Anglophones wanted!

This post was contributed by Jozef van der Voort, an MA student in Translation Studies at the University of Sheffield

English is a global lingua franca, and researchers or authors seeking to reach an international audience are obliged to publish in English. Yet native English speakers are notoriously reluctant to learn foreign languages, and as a result there is a great deal of unmet demand for expert translators working into English. This applies across all industries but the need is particularly acute in academia, where high level language skills must be paired with expert subject knowledge.

The Use Your Language, Use Your English summer school sought to address this need by offering a week of intensive editing and translation training to English speakers with knowledge of one or more foreign languages. My source languages are German and French, but also on offer were Arabic, Chinese, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. This made for a diverse group of participants who all had unique experiences and insights to share throughout the course, and I found that I learned as much from my fellow students as I did from the translation tutors themselves.

The tutors were also excellent – practising translators all, they brought a vast amount of experience to bear and provided invaluable advice not just on how to tackle the texts that we worked on over the week, but also on how to get established in the profession.

Translation – not just an academic pursuit

For me, this professional focus was the most invaluable aspect of the summer school. Rewarding as it was to debate the intricacies of German and French literary texts with my like-minded and enthusiastic fellow students, the tutors and organisers never lost sight of the fact that translation is a business – that to succeed as a translator it is vital to build strong networks in order to promote your work, and to keep your clients’ needs in mind. This applies as much to literary and academic translation as it does to the more commercial texts I tend to deal with on my MA course. Every text has an audience, and while it is easy to immerse yourself in fine detail when translating texts from one language into another, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that translation is always undertaken for a specific purpose.

All in all it was encouraging to see that the translation marketplace is in good health, and that opportunities abound for native English speakers with high-level foreign language skills. I would like to thank the organiser Professor Naomi Segal for all her hard work in putting together this extremely rewarding week, and I would recommend the course as an excellent introduction for anyone interested in getting into translation.


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