Master or not: a translator’s dilemma

Today, I wrote a blog post for the Colorado Translators Association about the merits of getting a graduate degree in translation. It’s a topic I have thought about a lot in the past year, and unfortunately, even after writing that article for CTA, I am no closer to a decision one way or another. I currently have a BA in Journalism, a Certificate in German to English Translation, as well as a Graduate Certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications (for which I attended grad school for a year), which I believe give me a good foundation for my work as a marketing and PR translator. The question is, will my business benefit from a master’s degree in translation?

I have experienced the amount of work required during grad school, which, to be honest, was completely doable in my opinion (but then again, I am used to the demands of the German education system). Lack of time and even loss of income are of no particular concern in my decision making process. Even the expense of going to grad school isn’t a deterrent per se. I do wonder, however, if the ROI would be worth the effort.

A few months ago, I thought I had found the perfect solution to my dilemma. While looking into online graduate programs in translation, I came across a private German university that offers a long-distance program for the qualification of a Diplom-Wirtschaftsuebersetzer, which is comparable to an MA in translation. The total cost, while steep for German standards, would have been much lower than a graduate program in the United States. As long as I can do this on the side on my computer without paying outrageous amounts of tuition, I thought, I’ll give it a go. Unfortunately, the program wasn’t entirely long distance and included several days a year during which attendance at special lectures was required. Since I live in the US and the university is located in Germany, this was a deal-breaker.

So now I am back to looking into my options for further increasing my professional credibility. I haven’t given up on the idea of getting a master’s degree yet, even though it is not one of my priorities at this point. For now, I will focus on getting my ATA certification and then decide if there is anything more to gain by going back to school. I realize that education is never a waste of time or money, but at least in my case, I haven’t quite decided whether the benefits outweigh the sacrifices I would have to make.

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High hopes for the ATA Conference

I finally registered for the 54th Conference of the American Translators Association in San Antonio, Texas, from Nov. 6-9. My plane tickets are booked, and thanks to some personal connections, I even found a roommate for my stay at the Marriott Rivercenter. I actually don’t know the woman I will be sharing a room with, but she’s a friend of a colleague, so I’m not too worried that I’ll end up sleeping next to an ax murderer or anything.

Having a roommate allowed me to splurge on the conference hotel rather than seeking more budget-friendly accommodations. During past conferences in New York City and San Diego, I stayed at cheaper hotels away from the conference site, and I always envied the attendees who were able to go to their rooms between sessions and participate in all the fun events (6 a.m. Zumba!!!). Also, I am rather excited to meet my roomy, a fellow translator who is coming all the way from Europe to join ATA for its annual event.

As a third-time attendee, I will be in an uneasy position at this conference. ATA has some great resources for new attendees this year – in addition to the familiar “First-time Attendee badge,” the association now offers a “Buddies Welcome Newbies” session that pairs newcomers with seasoned conference goers. Unfortunately, I belong to neither of those groups. At the two previous ATA conferences I attended, I didn’t know anyone, and, being rather shy in social situations, didn’t mingle as much as I should have. I just don’t know how to approach a group of people and try to fit in, and one-on-one conversations quickly turn awkward if you’re not good at small talk (maybe it’s the German in me?). So even though I will not be a newcomer deserving of all the extra help ATA has to offer, I am certainly a far cry from being “buddy” material. To be completely honest, I hope that having a stranger as a roommate will help push me out of my comfort zone.

Granted, I do know quite a few people and even a few presenters at the conference this year, thanks to my side gig as social media director for the Colorado Translators Association. And thanks to my rooming arrangement, I can say with certainty that I will leave San Antonio with at least one new contact in November – though I plan on it being a lot more than that. Staying on site will help with my socializing plans as well: I will be able to participate in special events such as morning sports, after hours mixers, and even join the conference dance party on Saturday night! I have high hopes for this year’s conference, which will be the culmination of a year full of marketing, networking and business-building efforts.

If you’d like to find a roommate for the ATA Conference, you can post your inquiry on the ATA conference page or browse through other people’s postings. I’m looking forward to the experience.