A new type of internship?

The last issue of Circuit, the magazine published by the Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec, included an interesting article by Sébastien Stavrinidis discussing the experience of three interns from Concordia University. As the coordinator of undergraduate and graduate translation internships at Concordia, Stavrinidis noted that the economic crisis has led several employers to stop recruiting students or to offer little or no training to those they have hired. He mentions two cases to illustrate the problems that can arise during the search for employers willing to take on interns. In the first, a student was taken on by a company that agreed to also hire a freelancer to revise the student’s work (but usually did not), and in the second, two students did an internship at a translation company in France but were not revised or given much feedback.

Students from my introductory translation course at Glendon often ask me how they can get more translation experience. I was never asked this question when I taught at the University of Ottawa, and I suspect this is because anglophone translators can find more employment opportunities in the national capital region than in Toronto. While it’s true that full-time positions for French to English translators at translation companies in Toronto are few and far between, there are many opportunities for anglophone translators who want to live in Toronto but work for clients in other cities, provinces or countries. And volunteer opportunities are also plentiful, if translators want to donate some of their time and skills to non-profit organizations.

Since students need to receive a lot of feedback on their work, they need to have someone revising their translations. This poses a problem, as Stavrinidis notes, because companies often can’t afford (or are simply unwilling) to invest the time and money needed to train a student translator. One solution to this problem could come from the volunteer translation sphere. I strongly believe that short-term, non-paying internship opportunities could be created for students to allow them to translate authentic texts for non-profit organizations while being revised by experienced translators. Networks of professional translators who volunteer for NGOs already exist. I’m thinking, for instance, of Traducteurs Sans Frontières, which is composed entirely of translators with at least two years’ experience who have volunteered to translate texts for humanitarian organizations. Now, I don’t see why this idea couldn’t be extended to translation schools: students could translate texts and professional translators/revisers who want to participate in this project could volunteer to revise the translations.

Networks of volunteer translators already exist, so it’s not unreasonable to think that professional translators might be willing to volunteer to revise 1000 or 2000 words here and there, provided the texts are required not by for-profit companies, but rather by humanitarian organizations. Students would benefit, since they’d be getting real-world experience, and so would the non-profits.

What do you think of this idea? Are there any translators who would be interested in organizing something like this? Any non-profits that would be interested in participating?

Update (17 May 2010): I’ve recently launched a not-for-profit initiative along these lines. If you’d like to find out more about it, please visit wordsintransit.org.

Stavrinidis, Sébastien. (2010). Des Stages rares et difficiles à gérer. Circuit: 106, p. 19.