Do You Need a College Degree?

A few months ago, a lovely acquaintance who wants to be an interpreter, asked us whether she needed a college degree to succeed as a (court) interpreter. We hadn't really thought about this, as college is such a natural step in most professionals' lives, but the question is more than valid and merited some more thought. The answer is a bit more complicated than it seems, but basically, we'd say the answer is: yes, you should probably have a college degree to make sure you put yourself in the best-possible competitive position. The longer answer is: it depends. Let us elaborate on that.

Translation and interpretation are very competitive industries, and according to some surveys (there aren't too many on this topic, actually), the vast majority of translators and interpreters hold at least a bachelor's degree, but many have advanced degrees, including doctoral degrees. However, especially in the US, these degrees aren't necessarily in T&I but in other fields. In Europe, things are quite different, as T&I programs are easily available at most universities, so anecdotally we will go out on a limb here and use our background in the industry to boldly state that most translators and interpreters who work professionally in Europe not only have college degrees, but have degrees in the actual field. Which one is better, a T&I degree or a degree in another field, perhaps in your area of specialization? That's a topic for another post.

Now, is a degree strictly necessary to work as a translator and interpreter? No, it's not. Ours is a fairly unregulated industry, and there are no hard educational guidelines, as opposed to, say, lawyers, who need to have a J.D. (or an LLM if they are coming from another country) to sit for the Bar Exam. Not so for translators and interpreters.

However, we personally only know two successful interpreters (and no translators) who do not hold a college degree. We are not saying it's essential, but it's just another tool that you need to have in your toolbox. The reality is that few professional jobs in this economy are open to non-college graduates, for better or for worse. Newcomers to the profession have to compete with colleagues who might have 20+ years of experience and hold graduate degrees, so any newcomer is well advised to get as much formal education under their belt as possible. While it's not impossible to succeed in this business without a college degree, it's unusual and it's an uphill battle.

We did some soul-searching and asked ourselves: would we work with (=outsource to) a colleague who did not have a formal college degree? This is a tough question, and the answer is: probably not, as we have a long list of superstar colleagues with impressive credentials to whom we are more likely to outsource. Would we discount someone without a college degree immediately, as many employers and LSPs might do? Probably not, but it does give us pause, and we do think earning a college degree shows initiative and determination. We are usually particularly puzzled by those who are one class or a few credits away from finishing their degrees, and unfortunately, in education, things are black or white in terms of credentials. Either you have a degree or you don't (there is no such thing as an almost-degree). While we don't want to draw general conclusions on someone's work ethic based on whether or not one has a college degree, having one does show dedication and stamina, which are important in our industry.

So, in a nutshell, we think that in order to be competitive in our industry, every newcomer should have a college degree in some field. We are not saying you won't be successful without one, but the chances of success are usually higher with a college degree. On the interpreting side, we've seen a few colleagues who do very well for themselves without a degree, but they are the exception rather than the rule. What do you think, dear colleagues? Ah, and for the record, Judy has an MBA in marketing and an undergraduate degree in business administration, while Dagy has a master's degree in conference interpreting, a bachelor's degree in translation and interpretation, and the equivalent of a master's degre in French and communications. That should be sufficient degrees for now, although we have thought about getting a PhD...

Free Software We Love: Toggl

Today's post is short and sweet, and it's about software we love that makes our lives easier. After kissing a few software frogs, we went with a dear colleague's suggestion and started using Toggl to keep track of hours worked. We charge more and more clients by the hour, and needed a simple and reliable way to keep track of our hours. Toggl does the trick. There's nothing to download and no learning curve. While some features are fee-based, we have not used them and just use the free version. Paid features include invoicing options, which we don't need because we already have a very solid accounting system.

We started using Toggl within five minutes of visiting the website, and it is user-friendly and intuitive. You create a free account in a few minutes, and you are off to track your time based on projects. The company's tag line is "Insanely simple time tracking," and that describes it well. We are actually quite addicted to the software now, as it lets us see very clearly exactly how we allocate our time. Of course you do have to get used to clicking the "start" button when you start working on a particular project, which took us a few days to remember. Just like lawyers, we only get paid when we have billable client hours and it's fascinating to see that some days we only bill four or five hours to clients and the rest is work that cannot be billed to any clients. These tasks include administrative work, answering e-mails, quotes, invoices, inquiries, blogging, social media, filing, organizational tasks, teaching (for which we get paid a fixed amount and do not bill hourly), pro bono work, etc. It really does put our work day in perspective! We also really like the easy reports that Toggl allows you to compile. If requested, these can be sent to the client.

What about you, dear colleagues? Do you use a time-tracking tool like Toggl? If yes, which one? We'd love to hear about other software options. 

Workshops in Europe: September

It's official! We will both be in Europe in September, as Judy will be crossing the pond to work from Vienna for a month, and she's also fitting in two recently announced workshops. Here is additional information -- we would love to see you there!

At ITI London, September 2013. Picture by Dagy.
Manchester, UK (North-West Translators' Network, a regional group of the ITI). On September 20, Judy will present her popular three-hour "No Pain, No Gain: Active Marketing to Direct Clients" workshop, which includes exercises, a raffle (win books!), and yes, a skit. Last year, Judy gave this workshop in London and York, and they both sold out very quickly. We felt really bad for colleagues who could not get in, so please do book your spot early! The room seats 60.

Vienna, Austria. UNIVERSITAS Austria Interpreters' and Translators' Association. On September 27, Judy and Dagy will be part of the association's 60th anniversary celebrations (a two-day event) and will present a German-language session on social media for translators and interpreters. More information (in German) is available here. The two-day event will also include a keynote presentation by Nataly Kelly, VP of Marketing at technology company Smartling and co-author of Found in Translation.

We love meeting fellow translators and interpreters at conferences and events! If you plan on attending either one of these workshops, please do drop us a note so we can meet up.

Who Wants to Go to Summer School?

Translators and interpreters are always learning and improving their skills, so there's no reason to not continue doing so during the summer -- well, there are a few reasons, but we digress. This summer, UC San Diego-Extension's Certificate for Spanish/English Translation and Interpretation program (all online), where Judy teaches, offers a variety of classes that might be of interest for both beginning and more advanced interpreters and translators.

Introduction to Interpretation (no prerequisites, starts July 1) is a five-week course delivered via Blackboard (an online learning platform). Every week, students will access customized, pre-recorded PPT presentations with audio, which last approximately 2-3 hours per week. Students complete assignments every week, including weekly quizzes, and learn about all basic aspects of interpreting. The PPT presentations include dozens of exercises with original content. Students are only graded on one actual interpreting assignment (the final exam), as this class is meant for beginners.

Introduction to Translation (no prerequisites, starts August 5) is a five-week course that teaches newcomers to the profession the basics of translation, and introduces them to a strategic way to approach translations. This course is ideal for those who want to find out if this profession is for them. Judy will share the realities of our profession without sugar-coating the challenges translators face. Students will submit two graded translations and many exercises.

Strategic Branding & Marketing for Interpreters and Translators (several prerequisites, starts July 1) is a ten-week course where Judy teaches everything she knows about marketing your services as a translator and/or interpreter. The course follows the same format as the other classes and includes easy-to-use information on marketing to agencies and direct clients, social media, networking, outreach, public relations, etc.

To view all classes in the certificate program, please have a look at this link. Our lovely colleague and federally certified court interpreter Jennifer de la Cruz also teaches in the program, and she's a very popular instructor! Be sure to have a look at her classes, too. Happy summer!

Record Speechpool Videos, Get a Book

Record to win!
We still have several copies of one of the best T&I books currently on the market, Found in Translation by Nataly Kelly and Jost Zetzsche (generously donated by co-author Nataly Kelly of Smartling), to give away on this blog. In our quest for ever-clever (or not) ways to give these away, we just thought of something. We would like to have this little giveaway benefit of our favorite interpreting tools: Speechpool. If you have not yet heard about Speechpool, you are in for a treat. Have a look at our initial blog posting about the site here

It's a free website (free to you, but not free to run; more on that later) for interpreters to practice interpreting -- in 19 languages! It's an entirely collaborative effort, as it's interpreters recording speeches for interpreters. Between the two of us, we've recorded more than 40 videos in German and English (Spanish coming soon), and it's addictive and fun. We also routinely use Speechpool to practice our own interpreting, as there are only so many TED talks and political speeches one can interpret before craving different topics, voices, accents and speaking styles.

Speechpool just celebrated its first anniversary, and we hope it stays around for a long time. The effort was initially funded by the UK NNI (National Network for Interpreting), but at this point, founder Sophie Llewellyn Smith pays everything out of her own pocket, so she's looking for donations. We don't want to make this a donation-based giveaway, but if you can, please donate here (we did).

Rather, we will give one copy of Found in Translation (shipping included to wherever you live) to the first three colleagues who upload at least two videos to Speechpool (it's easy; you record on YouTube, and the site explains everything very clearly).

Here are  few basic rules (boring but necessary):

  • The videos must be new, so that means they have to be posted to the site after June 10, 2014. 
  • Sorry, existing videos don't qualify.
  • Each video must be at least five minutes long. 
  • You must record at least two videos to qualify.
  • The videos must be in a language we either speak or somewhat understand: Spanish, English, German, Dutch, French, Brazilian Portuguese, Italian or Greek (Dagy speaks baby Greek).
  • First come, first serve! Post the Speechpool link in the comments section, and after we check out the videos, you get your book. 
  • The first three people with two videos each that meet the criteria win.
  • One book per person.
  • We have a total of three books to give away.
  • Have fun and good luck!
The best part: even if you don't win, you will either have discovered a new resource, will have fun recording a video to help this collaborative effort, or both. Enjoy!

Here's to Speechpool and to giveaways!

UNIVERSITAS Turns 60: Time to Celebrate!

No, we are not turning 60 yet (for a while), even though our combined age certainly exceeds 60. This round birthday is all about UNIVERSITAS Austria, the Austrian Interpreters' and Translators' Association, and such a big birthday just has to be celebrated, so here's some information about the festivities that will take place in gorgeous Vienna, Austria, on September 26 and 27. We are delighted to be part of the festivities (Dagy is the secretary general of the organization) and will give a presentation on social media for translators and interpreters during the professional development part of the weekend. But don't worry: there will be plenty of time to take a city tour, celebrate, and have fun with your fellow translators and interpreters. There is also a very creative video contest (information in German) that you might want to check out.

Nataly Kelly. Image courtesy of Smartling.
The event's fantastic keynote speaker will be industry insider Nataly Kelly, co-author of Found in Translation and VP of Marketing at technology company Smartling. She has given presentations at the Library of Congress, Google, Apple, Microsoft and everywhere in between, so we will be in for a treat! Her speech will be interpreted into German. The rest of the program is varied and top-notch and includes presentations on MemoQ, interpreting 2.0, audiovisual translation, misused words in EU translations, and much more.

There will be plenty of time for networking, delicious Austrian meals, and of course coffee and cake! The evening event will be held at the beautiful Vienna City Hall on September 26 at 8 p.m. Incredibly enough, the first day, including Nataly Kelly's keynote, is completely free for everyone (sign-up required). The second day is very affordable at EUR 60 even for non-members!

The program is available in German here. We look forward to seeing you there! Happy birthday to UNIVERSITAS Austria and here's to at least 60 more years! The 50-year anniversary party was a huge success and was still talked about many years after, so the bar has been set quite high. See you there?

Song Lyrics, Translated

Happy Friday, dear readers! We recently heard about a cool translation project that's currently underway -- translating English-language lyrics of songs into other languages, which is quite a challenging undertaking. Have a look at this here

The site currently features two very impressive videos (original recordings of the translated lyrics). The idea is to translate one famous American or British song into Spanish, Italian and French every two months. Readers can vote for the song that they would like to get translated. Next up: Bohemian Rhapsody (quite a challenge). Our colleague Pablo Muñoz also recently wrote about this very cool initiative here. Pablo is working on this project with Liam Curley of Smoke & Croak, a British company that specializes in website localization.

Now, we'd like to issue a challenge: Could they translate some of our favorite Luis Miguel songs into English? I bet that would be a lot of fun!

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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