What to Expect When Majoring in Translation

Translation isn’t a walk in the park, as one might think. I would have loved to be told, by anyone before me, what to expect when I signed up for this major, so this is to help anyone wanting to choose translation as their career path.

You are not a dictionary

What does this word mean in X language?” is the hilarious question everyone will undoubtedly ask you when they find out you’re a translator. Anticipate this joke, you’ll hear it a lot.

Keep in mind that not knowing the equivalent of every word in every language does not lessen your ability as a translator.

Friend or foe?

Google Translate and co. are not your friends

I understand your propensity to use Google Translate when you feel like you’ve reached a dead end while translating. It’s useless, though, because the result is inaccurate. In the rare case that it is, then it is not up to par.

However, some people actually believe that it is useful, and that it will replace translators. They’ll “helpfully” suggest you turn to teaching once you get your diploma. Sarcasm aside, they have a point. Translation can open many doors for you, considering it ties in with many other domains of work.

Suitcases with wheels are the best way to avoid back pain!

Suitcases are your friends

You’ll invest in many dictionaries, so while you’re at it, invest in some suitcases as well, because come exam times, the need for them will escalate. You’ll want to take all the proper dictionaries, just in case, and they are heavy.

Take it from someone who had to carry at least three dictionaries to university every time an exam was due. Just invest in a suitcase, and if you already own one, dust it off.

Practice and translation go hand in hand

Translation is more than just relaying a message in another language. It requires knowledge, culture and mastering the languages you speak.

It’s not a problem if you’re not knowledgeable enough, or if you’re not as fluent as you’d like in a language. Practice is key. You’ll have the time to work on your skills, and you’ll have the unconditional support of your peers and instructors as well.

What you’ve just read is something I constantly faced during my studies. It’s a common experience, and it awaits you if you choose to follow in my footsteps. If not, then tell me about your experience! What are some things you’ve learned about your major that you weren’t aware of before?

À vos ordres, Monsieur !


Un client confie une traduction à un traducteur et lui prodigue des conseils…

Client : Pouvez-vous traduire un document Word ?

Traducteur : Oui, je suis capable de le faire.

Client : Ne traduisez ni les chiffres ni les noms propres.

Traducteur : Entendu.

Client : Je vous conseille d’avoir recours au correcteur d’orthographe à la fin.

Traducteur : Je suis très reconnaissant pour votre aide.

“Open” Friendships…

Have you ever worked in an open space office with nine colleagues all majored in different fields? Well, welcome to my world.

My laptop and I tried every single area in this company. However, I ended up sitting in an open space office with nine other colleagues and guess what?  I am the youngest among them.

So, let me tell you something about open space offices.

First, they look like carnivals. Every person starts a conversation with the other; either talking about work, life or weekend plans so imagine the feeling of having nine different voices stuck in your head when, sometimes, you can’t even stand your own voice. In this case, I recommend you to use your earphones because they will save your day for sure.

Second, they are the best to build close funny friendships because this is the only place where you feel most like yourself. I mean you can’t go to work with a different personality everyday so it is just yourself right?

Third, and this is so true trust me, you will become one of the open space squad and your voice will annoy another person. From morning chit chats to afternoon jokes, your everyday motivation to work will be seeing your colleagues and laughing on silly boring jokes.

Shall I continue? No, I think I said enough and I will leave the rest for you to find out.

A tip from me to you: Do not sit in an office alone, unless you are a manager or the CEO himself but always choose your friendly character and be around people. Always do your job perfectly and be a friendly person at the same time. I mean it is the perfect combination and I think everyone can do that.

“Waiting” in Brussels…

 They say travelling is always about the experience and not the destination, and indeed, they are right.

During my mobility scholarship in Belgium, I experienced such a memorable adventure… And trust me, I would never have thought of doing it here in my home country.

The smell of our delicious shawarma made me homesick, as I was walking down the streets of Brussels…where I discovered this typical Lebanese cuisine restaurant O Liban.

I saw our famous mezza, our fine wine and our best-known sweets. I heard people speaking in Lebanese. At that precise moment, I realized that it felt exactly like home.

I don’t know how it came to my mind, but I decided to work as a waitress in that restaurant specifically, given that I had plenty of time and working for fun was not a bad idea.

And there, my experience began. I learned how to hold three plates in one hand and four glasses of wine in the other, just like a pro. To be honest, it was never an easy task since I broke three glasses the first time I tried to hold them and made some stupid little mistakes in front of clients; but I managed to do it perfectly at the end.

However, I have always wondered why they hired me, a translation student. Well, I was not a pro, nor I had skills. Then, I figured it all out. I am Lebanese, which makes it easier for us to communicate.

I know all our dishes by heart and being a translator was a plus for me. I was able to talk about the variety of the dishes we have in different languages. I was able to tell the clients about the ingredients of our mezza.

Then I realized that it was never about the skills because eventually, everyone will learn the technique. It was about the passion we share for our Lebanese cuisine and for the way we want to present our culture.

And that’s why foreigners love coming to the restaurant. They are in love with our famous dishes, sweets and “Almaza” beer. After all, the smile says it all.

My adventure ended after three weeks of clumsy hands, broken glasses, perfect sorting and mastering the waitress job.

I never thought I would be a waitress one day but I had the guts to do it and it was definitely a worth remembering experience.

So my advice to you is this:

Break out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to travel. Always have the courage to try new things for it will be a step closer to what you want to achieve in life.

Subtitling: Pro vs. Amateur

If my ten-year-old self had known about this, she would’ve been over the moon. But that’s not really the case today… 

As a 90s kid, I vividly remember the thrill I felt when I waited impatiently for the next episode of the Japanese manga, Detective Conan, to come out on TV. Today, I can easily binge watch an entire series without even being interrupted by ads.

There’s more! Not only can I watch my favorite series whenever and wherever I want, but I can also watch it with the subtitles of my choice.

As soon as the latest episode of Game of Thrones comes out, fans around the world translate it and share it online. That’s called Fansubbing.

It all began in the 80s with a western admiration for the Japanese cultural industry of mangas and anime. Fansubbers freely gave of their time to offer translated episodes to their fellow fans who couldn’t understand Japanese.

Back in the day, translating a movie cost a pretty penny… you needed a laserdisc player along with laserdiscs of the movie, tape recorders, wires, a PC and an early version of the Sub Station Alpha software.

Nowadays, anyone can fansub. All you need is your laptop, an easy to use easy to download subtitling program, and voilà! You are officially a fansubber.

Many consider fansubbers as cultural mediators who break down language barriers… After all they do help me understand Detective Conan’s impressive deductions. However, we – professional translators – still see them as amateurs.

Whenever I watch anything online, I cannot help but cringe when a spelling or a grammar mistake pops up on the screen. And don’t get me started on the subtitling rules that are carelessly broken…

“Prosubbers” use every linguistic muscle they have to synchronize the translation with the image and they constantly worry about exceeding the subtitle length limit.

As hard as the subtitling rules may seem, breaking them seems a lot easier…

It can get a bit distracting

A bit confusing…

And a bit embarrassing.

Even though these translations are not the best, they do make you chuckle more than once. And let’s be honest, it wouldn’t hurt anyone if translators used some help in facing this world of ever-growing information.