What to Expect
Students in translation and interpretation programs have to know at least
a little bit about a lot of subjects. But languages should still be their
You may think you don't need much creativity to convert a document from
one language to another, but Mary Maloof says otherwise. She completed Georgetown
University's postgraduate translation certification program.
"I...love the challenges of the translating process itself, having to take
a document in one language and make it understandable in other languages,
to people of other cultures, without losing the essential meaning that the
original document was trying to convey," she says.
Travis Reid is a graduate of the University of Tulsa. He studied French
translation while pursuing three majors: marketing, French and international
business. "I remember taking hours to read a book in French and even more
time to write a paper in that language," he says.
"After a while, though, practice makes perfect."
The amount of homework varies, Maloof says. "[It] depended on the document,
how complex it was and how familiar you were with the topic," Maloof says.
"Some would take only two hours to translate, while others would take weeks."
For Maloof, difficulties arose from actual translations. "It's hard enough
to translate if you know the topic already, but if you are working in a topic
you're unfamiliar with, it's even harder -- you're forever running to your
reference shelf and the time it takes to do the translation is doubled."
How to Prepare
For high school students, the primary focus should be on learning another
language. "Your goal is to become fluent in whatever language you will
be translating from," Maloof says.
"So you will need to do as many different things as possible, as often
as you possibly can, to expose yourself to the language and immerse yourself
in it, because you won't learn it just from your classes -- there, you do
a lot of reading and writing, but not nearly enough conversing."
That's not all you can do, either. "Take a course in your language, get
a conversation tutor, go to restaurants where they speak your language, read
periodicals, tune into cable channels that offer programming in the language,
interact with exchange students who speak the language if you can -- and if
at all possible, go abroad and stay there as long as you possibly can."