The first step to success in the profession of sworn translator
Is thorough theoretical knowledge enough to become a successful sworn translator?
The profession of a sworn translator in Poland has been strictly regulated since 2004 – the year when state exams, covering both translation and interpretation, were introduced. Various message boards are full of threads investigating the predicted texts, most common themes (with finances, various excerpts of acts of Polish constitution, economy and politics racing for the pole position) and useful hints for those who are about to face the challenges of sight translation in fairly stressful circumstances. Majority of those who passed the examination explain that the main difficulty lies in the… utter lack of preparation provided officially at the state schools. Universities provide superficial knowledge on legal translation without delving into the more complex issues; just a few schools offer exercises in interpretation. And to add insult to injury, even the broadest theoretical knowledge is still not sufficient.
There is no simple way to success – but you can get there by systematic learning and developing independence.
It would be hard to describe a perfect candidate for a sworn translator, but such a person must be motivated, success-oriented and, to put it simply, stubborn. There are far more problems that you will encounter during your journey… and unfortunately, far less people willing to help you. Given that every new person who manages to successfully get through the exam basically equals a new influx of workforce – and therefore competition – to the market, there is only a handful of professionals willing to share their occupational secrets (or even just general information) with the aspiring translators. No wonder that many young, enthusiastic translators simply give up and, overwhelmed by the amount of preparation accompanied by utter lack of guidance, carve a niche for themselves within a different sector. For those determined to receive professional guidelines and thorough preparation, there are official courses, approved by the members of the national examination board. Their only vice is the pricing, which usually makes potential students carefully weigh their financial assets against the potential development of knowledge and know-how – with mixed results.
This brings us to the underrated, yet tremendously important trait of a successful sworn translator – independence. Acquiring the demanded scope of knowledge is challenging to the young adult striving to make a living on their own while still keeping on studying, imposing careful study organisation, the development of the ability to individually analyse legal texts, financial documents and statements, prepare glossaries and term bases - all of that while usually working full time. With such a wide scope of duties and professional responsibilities usually stretching well beyond the commonly accepted 9-5 timeline, it is not an easy task to do.
Experience is key – but how can you gain it?
The major concern among the graduates of various language studies is that finding employment moderately related to their education is virtually impossible. Those who are successful have usually started very early, by applying for internships at translation agencies or volunteering during various events when they had the ability to put to the test their translation or interpreting skills. When sending out CVs, enclose sample translations, allowing the future employer or business partner to assess your skills and fluency. If taking the examination is your ultimate goal, focus on legal, financial and technical translation; prepare term bases, dictionaries, explore the legal systems in particular countries – do not hesitate to ask your friends for help when some of the issues seem to be far too complex to be understood by a person lacking thorough education in law. Always bear in mind - the more texts you translate, the less likely you are to be confused when a certain term or phrase appears in the translation. People say that practice makes perfect and they aren’t telling you that just to point out that your work needs more precision. Sometimes they just want you to get better – and in this case there is no other way than going through tens of thousands of pages undergoing translation.
Every single journey begins with a single step; walk unafraid and become independent
Professionals working in the translation services industry are widely regarded as ambitious, success-oriented and introvert. This also does not help in admitting to your mistakes or reaching out for feedback – but if you fit this description, you are possibly not afraid at all to work on your own, master time and task management, as well as go through astounding amount of resources to gain necessary knowledge. It is a long road to become a sworn translator – but even with the amount of time and effort that it requires, it is perfectly manageable. At any given moment when you feel that despite all of your attempts you are still in the woods – remind yourself how much have you already achieved and do your best to succeed.