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Starting a career in the European translation industry: Rebekah’s story

Rebekah talks about the need for talented linguists and starting her own translation career as a Bath MA Translation and Professional Language Skills graduate.

Rebekah, who graduated in 2020, studied MA Translation and Professional Language Skills (TPLS), specialising in French and Spanish to English translation.

She currently lives in Luxembourg, where she supports the European Parliament as a trainee English editor. We spoke to her to find out how she found her way into the professional translation world, and how Bath and her lecturers helped prepare her for the real-world job market that needs skilled linguists.

What have you gone on to do since you graduated?

I finished my degree in 2020, and since then I've worked in the private translation sector. I worked for a translation agency in a project management role, and in October 2023 I started a traineeship in the editing service of the European Parliament.

I make sure that any content that the European Parliament puts on their website or in their reports is professionally written. On top of that, I record a podcast and have also written articles for newsletters. This all builds on the editing skills that I learnt on the TPLS course and gives me a chance to engage with a range of topics.

Would you recommend doing a postgraduate course – and if so, why?

Yes, absolutely. I was really interested in languages and when I graduated, I knew I wanted to carry on studying. The translation industry was something I was interested in as well.

For translators and interpreters, having a master’s degree is extremely beneficial; you can focus on translation and editing and other professional language skills, so when you graduate, you’re fully trained and able to start working.

I also managed to secure one of the Global Leaders Scholarships that the University of Bath offers, which was a great support. There are also course-specific interpreting and translating scholarships available from the Department of Politics, Languages & International Studies, so that’s always worth checking out.

Why did you choose to come to Bath?

I did my undergraduate at Leeds University, but I was particularly interested in the course at Bath because a lot of the modules were taught by people who were professionals themselves. This strong vocational aspect definitely made the course stand out.

There were also lots of opportunities to do internships with partner institutions. Bath has strong links with the UN, for example, and that's something quite unique.

The course is very applied. Alongside the theory, you get to improve your editing and proofreading, which are vital skills for any translator. Some of my lecturers were freelancing for the UN and the EU while teaching, so they were able to bring relevant expertise into the classroom and give us ‘real’ texts to work on.

Bath’s alumni network for translators and interpreters is also a very tight-knit community; it’s not unusual to come across a Bath graduate at the European Union, for example. One of my co-workers did the MA Interpreting and Translating at Bath and now works at the European Parliament as a full-time employee.

What would you say were the strengths of the course?

Besides the obvious translation and editing units, we also worked with CAT (computer-aided translation) and other software programmes to get a solid foundation in all the necessary translation tools.

One of the most useful units, however, was specifically about setting yourself up as a translator and giving you the relevant business skills. This gave me a good insight into the translation industry. Before I worked in editing, I did translation project management, which is something that I didn't even know existed until I started at Bath.

We’d often have careers talks from people in the industry. Some were from alumni that are working for government institutions or translation agencies. Before starting the master’s, I didn't know how the industry worked at all, so that was a massive advantage.

I also built great relationships with all the lecturers and teaching staff. They were incredibly supportive, which I hadn’t experienced to that extent during my undergraduate degree. The feedback I'd receive on my work was always incredibly detailed and useful. I always felt like they really went above and beyond to make sure that everyone was ready to succeed after graduating – they often pointed us in the direction of careers advice and training opportunities.

The course was quite small, so we all knew each other and the teachers very well. I genuinely felt so supported and like I was part of the community.

After Brexit, are English speakers even needed in Europe?

Absolutely. To work in the English editing service, for example, you need to be a native speaker and most of the people have backgrounds in translation.

A lot of what we're editing is written by non-native speakers, which is where we come in. We can understand why mistakes are being made or why things are written in a certain way. It is our job to then make sure that everything published by the European Parliament is of high quality and accurately conveys the message it’s supposed to.

Brexit has created some bureaucratic hurdles - you can only get a full-time job in the EU's editing service with an EU passport; but you can do a traineeship like I did, which usually lasts five or six months and gives you valuable work experience. I think when you've been on Bath’s translation or interpreting courses, you're in a really good position to work for both high-level government institutions and in the private sector.

The course really prepares you for working life. When I applied for the job, I mentioned the specific editing modules I took, along with other experience I got on the master’s, such as, working with style guides, which I put to use every day now.

What does a typical workday look like for you?

I could be editing a variety of texts, such as parliamentary questions from MPs to the Commission, own-initiative reports, as well as less political texts like internal newsletters or podcast scripts. Some days I might also record a podcast or go into a language lesson.

The trainee programme at the European Parliament is very well-organised and there's lots of opportunities to get involved in. You often hear of these institutions, and they can seem quite intimidating, but everybody's very friendly and very relaxed.

What’s next in your career?

I'd like to carry on with editing. I think the skills that I learnt during my course and in my traineeship have really prepared me for work as a full-time freelance editor and translator.

Bath definitely equipped me with the business skills to navigate the sector and I feel more confident about working with agencies or institutions.

It's a bit like a puzzle, when a text that’s not particularly well-drafted comes in, it's very satisfying when I can solve that and produce something that’s well-written and well-structured. Many students from my cohort now also work in project management, as editors or in-house translators, so most of them have stayed within the industry.

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