The Great Language Career Test

Do you wonder if you have what it takes to be a translator or interpreter? This test won’t tell you that. What this test might tell you is whether you have the personality of a (stereo)typical translator, public service interpreter, conference interpreter or PhD researcher. Simply write down the letter that corresponds to your answer to each question below and then match them to the key at the bottom.

1)    At a party you are the kind of person who:
a)    hides at the back, reading the new dictionary you brought from home
b)    goes round the room, drinking all the coffee and talking incessantly
c)    loves to be in a smaller group, making sure people talk in turns
d)    brings Tupperware to take as many leftovers as possible home with you

2)    Your ideal work environment is:
a)    an office in your garage, surrounded by specialist dictionaries and the works of obscure authors
b)    locking someone in a tiny room with you, while you talk incessantly
c)    waiting about 3 hours for your clients to turn up
d)    until 2pm, your bed, after 2pm, anywhere where the food is free and you have access to journals

3)    The difference between translation and interpreting is:
a)    the former produces perfection; the latter produces approximation
b)    about £150 per day, mwhahahahaha
c)    Unfair working agreements! Interpreters of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your travel expenses!
d)    most interesting. Shall we write a journal article discussing it?

4)    Power means:
a)    All your dictionaries are belong to me!
b)    I pressed the mic button last!
c)    I get to set my own rates!
d)    Whatever enough scholars say it means.

5)    If you had a million pounds, you could afford to:
a)    upgrade your TM software from version 1.12011 to version 1.12012 beta
b)    buy assorted tech gadgetry to help you look up terminology on the fly
c)    hire a team of lawyers and PR people to campaign for better rates and conditions
d)    pay off your student loans and get a one year journal subscription

6)    Your ideal home is:
a)    a private reading room in the British Library (heat and light optional)
b)    in Brussels, alongside others like you who talk incessantly (sleep optional)
c)    within 5 minutes walk of any assignment so you pay less on travel
d)    anywhere with fast wireless broadband, unlimited journal subscriptions and free food

7)    The biggest danger you would like to face in your career is:
a)    RSI. I already have wrist splints on order
b)    A sore throat. I already have a prescription for benzocaine
c)    Having to deal with client phone calls at 2am when you have already worked from 5am to 11pm the previous day.
d)    Being the person whose photocopying means that the entire department runs out of toner

How did you do?
If you answered mostly a) then you have the ideal personality for a translator. If you answered mostly b) then conference interpreting is for you. If you answered c) and have a great deal of courage, you are cut out for Public Service Interpreting. If you answered mostly d) then you should become a PhD student. Bonus: if the grammar of 4a and the inconsistent use of full stops annoyed you enough that you are considering leaving a comment with a corrected version, you are ideally suited to a career in proofreading!

Author: Jonathan Downie


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