posted 30 July 2001 08:23
I agree with Claire - in-house positions are a great way to get intensive experience, good training and a documented record of your achievements.
There are loads of ideas for places to do free translations for the experience. Charities are a good start. But you could also look at doing freebies for family and friends (but make sure they know you will charge one day!! ), or ask at your college - they might have some contacts who'd be only too happy to let a "trainee" loose on some of their texts - and in some cases they'll pay you too, but probably not commercial rates...
To be honest, I'd avoid the test translation route for two reasons.
The first is that there are some unscrupulous agencies out there who'll let you do free tests and then sell them. Or worse, you'll get a reputation as someone looking for experience and you'll be asked to do loads of free test translations but you'll be overlooked for the longer (paid!) texts.
The other reason is that with a bit of practice, you can spot an inexperienced translator a mile off. It's not necessarily a problem in itself, but once an agency gets its own little notion of you, you'll be tarred with that brush for ages (maybe years!) and find it difficult to shake off. So even though you'd say in advance you're looking for experience, you might find that the agencies who give you that experience won't then give you any "proper" work. They're not all like that, of course, but I've encountered a few in my long and chequered career.
Another potential route is the project management one!! Sounds unlikely, but it's true. There are always agency project management jobs available, and getting a foot in the door in translation is the very important first step. If you get a job of this kind, you could ask your boss if you could do small, easy translations in your own time (maybe even charge a token sum for them ), thereby giving you translation experience. And most importantly, you'll get contacts: other translators, mainly, since you mustn't pinch your boss's clients! Translation is a small pond (in the UK at least!), and you need to get your name known.
I wish you every success! Let us know how you get on.
All the best