Case study

Translator — Rebecca Ellerker

Rebecca took the bold step of changing careers from a languages teacher to a freelance translator and is enjoying the flexibility her new role has brought her

What does your job involve?

Working as a freelance translator requires much more than simply reading a text in one language and rewriting it in another. Accurately conveying the meaning of a text in a way that is true to the original, while being accessible and relevant to the intended reader, requires a great amount of skill and often thorough research.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

When I decided to change career I chose to study for an MA in Translation Studies at the University of Exeter. Not only did the course provide me with the necessary knowledge and skills to be able to pursue my chosen career path, but it gave me the confidence to feel that I could succeed: a solid foundation of experience upon which to build. The blend of theory and practice has proven invaluable in my daily work: I have the research skills to be able to find the information I need, as well as an in-depth knowledge of the theory and practice of translation, and I know how to use these to enhance my work.

What are your main work activities?

The majority of my time is spent working between two texts: the source text and the target text. This means thoroughly reading through the source text to ensure that I have picked up on all of its subtle meanings, researching parallel texts in English so that I can be certain to opt for the appropriate terminology and concentrating on the style and register of my writing in the target text.

Being a freelancer also requires me to focus on every aspect of my business: securing new clients, quoting and invoicing for jobs and checking that payments have been made. In addition to the administrative side of my work, I also recognise the importance of investing in my own development and ensuring that my skills and CV are up-to-date by continuing my professional training (this helps to ensure that I can secure new clients).

What are the challenges?

The transition from being employed to self-employment has been my biggest challenge. I have found that it has taken a while to get used to the sometimes sporadic workload (at times it feels manageable and then suddenly a large job comes in and I'm up against a tight deadline). While deadlines can be stressful, I find that I work at my best when being pushed a little and the pressure helps me to stay focused and get the job done.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The most enjoyable aspect of translation is doing something that I feel genuinely passionate about and having the flexibility to fit this into my life and around my other commitments (namely my two children). The variety in the content that I translate keeps the work interesting and I'm learning all of the time.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

I would not hesitate to recommend a career in translation to anyone considering it. For those who are less experienced and do not require the flexibility of working freelance, working in-house initially is a good way to build up experience and knowledge. However, my top tip would be to invest the time in studying for an MA in Translation Studies - it really does get you off to the best possible start.

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