Readers’ Questions: UCLA Translation Program; ATA Certification; Working with Local Translation Companies; Imposter Syndrome

A few weeks ago I received some reader questions. Instead of answering them directly, I decided to post the answers here so that the rest of you could have them.

Remember, you can always send me your own questions by filling out the contact form.

OK, now on to the questions:

Does UCLA have a Russian
Translation Certification course?

The quick answer is no. There is no Russian translation or interpretation program at UCLA, unfortunately. The school, which is located in Los Angeles, California, (for those not from the U.S.), does have a Russian language program; however, students can only earn a degree in one of the following Russian language programs:

  • Russian Language and Literature
  • Russian Studies
  • Slavic Languages and Literatures

The program also offers tracks for a Russian minor.

So, in short, if you want a Russian translation program, you should probably avoid UCLA.

That being said, UCLA does offer a interpretation/translation program through its extension program. The program is offered for both Chinese (Mandarin) and Spanish and offers both courses in translation and interpretation. The cost of the program is around $6,000 and classes are held at the UCLA extension centers in Los Angeles. You can find more information about the program at the UCLA Extension Translation Program website.

How long is the ATA certification course?

The next question comes from a reader interested in the ATA (American Translators Association).

This question has another easy answer.

There is no ATA certification course. In other words, the ATA does not offer a course for certification. However, while the organization does not offer certification courses, what it does offer is a certification exam for translators.

Here’s some basic information about the exam, if you’re interested in taking it:

  • The overall pass rate for the test is under 20 percent. It’s not an easy test.
  • It costs $300.
  • It is only offered at certain times and in certain locations (here’s the schedule).
  • You can take a practice test (although the practice test is different than the normal test)
  • The test is three hours long and open book.
  • The test consists of three passages that are about 250 words each, two of which that have to be translated.
  • The test is evaluated by ATA graders and is pass/fail.
  • You can use open-source resources like dictionaries and glossaries.

I’ve written some more about my thoughts on ATA here.

How do I start working with a
local translation company?

If you want to start working for a local translation company, there is no secret on how to do it. You have to be willing to talk to the company you want to work for.

First of all, do some research on the company. That research will help you in a couple of ways:

  1. You’ll better know if you have the skills and talents to offer the company something that it needs. If you can’t offer the company anything, there is no reason the company should ever hire you (or even allow you an opportunity to volunteer). The company doesn’t owe you anything.
  2. Knowing what the company is all about will help you personalize your contact with the company’s decision makers. This will help you make a better impression and give you a better chance of securing a position.

Second, get your resume ready. You want to personalize it for the company you’re interested in, making sure that you are offering something that the company needs.

Third, time to make contact. Forget emails and phone calls. Show up directly at the company. Most translation companies I’ve worked with are more than happy to meet with freelance translators that can help them out, especially local ones that they can meet in person. Translation companies always have to worry about translation scams, so meeting a translator in person is actually preferable for most translation companies.

I want to be a translator but I have Impostor Syndrome. How do I overcome this?

First off, what is Impostor Syndrome?

While not formally recognized by the American Psychiatric Association as an “official” psychiatric disorder, it nevertheless is a potentially debilitating condition that affects tons of people.

According to Wikipedia, Impostor Syndrome is a concept “describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

It’s a condition that affects women and men equally and can be characterized by the following symptoms:

  • Perfectionism
  • Overworking
  • Undermining one’s own achievements
  • Fear of failure
  • Discounting praise
  • Saying things to yourself like, “I’m a fake” or “I got lucky.”

Unfortunately, translators are not immune to the feelings that characterize Impostor Syndrome. A lot of us suffer from these feelings the same as other people. That’s OK. We are not alone in these feelings. In fact, research from the 1980s revealed that 2 out of every 5 successful people felt like a fraud at some point. Later research has shown that up to 70 percent of people suffer from Imposter Syndrome at some point.

So, the first thing to realize as a translator suffering from Impostor Syndrome is to realize that you are not alone. Many others have felt the same way. In fact, there are some very famous and talented people that have suffered from it:

  • Tom Hanks
  • Maya Angelou
  • Chuck Lorre
  • Sonia Sotomayor
  • Emma Watson

OK, so how do you deal with Impostor Syndrome?

The first step is to realize that you have it. You can’t deal with it if you don’t acknowledge it.

Second, understand that you’re not the only one suffering from it. Many other people (translators and other professionals alike) suffer from it just like you.

Third, it’s important that you recognize your own achievements and successes. You need to realize that your successes and achievements are much more valuable than your perceived failures.

This is indeed harder than it looks. Since I’ve started writing books, I’ve begun to learn about writing and the writing industry. One of the things that a lot of writers suffer from is negative comments on their books. They could have 50 five star awesome comments followed by 1 negative comment. However, instead of focusing on the great things people have said about their book, they lament that one negative review, wasting their energy on worrying about it.

You, as a translator, as a person, as a language guru, have talents and achievements. Recognize them for what they are. Even if you’ve never translated anything before but you know two (or more) languages, focus on that. How many people in the world are fluent in more than one language? Not as many as you might think. How awesome is it that you are?

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to spend some time in Mexico City (you can see some pictures from my Instagram feed). It was cool to be in a Spanish-speaking environment and be able to communicate with the people there in a language that is not my native one. It was a great feeling, and a great reminder of just one of my successes.

The final step is to move forward and maintain a focus on what you can provide your customers without worrying about what others might or might not think. Many times, the people we are afraid of (who we think might criticize us) are too busy worrying about themselves to worry about us. In addition, it’s important to realize that there are 7.6 billion people on the earth. You will not please them all. Not even close. If  you can please 1 percent of 1 percent of 1 percent of all the people in the world, you’d be doing great.


P.S. Need more answers on how to become a successful translator? Read my book.

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