How my degree prepared me for a job in SEO: Trilingual Judicial and Technical Translation

Lost in translation by Gideon on FlickrBy - Head of Digital Marketing. 

This is the second installment in our series on how our degrees prepared us to work in Digital Marketing.

Ashley gave his point of view a few months ago, and now here is mine. I have a Master's Degree from the Sorbonne, in Judicial and Technical Translation (English and Italian into French). With my degree, I could have worked in a translation agency, at a legal practice (one big enough to do their translations in-house) or even at the UN or other international organisations. Instead, I became a Digital Marketing Consultant at Orantec. What skills did my degree bring me to succeed in this career path, you may ask? Well, a fair few!

A profound understanding of the English language and its subtleties

As a linguist, I love the beauty of the languages I speak, and I enjoyed learning the intricacies of each of my languages. English may seem simple (and it is, compared to French), but it actually isn't that easy to master. I must admit, grammar was one of my favourite topics at uni (I was probably the only one who thought that!), and there was a lot to say about it! Grammar is a bit like coding: there are rules, and if you know how to use them, then you get the right result. In order to manage to grasp how grammar works, your need an analytical brain, and that's what makes me feel comfortable dealing with HTML and other IT languages. I also think that knowing how a language works makes it easier to avoid mistakes and to convey exactly what you mean. For example, the difference between “to try and see” or “to try to see”, which can be overlooked. But when you're writing a blog, you want to communicate your message as accurately as possible, and only mastering a language will allow you to do that effectively.

I've interviewed quite a few people, and most of them say they can write because they've written reports at university. I wholeheartedly disagree. Anyone can write a sequence of words, but pure and proper writing can only be achieved by understanding a language and knowing how to manipulate it. It's the same with word play and puns; if you can't spell, how will people know the pun was intended and not just a spelling mistake?

A keen attention to detail

When you're a translator, you cannot only half understand a text. If you don't read a sentence properly and carefully, how will you be able to translate it faithfully? That's how mistranslations happen. That's how I learnt never to overlook anything, and I happen to be lucky enough to have a keen eye when it comes to catching mistakes – they just grab my attention. You can learn many things in life, but attention to detail is unfortunately one that is tricky to acquire if you don't naturally have it. This mixed with the fact that English is not my first language may explain why I am unable to miss mistakes like “they're” or “their” - they just don't make sense to me!


When you go home after 30-40 hours of classes in French, in Italian or in English, on topics such as civilisation, grammar, translation or economics (yep, I studied economics and accounting too as part of my curriculum), and have a few hours' worth of translations and general studying to do still, you get used to doing several things at the same time. Speaking in French, English or Italian to your classmates is a good exercise - it is weird in the beginning to speak among French speakers in another language, but you get used to it after some time. Before I spent a year in the UK, I thought in French when I was speaking in English, so that also is a kind of 'linguistic multitasking'. Finally, I used to help my classmates while doing my homework in the library, so I would regularly study one thing while explaining another!

Happy to work with a variety of topics

As I said earlier, I've studied a wide variety of topics, in three different languages. Even the topics of the texts I translated were extremely diverse: I've translated medical texts, from operation reports (I particularly remember translating a surgeon's report on a patient's hip replacement...) to medication leaflets; I've worked on technical texts (architecture, physics, fashion and so on), contracts, official papers (last will and testaments, birth certificates, etc.), and I'm probably forgetting lots of other topics I tackled. Once I was done with translating, say, a contract from Italian into French, it wasn't rare that I'd have a medical report to translate from English into French, and then some accounting or grammar lesson to study. To say I never once got bored during my studies would be an understatement! When I did my final year internship in a translation agency, I spent my days translating texts, in any combination – French into English, English into French, Italian into French, French into Italian. It takes a bit of time to switch topics and languages but once you've gotten used to it you never really lose the habit. I can therefore now write a blog on furniture, then compile a report for a second client, do a bit of SEO on a third client's website and a little coding for someone else, all in a day, without so much as blinking an eye – I actually thoroughly enjoy it!

To conclude, I'd say that Digital Marketing and SEO encompass so many things that there are very few degrees that don't prepare you even slightly to work in this industry. I believe that what matters most at the end of the day is to be able to learn, on your own, in your team or with the support of the Digital Marketing community - we're lucky to have an extremely friendly community despite the competition, as I've witnessed multiple times in conferences! A curious mind, an ability to learn and a can-do attitude will get you far!


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