how long did it take you to get your language skills to a good enough level for translation work?
By - CockroachJust
Degree-level German will certainly be sufficient to start using it as your source language once you finish your course - especially if you commit yourself to really immersing yourself in all aspects of the language and culture. That's far more German experience than I had before I started out as a professional translator, and it's worked out for me. Just bear in mind that learning a new language is a lifelong journey. Those six years will be enough, but they're just the beginning, and you'll be honing your language and translation skills for years to come.
ok thanks for that! i'm definitely motivated if nothing else so i SHOULD be able to get there successfully. just glad to know it's possible.
I remember my first year at university. On the first day of speaking practice, a German native interacted with us and I realized I could barely understand what she was saying. I wasn't the only one, of course, but this was a rather drastic change from what we had in high school. I remember asking myself what I was even doing there if I couldn't even get what was happening.
Anyways, what I'm trying to say is, the transition might be a bit rough, but you're already better than I was at the time (I didn't watch a lot of native content). I don't know if you have a similar structure for your course as I did, but it was around 5 years too and the last two were more focused on the job (translating professionally and managing as a freelancer). You can do it!
thanks! i tend to understand native speakers alright, but actually producing the language is another thing, i speak like a 'roboter' and i can't write to save my life. i think theres also one year in germany which will be helpful, i just hope i can get into my course of choice!
I’m a French to English translator (or vice versa). I didnt start learning French until I started university and that was 6 years ago. Fortunately , Canada has two official languages so I was exposed to some French for as long as I remember. Fast forward today, those 6 years were enough to get me started with my career. I’m at C1 with my French and I’m doing well. Although sometimes I still need to check up some words.
Anyway, my advice is, while you’re doing your language degree, practice. Use every speaking opportunity to improve. That is my regret because once I’ve reached a comfortable level, I became lazy. Although now, i’m exposed to a lot of French at work.
On another note, I remember from a translation class where the Prof said "being fluent in a language is not enough to be a good translator." A native speaker will always have more "culturality" than someone who just learned the language. So my advice is, while you’re doing your degree, learn as much about their culture too.
You should know that the learning curve gets steeper for higher proficiency learners/users. (So take it slow!!!) Continued use throughout your life is key to mastering any language, including your native language. All users of a language whether native or non-native are life-long learners of the language.
But, it’s also true that non-native language users tend to lack exposure to the target language compared to native users (age is a different matter). Try to expose yourself to your target language as much as possible. Have you tried calculating the percentage of time you spend using your target language compared to your native language?
Mastery is a slippery term unless you define for yourself what you will be using your language for (academic literacy? written or spoken?). Proficiency is genre/context specific. It may be interesting to note that many researchers in the academic field are capable of writing/presenting/discussing academic work in English as a second language, but that does not mean they are comfortable with engaging in daily conversations in their second language (due to lack of exposure and practice in such linguistic performance). Which area of your language proficiency do you want to improve on?
Proficiency level above C1 is interlinked with higher academic literacy. There are studies that suggest that proficiency in your stronger language (in your case, your native language) predicts the level of proficiency you can acquire in your target language. If you are a terrible speaker/writer in your L1, chances are that you are a terrible speaker/writer in your L2. I would advise you to work on your German alongside your academic literacy in your first/native language during your bachelors program. Working on both will be tough, but it will pay off in the long run.
As for myself:
I started learning English as a second language from age 2, alongside Japanese (my first language). For me, the key to learning both languages has been to continue using both languages.
I’ve been learning/using both languages for 20+ years now, but I still don’t feel like I am “proficient enough” in both languages. My academic English is stronger than my Japanese because I wrote and spoke more English than Japanese through under grad and grad school, but I’m more comfortable communicating in Japanese for day-to-day conversations because I live in Japan and am surrounded by Japanese people. I would add that exposure to higher education (above BA) helped me improve my proficiency (in both languages) massively.
I do JP-EN legal translation (both ways) now. Academic language proficiency helps a lot in this area, but the legal language is far too complex (I would imagine even for native language users).
Anyways, good luck!
10-15 years. And despite this, I still feel like a fraud (I probably am one) lol.
ah the ol' imposter syndrome. i'll have been learning for a total of 11-12 years counting the 4 years i did in school and the next 6 years with a bit in between. hopefully that's enough to at least get by as a fraud!