Have you overlooked something from your professional or personal experience that may reveal to be useful to your career as a translator?
If you’re looking for answers on how to find and develop a specialty field or niche as a translator, you may have looked back at your formal training and thought you didn’t have any special training, apart from your language degree, so how do we get there?
- I remember in my early days as a freelance translator narrowing my CV for example, only to training or experience relevant to my job as a translator, partly not to end up with a resume that would have been too long. I usually included in my resume, for example, my credentials and years of experience teaching languages.
- However in this digital age, your resume is not the only area where you can showcase your skills. Your website, LinkedIn profile, or Facebook business page are also excellent media to display additional knowledge or skills you may have acquired, because it is easy, and recommended, to add content on the go, if you want to gain visibility. So all I’m going to do here is share with you an example of skills that may turn out to serve you in your current career as a translator, which you may have overlooked.
- My first specialty field (medical translation) I developed both because of my interest in it, and through circumstances. Though I didn’t receive any formal medical training in my academic years, I had a family member who worked all her life in the medical field so I had some (little) insight into the subject, combined with a genuine interest in all health matters. So when I started as a freelance translator here in the US, I just trained and got accredited as a medical interpreter. I soon found out however that in my region there wasn’t many opportunities to exercise that specialty with my main language combination, English to French. But, gradually, having that qualification mentioned on my business card, resume, and online profiles, I started receiving more and more written translation jobs in the medical field. Over the years, between my readings, continual education, and practical experience, I gained – and still do gain – better knowledge in that field. I also discovered quickly that this field is too vast and that I needed to narrow it down to a few specialties within that specialty, if I wanted to do a good job at it.
- Recently I started working on a project translating anatomy books. I soon realized this particular job turned out to be considerably facilitated for me by the fact that I received, many years ago, a formal training in Anatomy, fact which I had never mentioned in my profiles or resumes because I hadn’t thought it relevant for my translation career: In my twenties and early thirties I studied ballet and became a ballet teacher till the birth of my daughter. My formal training as a ballet teacher in Paris, which lasted 3 years, included, among other subjects, History of music, and Anatomy applied to Ballet, which I received from the respected Georgette Bordier, then Professor at the Ecole de Danse de l’Opéra de Paris, who published her “Anatomie appliquée à la danse” (Editions Amphora) which was our textbook.
- For those who may want to know practically what I’m talking about, here a short video demonstrating the importance of knowing your anatomy, whether as a dancer or as a ballet teacher:
In English, a demo of the muscles involved in the battement jeté:
In French, an excellent demo of the best way to arch the foot, or rather, to stretch it, and then on how to get the best “real” turnout of the feet in first position, which will not damage the ankles:
That theory training was of course followed and enhanced by years of teaching ballet to people of all ages, and sensitizing my students to the importance of body alignment and better understanding of how their body worked, how to make the best of it, and avoid injury.
- So when I started working on this anatomy book translation, most terms were already familiar to me, and I was very comfortable with the project.
Many translators nowadays come from extremely diverse backgrounds and have previous work experience in areas that had nothing to do with languages, let’s say, whether as engineers, chemists, flight attendants, selling solar panels, you may have worked several years for a travel agency or an airline company, etc.
* Look back at your personal experience, you may have knowledge or experience that you didn’t think you could use in your translator career, either occasionally, or to develop as a full specialty.
* Don’t neglect your hobbies: Do you have in depth knowledge and experience in Photography equipment? Boating? Boat equipment? Exotic plants? Extreme sports? Scuba diving? Organic gardening? Even if you’re only an amateur in one such thing, you can always find some classes you can take in your area or online, and get credit for. You need to start somewhere.
This is only part of my own experience, so all translators are welcome to share here their personal experience on how they developed their own specialty fields, hoping that this may help newcomers or future translators find their own niche.