Translation as a career
Translation as a career

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Translation as a career

3.5 Case studies

Having looked at translation competence and at the CEFR level descriptors, let’s look at two case studies of learners who are thinking of studying for an MA in translation. 

Read each case study and, thinking back at the CEFR descriptors and the concept of translation competence, try to assess the potential language gaps these students might have, and what they should focus on in terms of their language development in preparation for the quiz below.

Case study 1: Stuart

Described image
Figure 9 Stuart

Stuart is a native speaker of English. He studied Spanish and English linguistics for his language studies degree in the UK four years ago. Although he reached a level C1 in Spanish, he has not used Spanish much since then, and feels he has forgotten a lot. He is now thinking of doing an MA in Translation, and feels anxious about his level of Spanish, especially his speaking and listening. He would like to specialise in technical translation.

Table 3 Stuart’s skill level

Mother tongue(s)English
Other language(s)UNDERSTANDINGSPEAKINGWRITING
 ListeningReadingSpoken interactionSpoken production 
SpanishC1C1B2B2C1

Case study 2: Silvia

Described image
Figure 10 Silvia

Silvia is originally from Italy, although she has lived in Scotland for over 30 years. She still speaks Italian with her family and friends back home, and often spends her holiday in Italy, but doesn’t do much else to keep up her Italian. She has occasionally helped in her husband’s company, translating emails and invoices, and interpreting when Italian clients have visited. She never studied English formally, and although she speaks it fluently, she is not very confident when writing. She has not thought about what she would like to specialise in.

Table 4 Silvia’s skill level

Mother tongue(s)Italian
Other language(s)UNDERSTANDINGSPEAKINGWRITING
 ListeningReadingSpoken interactionSpoken production 
EnglishC1B2C1C1B2

Activity 4

Now have a look at the different pieces of advice, and decide if they are more relevant to Stuart or to Silvia:

Don’t worry too much about your speaking – the most important skills for a translator are reading and writing.

a. 

Stuart


b. 

Silvia


The correct answer is a.

Read a wide range of English literature, newspapers and academic publications to improve your reading.

a. 

Stuart


b. 

Silvia


The correct answer is b.

Engage with the more formal aspects of English such as grammar and syntax.

a. 

Stuart


b. 

Silvia


The correct answer is b.

It is important to re-engage with your L2 language and culture, as you will have lost some of the proficiency you had as a student by not using the language for a while.

a. 

Stuart


b. 

Silvia


The correct answer is a.

Focus on practising your writing in a variety of different styles (prose, essay writing etc.). Writing is your main weakness.

a. 

Stuart


b. 

Silvia


The correct answer is b.

Keep up to date with your native language and culture by reading the press, watching TV, etc. It is important to keep up your cultural and linguistic competence in your mother tongue!

a. 

Stuart


b. 

Silvia


The correct answer is b.

Read some specialist publications to improve your specialist vocabulary and your knowledge of relevant text types in the area you want to specialise in.

a. 

Stuart


b. 

Silvia


The correct answer is a.

Try to incorporate your L2 into your daily life as much as possible (watching TV, listening to the radio or going online and visiting sites in your target language).

a. 

Stuart


b. 

Silvia


The correct answer is a.

Now look at your language passport, where you did an audit of your language skills, and think about what you might need to work on if you want to become a translator.

Write a short profile about yourself like the two in the case studies you’ve just looked at, and then write five pieces of advice you would give yourself. This is the basis of an initial language development plan if you want to work towards becoming a translator.

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