What's the best translation qualification for me?

by Sara

Dear Joanna

Firstly thanks so much for having this website available, it's really helpful!

I would like to ask a quick question. 10 years ago I studied a BA Hons Degree in French/German and got a 2:1 in French and 2:2 in German. I am now 34 and I have been working in tourism ever since, first it was customer-focused but now I'm in the Marketing Team I am finding it more intense and long for a change from the office and as I love languages and have always had an interest in translation, I have opted for that.

I have applied for a Masters course at Queen's University in Belfast and been accepted. This starts in Sept 2015 for a year and costs £5000 but obviously I also have the expense of living on top of that.

Would you recommend me doing something else instead, how long would it take and what would it cost. Also, could I become a translator without a Masters or Translation qualification?

I was in the meantime hoping to contact translation companies to try to get work before Sept, would you recommend I send a German cover letter and CV in German? I am not sure where to start and would love some guidance.

I hope you don't mind me asking you these questions. Ps love the passsion you have!

Any advice you may have would be very much appreciated.

Kind regards


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Consider the Diploma in Translation
by: Joanna

Dear Sara

Many thanks for your email and query.

In answer to your question, I too considered doing an MA in translation, both for sake of interest and as a means of getting a professional translation qualification.

However, the 5,000 pounds was tricky, as was not living in the UK!

Therefore, after research, I decided to go for the Chartered Institute of Linguist (CIOL) professional exams for the Diploma in Translation. There was no prior course to complete, the exams are purely a test of your translation ability. They do provide information about preparatory courses you can take.

More about the exam here

It was enough for me, although it took more than one try to obtain passes in all 3 papers (pretty normal). As a result I have a recognised qualification and more letters after my name.

Perhaps more importantly, official recognition of my abilities meant I didn't feel like a fraud offering my services! Although I'd still love to do an MA one day...

That would be my 2 cents.
If you have any more questions, let me know.


Exams in the UK?
by: Sara

Hi Joanna

You are unbelievably helpful, thank you so much! That is very useful to know and it certainly cuts out a whole lot of time studying! It sounds like a great qualification, I'm quite sure I would also take a few goes.

Do you know if they hold the exams in the UK and how much they would be?


DipTrans exams every January
by: Joanna

Hi Sara

The exams are held once a year, early January, all on one day (!), at British Council offices worldwide. I guess you're looking at fees of a couple of hundred pounds (all details on the CIOL website).

Do let me know how you get on!


Diploma in Translation
by: Hugo

Dear Joanna and Sara

Thanks for your question and comments. I have read your helpful note on the Dip Trans Exam, Joanna.

I thought these comments might be useful: I have no professional translation experience but I spent a year on Dip Trans preparation courses and took all three papers in January 2018 at the ECBM in London and pass the two semi-specialised papers ( law and literature) but failed the general paper. I am retaking the general paper on 15 January! I have done a short revision course via Suzanne James Translator Training, which has been useful but the best was via the University of Westminster, which was an attendance course - unfortunately there was not enough uptake last autumn.

Yes, it is a very tough exam, especially if you do not have professional experience as a translator, but I managed to pass two out of three papers, so it is not impossible. You can fail a paper for one serious error and that is what makes it so hard and stressful - even if you look things up in your dictionaries and proof-read carefully, some things are just really hard to translate, without access to the internet or blogs like this!

As regards a MA, I thought that it would be too expensive, and frankly overkill, in terms of what I needed. I tried hard to find a suitable Postgraduate Certificate course, which would have been less work and expense, but most courses start with a whole load of translation theory and then later move on to actual translation. You avoid this with the Dip Trans.

Would you mind me asking when you took your Dip Trans, Joanna? Which paper did you need to resit?

Thanks again to both of you.


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German to English Translation

Joanna Scudamore-Trezek

I'm a German to English translator living and working in Vienna, Austria. I turn German texts into clear and accessible English, allowing clients to present their stories, ideas and information to a completely new audience. My business and marketing clients rely on me to get their message across clearly and effectively.  How can I help you today?

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