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Prepare for your life as a Translation, Interpretation, and Localization Management student at the Middlebury Institute.

10 Ways to Prepare for a Program or Career in Translation or Interpretation

Professor Julie Johnson, chair of our translation and interpretation programs, discusses practical recommendations on how to prepare for academic training and a career as a translator or interpreter.

1. Read EVERY DAY in nonnative languages, for example:

  • High-quality newspapers (e.g. the New York Times, Wall Street Journal)
  • High-quality news magazines (e.g. the Economist)
  • Any well-written material that will help broaden your general knowledge

2. Watch TV news and listen to radio news and podcasts on current events in all working languages (or record them for later).

  • Listen—and analyze.
  • Follow current events and issues.

3. Strengthen your general knowledge of economics, history, law, international politics, and scientific concepts and principles (in that order).

  • Take college-level courses, review high school texts, etc.
  • Strengthen your knowledge in a specialized field (preferably technical, such as computers).

4. Live in a country where your nonnative language is spoken.

  • At least six months to a year is recommended.
  • Live with and/or frequently interact with native speakers of nonnative languages.
  • Take content-related courses (e.g. macroeconomics, political science) in nonnative languages.
  • Work in a setting that requires high-level use of nonnative languages.

5. Fine-tune your writing and research skills.

  • Take challenging composition courses (not just creative writing, but journalism and technical writing) so you can “speak” journalese, UNese, legalese, etc.
  • Copy (by hand) sections of textbooks and periodicals in nonnative languages.
  • Make a note of unfamiliar or troublesome grammatical points and work towards mastering them.
  • Practice proofreading.

6. Improve your public speaking skills.

  • Take rigorous speech courses and/or join Toastmasters.
  • Practice writing and making presentations in front of other people in both your native and nonnative languages.
  • Have native speakers of your nonnative language edit your speeches.

7. Hone your analytical skills.

  • Listen to speeches and orally summarizing the main points.
  • Write summaries of news articles.
  • Decipher difficult texts (philosophy, law, etc.)
  • Explain complicated concepts understandably.
  • Identify resources for background research (the library, Internet, etc.).

8. Become computer savvy.

  • Familiarize yourself with navigation and file management under current Windows operating systems (most of the software tools used in the localization industry today are not compatible with the Apple operating system).
  • Develop an understanding of the Windows features for multilingual processing, such as language-specific keyboard layouts and regional settings for units of measurement.
  • Learn to use advanced functions of Word, Excel, and other Microsoft Office applications in both your native and nonnative languages.
  • Become an expert in search engines and online research by using these tools on a daily basis.

9. Learn how to take care of yourself.

Eat sensibly, exercise regularly, and get sufficient sleep. These are all habits required of a professional translator/interpreter.

10. Be prepared for lifelong learning.

Be patient. Bringing your language skills and analytical skills up to the level required of a professional translator or interpreter is not a task that can be accomplished in a few short years. Only with a lot of sustained hard work can anyone truly succeed in these challenging and exciting fields.