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Subjects explained: what I would have liked to know about the translation course as a freshman


Why become a translator when there is software for it? For example, because only humans can read between the lines. A student talks about what else she is learning at the university - and where she would like to work later.

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Aspiring translators learn to read between the lines (icon image)

Photo: Marco VDM / Getty Images

English is spoken as a first language by more than 300 million people worldwide, and Spanish by more than 400 million.

Those who have a perfect command of these languages ​​not only have it easier on vacation, but can also turn it into a career: graduates of a so-called translation degree teach at adult education centers, translate books, interpret in court or for international organizations.

Translation is about converting a text into another language;

interpreting is done with the spoken word.

Emily Hess, 20, is in her second semester studying "Language, Culture and Translation" in her bachelor's degree at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, where she chose English, Spanish and Turkish as subjects.

Here she explains what differentiates a translation degree from a linguistics degree and how to get a place for a semester abroad.

The decision to study translation

»When I was at school, I spent a year abroad at a high school in Pennsylvania, after graduating from high school I spent six months as an au pair in the Netherlands.

I love languages, cultures and travelling.

As a prospective translator, I can combine all of this.

I decided to do my bachelor's degree in Mainz because you can study languages ​​here as a translation degree, not just as a teacher like elsewhere.

At the open day, I watched students interpreting – that impressed me.

I was already at an advanced level in English and Spanish through school.

So I no longer had to take a language test in order to be admitted to the course.

I had no previous knowledge of my third language, Turkish, which I only started to learn at university.

When I told an acquaintance about my subject at the beginning of my studies, he only said: 'Really?!'

We do work with very good translation machines during our studies.

But when it comes to proverbs, metaphors and puns, they reach their limits.

I am convinced that anyone who decides to study translation today will still have a job in a few decades.«

Content and structure of the course

»I like that my studies are so practical: How do I use language in a scientific essay, an expert opinion or a children's magazine?

Which language do I choose for a 50-year-old reader and which for a 14-year-old teenager?

How do I interpret at a specialist congress and in a negotiation?

Other linguistic courses are more theoretical.

You might learn more about why and how exactly a word has developed over time.

The translation course aims at three competences: Language competence, i.e. the ability to read, speak and write the foreign language.

The translational competence, which is about the actual translation.

And finally, cultural and scientific competence, i.e. being familiar with the history, customs and cultures of the respective countries.

There is, for example, a lecture on women in Latin America or courses on gender-appropriate language in Spanish.

Exams are different.

Sometimes you have oral tests, homework or exams.

And sometimes you just pass through active participation.

Translation is not a mass subject, most of our courses only have four or five people.

So you have to participate and learn vocabulary.

Because with so few participants, you will be taken anyway.

But I also made rapid progress as a result: I've only been practicing Turkish for six months - but when I watch series in Turkish, I still understand a lot.

In Spanish I sometimes felt like I wasn't on the same level as others.

There are also many native speakers in the courses with better pronunciation and a larger vocabulary.

Fortunately, the lecturers make sure that you can also keep up with a lower level.

A semester abroad is not mandatory, but it is actually part of it.

My experience: In the languages ​​that many study, it's really difficult to get a place at a suitable partner university.

For Spain, for example, we have a selection process and job interviews, and you have to worry about your place right to the end.

It is more promising to apply to universities in Latin America, where fewer students want to go.

However, you won't get an Erasmus grant there either.

On the other hand, I applied for Turkey and was accepted straight away – it starts this year.«

Career prospects after graduation

»I could imagine working later for an aid organization and then, for example, on the Mexican border.

I get to know a lot about the situation of the refugees at the US border, I would like to help there with the refugee work.

With Spanish, many other countries would also be possible, I would not be committed to working in Germany.

But translating books also appeals to me.

From English to German, from Spanish to German.

And then it would have my name on it: ›Translated from...‹

There are not many people who are as specially trained as we are.

Some graduates of our course find a job after completing their bachelor’s degree.

I am convinced that my studies will give me good career opportunities.

Robots will not replace us any time soon.«

Source: spiegel

All news articles on 2023-01-31

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