Ghana versus Sweden – similarities and differences in translator training

Ghana versus Sweden – similarities and differences in translator training

My name is Evado Arfs, and I moved to Sweden from Ghana five years ago. There, I studied translation in French and English. I’ve also completed a bachelor’s degree in translation at Stockholm University and am now carrying out an internship at Semantix. So I’ve studied two training programmes in translation in two very different countries, and I thought I would share my experiences. There are certainly similarities and differences!

Published 10/12/2016

As I mentioned, I’ve trained as a translator in both Ghana and Sweden. Both programmes have taught me a great deal, but I quickly realised that my foreign degree was not enough. Learning Swedish and getting a Swedish qualification would be the best way to get into the industry.

How should one adapt professionally in a new country?

Having read a blog post about how difficult it is to start working as a freelance translator and that translation agencies are the best way for a newly qualified translator to learn the ropes, I decided to apply for an internship at Semantix. I’ve learnt a lot in a short space of time, and I now feel ready to start working as a translator. Bring it on! 

I came to Sweden with a degree in translation from Ghana and a few years of experience as a freelance translator within the fields of development aid, agriculture and finance. Here in Sweden, I soon realised that my foreign degree was not enough.

Studying translation at a university in Sweden certainly isn’t child’s play, but nor is getting started professionally. What do you do if you’ve moved from a country where the training and the translation industry are different?

No money for CAT tools in Ghana

When I studied translation at the University of Ghana 17 year ago, there was hardly any talk or debate about CAT tools at all. The university couldn’t dream of paying for CAT tools for its students. A shortage of funds is like an incurable disease that my former university suffers from.

Translation theory wasn’t even on the agenda. However, the programme had a vocational focus and it was important for students to learn to translate texts within different subject areas to prepare them for their professional lives. A translator should be versatile.

Dictionaries and search engines are outdated

The training in Sweden was more theoretical, with the opportunity to develop by carrying out work experience with a company or a translation agency, which I’m very grateful for.

The world is constantly changing, and so too is the translation industry. The time when translators only used dictionaries, their brains and a search engine has now passed. Instead, the focus is now on increasing productivity and efficiency. Machine translation and CAT tools paved the way for this.

Learning to use CAT tools was the most important thing for me. During my internship, I gained experience of proofreading and reviewing, as well as an insight into project managers’ everyday lives. I also learnt from my own mistakes and weaknesses. Yes, I’m certainly human!

Translators see each other as competitors

Despite the differences, there is certainly a similarity between the translation industries in Ghana and Sweden: I learnt from my lecturers in both countries that the translation industry is a closed market. Freelancers see newly qualified translators as competitors, or – perhaps to exaggerate slightly – as enemies.

I wish I’d had the opportunities I’ve enjoyed in Sweden while studying in Ghana. But there’s no point crying over spilt milk!

And a word of advice for newly qualified translators…

… or those who are still studying: I strongly suggest that you apply for an internship with Semantix! Take the opportunity to get practical professional experience and to see other parts of the industry.