You’ll find a Translation Institute anywhere

If you are starting to get interested in translation (at any age), the next translation institute probably isn’t very far. Contrary to what most people would think, most universities do have a separate translation and interpretation department within their faculties of linguistics, and there is a plethora of other options as well, like schools for linguistic mediators, as some of them like to be called. You don’t necessarily need to study at a university, but a variety of private institutions satisfy the same need. Just approach your university or ask around, or use the internet. Even if you live in a small town, there is probably somewhere you can go to take up some sort of translation course.

You don’t need a Degree

Even if you can’t find an official school of translation anywhere nearby (although they are widespread, as said above, especially in countries such as Germany, France, or Italy), you should know that owning a degree is not a strict requirement as translation is not a protected profession. Anyone who thinks they are good enough in more than one language can do it. It’s just that with a proper translation degree you can charge more, and you get an excellent preparation for your job.

Translators earn a lot of Money – if they do Things right

Which brings us to the next point, the remuneration. As much fun as translation might seem in the beginning, it soon becomes just as boring and monotonous as any other job. So you will want to earn some money for the hassle to be worth it for you. If you manage to approach your job in the right way, you can start out for example by advertising your services on online translation platforms, and then gradually build a reputation – online and in real life – by networking and providing quality services. In my case, it only took a few weeks after graduating from university and I was already translating websites into German like a pro, or interpreting at fairly large events. Accept that the money is not so great at the beginning, but gets better and better, and work the crowd.  

Translation Degrees prepare you to do Loads of Things

In the modern world, the equation degree = job in that sector is no longer valid. Translators for one find employment in many different sectors; many much more interesting and fun than actual translation. Some of my ex-colleagues work in tourist offices, advertising agencies, as online marketers, and in a variety of other fields. But the translation degree covers so many different aspects that it is a great way of preparing for a variety of different jobs.


Are you interested in studying translation, and need more information? Just let us know in the comments, and we’ll be more than happy to help out. Or have you studied translation and now you work as something completely different? We’d be interested in hearing your story, too!





english german dubbing translation

Dub or sub?
The decision could be more important than we realise.

It is no secret that with dubbing, so much can be lost in translation. Humour sometimes falls flat-on-its-face flat and the voices of actors can ring hollow – or worse, come off as camp or macho when they should be the other way round. However, hidden under the voice-over, there is a far bigger concern lurking: does dubbing affect our ability to aquire another language?

Surely, it is no coincidence that the citizens of Spain, whose TV and cinema are dubbed into the local language, have the worst level of English in the EU according to a recent survey (, nor that the top five on the same list, including Norway, The Netherlands and Denmark, all use subtitling. Research has shown that we pick up languages much quicker as children than we do as adults, and that in order to aquire a language we need constant exposure to it – indeed, it is estimated that we need 30% daily exposure to a foreign language to become fluent.

Does it not make sense, then, that by watching and listening to TV programmes and films in English, foreign viewers are more likely to improve their ear for the language, their pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary? According to various studies, the answer seems to be yes. One such study found that language aquisition increases dramatically when material is subtitled as opposed to dubbed; indeed, it is suggested that the difference is equivalent to between one and a half to four years of English education at school. Imagine that – a possible four years worth of classes, just by watching TV? English language learners will be reaching for the subtitle buttons on their remotes in droves.

So too, perhaps, should business owners. Subtitled television has been shown to influence the economy of a country, particularly in foreign direct investment, the increase in the percentage of the population who speak English translating into an increase in the country’s GDP.

Equally, a 2007 EC survey among nearly 2,000 European small and medium enterprises found that a signicant amount of business is being lost as a result of a lack of language skills, mainly in English. In all but 8 of the 29 countries surveyed, more than 10% of businesses had experienced intercultural and/or language difficulties; 11% had missed out on business due to a lack of foreign language skills, with almost a fifth of these losing actual contracts, an estimated total loss of up to €12 million. When this is scaled up to reflect the almost one million exporting SMEs in Europe, the potential and actual losses caused by language shortages could conceivably run into the billions.

The bottom line seems clear, then. Or does it? Other bottom-line factors need to be considered. Dubbing itself is big business; in Germany alone, where they have their very own ‘Oscars of dubbing’ awards, and some German voice actors are almost as famous as the original stars, the total turnover of the dubbing industry in 2009 was €87.25 million. Add to that the fact that changing the translation mode from dubbing to subtitling (or vice versa) would incur substantial costs, and it is easy to see why no OECD country has changed from one mode to the other since World War Two.

And what about the public? Much like Marmite and Mourinho, dubbing continues to divide opinion, and for viewers it seems to be a case of sticking with what you’re used to. Any change would meet considerable resistance; in Poland, for example, a recently proposed move away from dubbing was only favoured by 19% of the public.

Unfortunately, it seems, at least for countries where dubbing is used, it could be a case of continuing to give the audience what they want – and not what they need.

Check these points before you ask for a translationHelping your translator to help you

If you’re a company looking to do business abroad, getting your translation spot on can be a case of make or break. There have been many translation blunders over the years. Take the example of Clairol, who introduced their “Mist Stick” curling iron into Germany. Unfortunately for them, the pronunciation is very similar to that of the German word “Miststück”, which is a none too flattering word, the German-English translation akin to “bitch” or “bastard”. Hair-curling no, toe-curling most definitely.

To avoid such embarrassing and costly errors, best to prepare well before launching your new venture and to follow a few steps as outlined below.

Brief, and make it long

The most important step. Tell your translator exactly what you need and why. The briefing stage should be a two-way conversation; ask your translator questions and expect questions in return, and listen to their advice. Being clear from the start saves time, money and possible gaffes.

Pitch Perfect

Writers should never forget their audience. Tranlsators are writers. It stands to reason, therefore, that they need to know who and what the translation is for. Tell them. Pitch, tone, style, language, they will vary depending on whether it is an ad or a memo, for example, or if it’s being aimed at Spanish or South American people.

Keep it snappy

Finding the time to trim down a document can be difficult; however, the more text you give to a translator, the higher the cost and the greater the probability of there being errors. Think about what is absolutely necesssary for your target audience and leave out the rest.

Say it with pictures

A picture speaks a thousand words, as they say. What they don’t tell you is that pictures cost little or nothing to translate. Use images, graphs, diagrams, photos, and make more of an impact on your audience, and less of one on your budget.

Put it in neutral

Don’t be too culturally colourful. Colloquialisms, idioms, cultural references, they can all confuse foreign audiences so keep your language plain where possible. If necessary, however, speak with your translator and find out which idioms and ideas can be suitably translated into the target language, and save embarrassing blushes.

Finish before you start

Only give translators final drafts where possible. Trying to save time by translating earlier drafts can go horribly wrong with changes and corrections being lost along the way and errors slipping through the net.

Avoid DIY

Do-it-yourself is for the home – bookshelves, IKEA flatpacks, that sort of thing. When it comes to translation, leave it to the professionals. As much as you may fancy yourself as a fluent and loquacious bilingual, making corrections or additions to your translator’s work – or worse, trying to do the whole thing yourself – can be disastrous.

Finally, bear in mind that translators, or at least the majority of them, are not mind readers. Plan your material well in advance, brief them precisely and work with them throughout the translation process; do this, and prepare to succeed.

Want more tips? Check out this guide to translation and getting it right.

By Mark Heaney
When it comes to the English language, we all make mistakes. It can be good fun though.

Ever been listening to a song you’ve heard a million times or more, and the penny will finally drop, they’re not saying “I’ll love you til the end” but rather “I hate youdoor english language errors and your friends”? A slight exaggeration perhaps, but I have often run into difficulties when it comes to deciphering song lyrics. Liam Gallagher’s sneering vocals or the inebriated snarl of The Pogues’ Shane McGowan have often had me running for the CD sleeve or for for the lyrics to find out, well, what they are on about.

Seemingly, I am not alone. People have historically misheard all types of highly improbable declarations: Creedence Clearwater Revival speaking of a bathroom on the right (“There’s a bad moon on the rise”); The Stone Roses’ Ian Brown wanting to be a dog, or a door (“I wanna be adored”); Jimi Hendrix politely asking to be excused while he kisses some guy (“Excuse me while I kiss the sky”), and Whitney Houston declaring herself to be Henry Walnut (“I’m every woman”). Now I can’t see why Whitney Houston would have wanted to let people know that she was in fact Henry Walnut, whoever he may be, but my friend did, and despite my protestations, refused to hear anything to the contrary.

Such mishearings and misinterpretations of lines in a poem or lyrics in a song were coined mondegreens by American writer Sylvia Wright in 1954. As a young girl, she had misheard a line from a 17th-century ballad, hearing “They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray, And Lady Mondegreen” instead of the actual last line “And laid him on the green.” Likewise, other misinterpretations have their own coinages.
It always makes me laugh to hear my mum refer to her recent forgetfulness as ‘Oultimers disease’, the Irish variant of “Oldtimers disease” and of course the misheard version of the very real illness, Alzheimer’s disease. What I didn’t know until recently was that this was called an eggcorn, the substitution of a word or phrase for another that sounds similar but where the substitution has some logic behind it. The term “eggcorn” itself came from one woman’s misunderstanding of “acorn” (granted, it does look a bit eggy) and the term has come to be used for all such substitutions, such as “ex-patriot” (instead of “expatriate”) and “shoe-in” (as opposed to the correct “shoo-in”).
Conversely, malapropisms are substitutions that come from a mishearing but where the resultant phrase does not make any sense – although it will generally make people laugh. Think Del Boy of Only Fools and Horses declaring it was “good to be back on the old terracotta” and not “terra firma” and you get an idea of the comedy potential.
Meanwhile, Folk etymology refers to popularly held assumptions and beliefs about the origin of a word or phrase, assumptions that are based on common sense but which often prove to be false and enter into the lexicon in any case. Examples include the use of “chaise lounge” (a chair for your living room) which comes from the original “chaise longue” meaning “long chair”, and “butt-naked”, which again makes sense but which actually comes from “buck-naked” as in the buck of the deer and later Indian brave varieties.
Lastly, and my own personal favourite, spoonerisms are the mixing up of the consonants and/ or vowels in words and named after an English reverend who suffered from this comic affliction. Perhaps the most famous example is the ingenious “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy”. Whether accidental tips of the slongue – sorry, slips of the tongue – or intentional plays on words, they are ripe comedy fodder.
Who’d have thought that making mistakes could have such comedy potential? A bit like seeing somebody fall over, only doing so with words.