The Language Show 2011
As described in more details in a previous post, the Language Show is an event addressed to language teachers, translators, interpreters, linguists and anyone with a passion for languages. This year’s show took place at the National Hall, Olympia. One of the sponsors was the Chartered Institute of Linguists. Apart from the stall where linguists could find out more about this association and how to join, they also organised seminars for linguists. Michael Cunningham, member of the IoL, talked about his experience as a professional translator. More about his tips and tricks below.
Starting out as a professional linguist – the seminar
I definitely enjoyed this seminar, it was not a boring monologue, but an interactive session. Here are the main points covered:
There are many skills that make a good translator or interpreter, such as education, discipline, confidence, research skills, language skills etc. In Michael’s opinion, the three top ones are:
- mastery of the mother tongue (target language)
- mastery of the source language
- excellent subject knowledge
People find it weird to see perfect command of the mother tongue listed, but in order to be a good linguist, you need to be able to speak your mother tongue perfectly, to know how to express yourself correctly (when speaking and writing), to use different registers as required.
As for subject knowledge, contrary to the general belief, the more specialised you are the more money you can make.
How can one improve their language skills (both in target and source language)? Well, reading (communicating in general) daily in both languages is essential. If you want to become better acquainted to and later specialised in a certain field (let’s say sports), try to read the same type of article/ piece of news etc. in both languages to become familiar with special terms, expressions, tone and register.
“They need you as much as you need them.”
How to find your clients? Well, there are several ways, depending also on your language combination, if you are specialised or not, how much experience you have etc. :
- if you are just starting out or finding it difficult to find clients, contacting translation agencies can be a good starting point; register with as many as possible to increase your chances of getting work
- contact prospective clients directly
- phone them up
- go to their office
- attend conferences or fairs (and don’t forget to take your CV and business cards with you)
What you can charge depends on many factors: language combination (and how common it is), field of specialisation, area etc. For example, if you are an Arabic-English interpreter working in a specialist technical area, you can probably charge the earth. But if your language combination is French-English and you live in London, you will find the going much harder.
Do your research. Try forums, speak to other linguists and see how much they charge. Always be willing to negotiate and help!
When you start your own business, you need to take into consideration:
- start-up money
- a reliable computer
- good software
- advertising your business
- good presentation (emails, invoices, CV etc.)
- meeting deadlines
Has anyone else attended the seminar? I would love to hear your opinions!