Studying specialized Translation at the Ionian University, Department of Translation & Interpretation

by Zoi Resta, Katia Sabathianaki and Popie Matsouka

Part 1 – Zoi Resta – Introduction

The Department of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting (DFLTI) of the Ionian University has been operating since 1986 and constitutes the only academic institution in Greece which offers a four-year undergraduate-degree programme of studies for Greek-speaking professional translators and interpreters. Candidates are eligible for admission through successful performance in the general Panhellenic university entrance examinations, as well as in the additional Panhellenic examination of two foreign languages, choosing among English, German and French. The chosen languages become the students’ working languages along with their Greek mother tongue until the completion of their studies. The curriculum is designed in a way that guarantees that, by the time they finish their studies, future translators and interpreters will have obtained the necessary skills and knowledge of a professional and will have been taught the appropriate conduct and ethics. Specifically, the curriculum is based on two basic principles: it makes a distinction between lectures, translation/interpreting workshops and seminars as essential elements of the education process, as well as a distinction between compulsory and elective courses. In this way, students are given the opportunity to choose among a large selection of subjects. Lectures are intended to offer students the necessary theoretical background in the pertinent scientific fields. Translation/interpreting workshops aim to consolidate theoretical knowledge offered in the lectures, as well as to systematically train students in translation/interpreting so as to provide them with the necessary skill set which will enable them to meet both the quantitative and qualitative demands of the market. In other words, the students of the DFLTI are being trained using a comprehensive approach that combines theoretical knowledge with practical experience. At the same time, the department offers them the opportunity to learn about new cultures and new foreign languages (Turkish, Italian and Albanian).

Specifically, during the first four semesters, students are introduced to the theories of translation studies and linguistics, as well as to the practice of translation, and they engage in the language, the culture and the literature of their working languages, in foreign affairs and in issues of international economic and political relations. Furthermore, students are introduced to audiovisual translation and informatics. In the fifth semester, students choose one of two specialisations, each one leading to a different degree. They can opt to specialise in Translation Studies or Interpreting Studies (for which there is an internal selection process based on examinations). Then, the curriculum is adapted to each specialisation: courses on literary, technical, economic, legal, social and theatrical translation for the Translation degree; and consecutive and simultaneous interpreting, oral communication techniques and community interpreting for the Interpreting degree. Furthermore, courses on international law, aesthetic philosophy and intrasemiotic translation are offered for both degrees. To complete their Translation Studies, students are required to attend courses abroad for one semester (seventh semester) at a foreign university. To implement the semester abroad, which used to be entirely funded by the State, the DFLTI collaborates with universities in the UK, France, Germany and Ireland. At present (2015-2016), students complete their courses for the seventh semester at the DFLTI due to a severe lack of funds. Upon completion of their studies (eight semesters), students of both specialisations are required to submit a dissertation in order to complete their studies. This dissertation can be either an original translation of a book abstract with the relevant theoretical analysis, or a theoretical analysis of transcripts of interpreted speech recordings, or research in a field of translation or interpreting studies. In this way, prospective professionals are introduced to the market, while at the same time scientific research in Greece is promoted. Apart from the programme of studies itself, which guarantees the status of a professional translator/interpreter, the DFLTI also offers its students the opportunity of a two-month traineeship, providing them with practical experience and important contacts.

In conclusion, as far as my personal experience is concerned, my studies at the DFLTI have provided me with not only essential knowledge for my career as a translator, an interpreter and an academic in the field of Interpreting Studies, but also an important cultural and social capital. In other words, the skills and knowledge obtained, as well as the ethics and the professional approach adopted, have led me to work in highly esteemed professional settings, such as universities and conferences. At the same time, these multidimensional studies have opened up new horizons for my professional interests, offering me the opportunity to conduct original research and chart my own path in this field, and have contributed to a satisfying career up to now. Thus, for me, the professional gain from studying at the DFLTI is far more than just an economic one.


Part 2 – Katia Sabathianaki – Into the Big World – Post-University Experience

Katia Sabathianaki graduated from the Department of Foreign Languages, Translation & Interpreting (DFLTI) in December 2004. Thereafter, she completed an unpaid internship at the Embassy of Greece in Jakarta, Indonesia, during Summer 2004. In the academic year 2005-2006, she completed her post-graduate studies at the School of Management & Languages of Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, in the field of “European Studies & Translation”.

Since 2007, she has been living and working in Athens as a freelance translator, specialising in the field of energy investments, law, business/finance, general medicine and official translations. She began studying Russian in 2007. She has been a member of PEEMPIP since 2008.

Jumping out of Uni and into the Big World…

Lights, camera, long, black gown and off we go… from backstage into the limelight!

It’s the day of your graduation ceremony! Tears are running down your cheeks, professors are shaking hands, the photographer’s flash keeps going off in your face and the dean is handing you the much sought-after scroll!

It’s official! You have successfully completed the Department curriculum and have been awarded the Diploma in Translation Studies. Congratulations!

Everything seems in order and your heart beats with that kind of satisfaction that only comes after long years of hard work and dedication. Yet when the lights go off and you return home, a question keeps popping up in your head…

Now what? What’s next for a graduate translator? Where do I even begin?

First things first…

You have probably heard some glorious career-building stories during your undergraduate days, right? And you probably think that you, too, deserve a big office, a cup of hot coffee and clients queuing outside your door. Even better: a good post at some state-run institution, ministry, bank or foreign organisation is waiting for you out there and all you have to do is simply mail them your CV.

If you had enough of this mesmerising vision, let’s get down to work!

I am going academic…!

Many graduates extend their academic experience by choosing a post-graduate programme either in Greece or abroad (be it an MSc or MA). Thereafter, some graduates opt for an academic career and obtain doctoral or post-doctoral qualifications. These are our colleagues that “run” their business from a completely different approach and strive to make Translatology a rigid stronghold among scientific fields.

An academic career is worth pursuing if you know your boundaries when it comes to studying and spending long hours researching, writing papers, participating in conferences and getting published.

So if you are interested in being the next enlightened theorist of translation, all you have to do is thoroughly research available universities, pick a research topic, start applying and everything else will follow.

I am going professional…!

Stepping out of university (even as a post-graduate student) and jumping into the Big World governed by the free market and competition rules can often be a challenging experience, unless there is indeed a position waiting for you somewhere!

Here are some tips  to arm yourself with post-uni.

Set your sights. As a DFLTI graduate, you have already gone through some serious terminology specialisation, a fact which gives you a comparative advantage over other non-Ionian colleagues. Focus on your strong points and skills, try to remember what makes your heart beat faster and choose a field to start from.

Compile a small, modest yet accurate CV for your first attempts: no one is asking you to present years of experience; so you should keep your first CV quite clear, sincere and short. Do not omit anything, but do not exaggerate either.

Set up professional profiles on social media and websites and try to establish contact points. Don’t forget to print a business card: the sooner the better.

Start contacting translation companies and potential clients, and keep an eye out for all public sector tenders that might actually include a translator’s post.

Register yourself with the OAEE (Insurance Organisation for the Self-Employed) or the respective social security body (if you choose to do business abroad) and get into the habit of doing things legitimately by consistently invoicing your clients and engaging in transparent business conduct. Alternatively, you can sound out the market needs in your area and open up your own translation office if you feel you can meet the financial requirements.

And, most importantly:

be a member of a greater “family”. PEEMPIP is here to welcome you, guide you, protect you from trickery and hardships, and prevent you from falling into the sorts of traps that our senior members had to deal with in the absence of such an association back in the old days. Do not miss out on the opportunity to get to know us. We are here to listen to your concerns and we strive to make your next step in the industry smoother and easier.

What’s your cup of tea?

So are you a legal/ financial translator?

Your chances of getting assignments of legal texts from translation agencies are much smaller, since most of them tend to handle technical (medical, IT) or business-orientated (marketing) texts. You can start by contacting law firms, individual clients and, of course, advertise your specialisation in all sorts of social/professional media.

You can also team up with young lawyers who happen to be in need of a skilled translator for their clients.

Follow-up EU relevant tenders and submit your papers, either as a freelancer or as a member of a cluster (2-3 colleagues or perhaps a company that you know and trust. Contact us to find out more about the procedure). Getting your hands on an EU translation account will give your CV a considerable boost.

Do not forget that as a graduate of the Ionian University, you are accredited to issue official translations for the private and public sector. You can learn more by asking us how to get started in this line of business.

With regard to your financial specialisation, apart from translation agencies, there is a good chance that you will get contacted by individual clients (e.g. companies that wish to have their financial statements, FOREX content, balance sheets, or tax documents translated). Even better, you may acquire access to bank/ financial/ consulting institutions that operate their own internal translation department.

Are you a technical translator?

The next day could turn out to be even easier for you…

Pursuant to various relevant EU laws, manuals and user guides must be translated in the target language of the local market; hence there is a demand for Greek, too. This area covers retail goods to services, the wholesale market, heavy machinery, medical instruments, pharmaceuticals, automotive, IT and so on. Manuals, website localisation and LSOs are going to make the biggest part of your day as a technical translator. Be vigilant, be focused and start knocking on the door of translation agencies who are affiliated with the companies and corporate groups in the respective industries and markets. However, since translation agencies always retain part of your fee, you could always locate your next client through individual freelance streaming channels (translation portals, website) and build up your clientele from scratch. Usually a “good technical translator is a keeper,” so try your best to prove that your specialisation meets the standards of the market.

Are you a literary translator?

In your case, the market is somehow confined within the boundaries of publishing houses. The job of a literary translator is governed by a completely different mentality than the other two categories: a literary book is considered an artefact and due to its length it usually has different deadlines and pricing formulas. Most of the time, you won’t be working under the tight deadlines or fast turnaround demands that your legal or technical colleagues work under, yet be aware that you won’t get paid as fast as they do either.

Usually, translating a book entails 6-10 months of non-stop work and the translator gets paid after its publication. There are a couple of remuneration formulas that you should watch out for before you sign your contract: do you want to receive a single fee that covers both your work and translation rights or do you wish to receive royalties (sale percentages) once the book is published? These are the main payment options for literature translations. However, be very careful when calculating your working days, weeks and months against the estimated value of the book. Literature may sound artistic but a literary translator is no less professional than his/her other colleagues!

Whatever your cup of tea is, we wish you the best of luck with your post-university path.

You are the next generation of young translators.

Make us proud!


The Ten Commandments of a good DFLTI Translator/ Interpreter:

  1. Keep in mind that what separates professionals from amateurs is not just the level of linguistic skills but rather the sense of professionalism, respect of confidentiality, accuracy and respect towards the paying party;
  2. Do not offer low prices just to beat the competition, because underpriced translations can and will backfire;
  3. Do not offer over-priced services either. As a graduate of the Ionian University, you would prefer to be remembered for your good and reliable work and not for your excessive demands that financially exhaust your clients;
  4. Be ethical and look out for your industry’s best interest. The fact that you may work alone in your house or in your office does not mean that you are isolated; your decisions and market behaviours might often have an impact on us all!
  5. Defend your colleagues against an absurd client as your colleagues and your Association might defend you at some point. This strengthens the Code of Ethics and gives everyone a sense of clustering;
  6. Be open to new specialisations and ongoing learning techniques – your diploma won’t protect you against the ever-mutating market requirements;
  7. Run a legitimate business. If you have trouble dealing with your obligations, contact us for a business consulting session;
  8. Take care of your body and physical condition as you do your PC and IT gadgets: translation is a sedentary job and therefore translators are prone to all sorts of risks related to limited physical activity. If you feel burned out, your translations and reputation will suffer!
  9. Be open to scrutiny: just because you hold a diploma from the only state translation department in Greece does not make you omniscient; listen to other people’s observations and admit your mistakes;
  10. Enjoy your job! There is no way this is going to work for you unless you embrace it!

And the final word on this very long article: A Professional Tip – Popie Matsouka

When it comes to separating professional translators from what I call “occasional translators”, the biggest advantage we, as fully trained linguists and translators, enjoy is that we already have both linguistic and terminological training. In my experience, what separates the truly great translators from the rest is the amount of effort, time and love they put into their profession. Personally, I am a medical and technical translator, or as I like to call it, a MedicoTechnical translator. What helped me reach the top of my field? Tons and tons of research, endless reading, and studying of books on the subjects of medicine and life sciences. I have attended several seminars on various medical subjects, I got certified as a first aid responder, I’ve booked time in operating rooms and watched how doctors use the various items that I usually translate the manuals for. I have read almost all the books a medical student would, and I have immersed myself so deeply in the world of medical literature that I sometimes have friends jokingly asking me for advice on minor medical issues, just so I can point them in the right direction.

And that’s not just me. Other graduates of the Ionian University, fellow translators and reviewers, have done the exact same thing. Taking advantage of all the knowledge they have gained during our four years of training, they have set out and built on that knowledge by approaching their subjects with the same single-minded focus as I did. I know of legal translators who have even gone to law school to gain a more in-depth knowledge of what they love: legal translation, and let me tell you, they are now expertly versed both in linguistics and, well, the law!

So, my point is, future fellow colleague, what you learn at the university is just the start, the foundation on which you can build a brilliant career. Your professors have given you the bases to understand and navigate your chosen field; now all you have to do is make a plan and set out to put it into action. I wish you the best!

Stay tuned for the second part of this article!

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