December 29 – Defining Moment

Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year.

This year has had its share of epiphanies, cliffhangers and memorable events, and many of these I have already alluded to in other posts in this series. I’m going to take a step back here and look more at something that happened fairly quietly, in the background, but which certainly affected my life in some way.

In Summer 2009, back when I was in the midst of applying for jobs in the UK, one of the things I was considering as a possible freelance alternative was professional translating (German to English). It’s something I’d always enjoyed doing and certainly love teaching. What I didn’t have, though, was a specific qualification or equivalent experience. So after looking around at the options and asking among translator friends, I applied to take the Institute of Linguists’ translation diploma.

The registration process was lengthy and drawn-out, with an August deadline for exams the following January (2010). At some point in the interim, I had abandoned my career change plans but decided to go ahead with the exams in any case, not least because there wasn’t a refund option, but also because it still made sense in other respects.

So I travelled up to Cologne to sit the exams – seven hours in one day. There was something rather exciting about feeling a bit like a student again after years of being the one setting and marking translation exams. And it certainly reminded me of what examinees appreciate in a fair paper. A further useful eye-opener was the experience of being restricted to using “paper” dictionaries during the exam – we do become so quickly so reliant on online resources, but there is a huge amount of more peripheral knowledge to be gained from using old-school methods, as well as a different, possibly more subtle art of applying the knowledge you already have.

Much of the small talk among the candidates during the breaks centred on what preparation course people had taken and on how unusual it was for people to pass all the papers first time round. I began to feel a bit foolhardy for not having looked into any of this beforehand, but there was nothing I could do about it now so might as well simply proceed as planned.

To my delight – and, given the conversations mentioned above, surprise – I passed all three papers, with a distinction in two of them, which means I can now attach the somewhat unwieldy appendage DipTransIoLet to my name (M insists on reading the “IoL” as “LOL” and simply calls it my “LOL diploma”, which is rather sweet!).

I am pleased to be able to add this practical, skills-based qualification to my CV, as who knows what the future might bring in terms of different opportunities or changing wishes on my part. Much as I dislike the so-called Profilneurose displayed by some people in this country who puff themselves up or hide their inadequacy behind a barrage of (sometimes irrelevant) academic titles, having a relevant qualification in this are can certainly open doors to more interesting (or lucrative) opportunities.


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Filed under Memes & blogging challenges, Up close and personal

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