importance of accordingly adapting to target groups and Katharina Reiß’ text types. You will also delve into the cultures of the languages you chose. Which is not so bad, though, quite apart from the not-doing-any-translation bit.
  2. If you chose French, Spanish or Italian as your working languages, you’re not the only one who made that decision, to say the least.
  3. You will be disappointed with the reactions of other people when you tell them you study translation. “Oh, .. ddo y..ou?”, they will stammer. “Isn’t it quite… hard to find a job as a translator / interpreter?” The worst reaction I once had to deal with, and I’m not joking whatsoever, was during a job interview. “Oh, I’m sorry for that”, he responded pejoratively. Well, f u.
  4. Professors will tell you how hard life’s out there as a translator / interpreter. And it really is. When I started my translation studies here in Vienna two years ago, I attended a conference led by a bunch of former translation students who wanted to tell us newbies about what they’re doing now after having graduated from university. There were two sisters sitting there in the row, blonde, tall and tanned who now work together in their own translation office. They told us about how they sometimes spontaneously decide to spend some days in the Bahamas and how they easily continue their work there, because their clients obviously don’t care where they translate, if in the end they perform their tasks properly. That impressed me. I imagined lying on the beach, slurping my ice-cold, colorful “Sex on the beach” with my hair perfectly done (beachy waves I’d have, I LLLOVE beachy waves) and translating some pages of a really nice book from time to time. How naive I was. This is so embarrassing right now. Because, as you can probably imagine, I was mistaken. Surprise, surprise. In fact, you will sit in your tiny, dusty apartment during your first years of translating, having a part time job as a secretary to keep the wolf from the door and you’ll desperately look for translation jobs which are horrendously low-paid. Unless you have “connections”.

    Nobody here knocking at my door
    The sound of silence I can’t take anymore
    Nobody ringing my telephone now
    Oh how I miss such a beautiful sound

    And I don’t even know how I survive
    I won’t make it to the show without your light
    No I don’t even know if I’m alive
    Oh, oh, oh without you now
    This is what it feels like

    Thanks Armin van Buuren to stand us by.

  5. Not going abroad during your studies is like having a car without wheels. Pointless.
  6. Dictionaries are all of a sudden an essential part of your life. Probably on the same level as water, oxygen and a pulse.
  7. From time to time, you will feel as if as a translator you were part of the most important group of people in the world, like a VIP on the job-market, because some lecturers keep telling you how life would be without the “mediators of language and culture”. They tell you that there wouldn’t possibly be any communication between continents, countries, cultures, villages and tribes. This makes you feel so special. For a few seconds.
  8. Because on other days, you will feel like the scum of the earth, because other lecturers ram into you that people won’t trust you at all. That you’re referred to as a “mouthpiece”. Because you could basically say whatever you want, because there are situations where nobody can prove whether or not you’re translating correctly. This is why most people are sceptic towards us. Fair enough?translation quote
  9. And last but not least and sadly enough… You probably even won’t become a translator or interpreter in your future life.

Still, if you’re a successful translator, life probably couldn’t be better for you. It’s just a path of trial and tribulation until you finally succeed as a professional. I wish you all the best.

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