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LiMo

Is The IoLET Diploma In Translation (DipTrans) Realistic and Useful For A Non-career Linguist

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LiMo

The title may seem a bit contradictory but I'll outline my background and career prospects. Hopefully someone with experience in this area can get back to me.

 

I've just finished my masters in Advanced Chinese Studies and I'm unsure where to go career-wise. I've got that annoyingly mid-level Chinese that is good enough to do academic stuff (just about) but still nowhere near good enough to take most of the jobs that require a Chinese speaker/reader. I have odd bits of experience here and there, and a big field change from natural science to " the humanities" (I spent most of my time reading social science, but it will say Master of Arts on my degree certificate). Not sure how that plays but my girlfriend is convinced that "Chinese studies" will drive people away like the plague. 

 

While translation doesn't appeal as a full-time career, I thought it might be useful to have it as a backup, and obviously having a proper qualification is good for reassuring clients. I couldn't stand doing another masters, and it simply wouldn't be worth the money, which is why the DipTrans looks promising. However, it's not cheap either, at around £650 pounds for the three papers + registration fees. On top of that, I hear it's pretty darn hard even for people who've got some real world experience. People seem to recommend doing preparation courses, but that adds another few hundred quid, if not more. So maybe a £1000 all told. 

 

Initially I was a little overconfident (alright, downright cocky) and paid £25 up front for access to the past-papers with the full intention of doing a bit of cramming and then passing the exam. However, upon further research it sounds pretty daunting: no electronic dictionaries, you need to bring hard copies and that means shelling out again for stuff I've already bought on pleco (almost gave up there, I hate unnecessary expenditures); the examiners are old school, I see people recommending style guides to brush up on your English; the pass rate is pretty darn low, in the 30% range I heard. Overall it seems like it will be no mean feat to pass this and it's not even my main goal.

 

Now my reservations hinge mostly on money. Although I'm really against taking a course, if I get a job in the meantime then, because I live at home, I think the expense wouldn't be anywhere near as painful as it is right now. However, I'd still rather not spend the money if the return on investment is too low for a casual translator with low work volume. The way things are nowadays experience is everything and I don't really trust that having the qualification would be all that helpful to fall back on if I don't have serious experience to back it up. It would be nice to hear from translators, especially anyone who's taken the exam. Just how hard was it? Did you need to take a course to prepare? How was your career before and after gaining the qualification?

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Milkybar_Kid

I haven't taken this exam myself but I've heard from others that it's something you take after completing a master's degree in translation. It's also renowned for being incredibly difficult in any language and not just Chinese. However if you look at the profiles of translators on Proz.com who have got this qualification, they tend to be full-time translators who translate day in and day out. If translation is not your main goal and profession then I don't know if the return on investment would be worth your while. How about posting this question over on Proz.com to collect views from other translators?

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Apollys

It sounds to me like your Chinese is at a pretty good level. The next step should be to start putting yourself in challenging situations, broadening your experience and strengthening your confidence.

 

Maybe you can do something in the meantime to gain more experience and raise your skill level so that later you will be in a more promising position to take the exam.  In my opinion, it's best not to force yourself to take an exam that you may not pass just for the sake of having the certificate (though I have no specific knowledge about the test in question).

 

Now for the issue of money.  I would suggest that if you're financially tight at the moment, find some other source of income to fund your exam fees and regular life in the meantime.  Of course I don't know the significance of this test, but in general I wouldn't rely on a single test like this to be a magic key that will suddenly unlock the floodgates of Chinese translation jobs for you.  However, I also think that if the test is challenging (as long as it's not challenging for the completely wrong reasons), preparation for this test will improve your Chinese skills in a useful way, and therefore you will get something valuable out of it regardless of whether or not the certificate itself directly lands you a job.

 

Of course, the question of whether or not taking this exam would be the best use of your time and money will have to be answered by someone who has more specific knowledge and experience on this topic.

 

Edit: from Milkybar's response it sounds like it would definitely be worth it if you can pass it, but it also sounds like you may not be in a position to pass it yet.

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艾墨本

I can only speak of the situation in the US.

Most jobs (Gov, private, etc.) that require proficiency in Chinese have their own tests to ensure you're not just "faking" it. Putting a high level of proficiency on your Resume is obviously not as good as official certifications, but might have a better return on investment.

 

As far as translation goes, I say don't do it. My logic is this: there is a common assumption that being proficient in two languages=ability to translate successfully. That'd be a misrepresentation of the challenges of translating. A certificate that aims verify skilled translators will most certainly work to sift out those that are merely bilingual. I relate it to teaching where there is a common assumption that good doing something (math, Chinese, etc.) is the major prerequisite for being a good teacher on the subject. I'm sure all here have had teachers that embody this misconception.

 

I think the question you are asking is perhaps too narrow. The common opinion on these forums, that I also stand behind, is that Chinese on it's own is not a skill that will land you a job but is a skill that will enhance your application when paired with other skills.

 

I'd go a step farther and say that many corporations are looking for those who understand, deeply, Chinese culture (even minus language ability) to help them communicate with their Chinese counterparts.

 

As for a degree in "Chinese Studies," that might move you in the above mentioned career path as acting as interlocutor between two parties, one of which would be Chinese. Alternatively, there are a lot of government positions that require said knowledge. I don't know if your home country has an equivalent of USAjobs with government listings. Try checking that and search for Chinese and Mandarin and see what pops up. Glassdoor and Linkedin are other alternatives.

 

There are such a variety of jobs out there, it's quite hard to say I only want this one when there might be a better fitting one you simply don't know exists.

 

Some other possible paths: Helping Chinese students study abroad, focus on intercultural-communication trainings for those going to China or Chinese going abroad, going the thinktank route, supporting international programs that take students/employees on trips to China, tourism industry (tour guide, hotel management, etc), and even things like the Census Bureau that need people that can ask questions in Chinese.

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Apollys
3 hours ago, 艾墨本 said:

As far as translation goes, I say don't do it.

 

Why do you say don't do it? Is it because you think it wouldn't be enjoyable compared to alternatives, or because the OP doesn't have the proper skill set and it would be too much work to acquire that skill set?

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Milkybar_Kid
On 11/8/2018 at 6:01 PM, Apollys said:
On 11/8/2018 at 2:51 PM, 艾墨本 said:

As far as translation goes, I say don't do it.

 

Why do you say don't do it? Is it because you think it wouldn't be enjoyable compared to alternatives, or because the OP doesn't have the proper skill set and it would be too much work to acquire that skill set?

 

Also interested to hear why not.

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