By Kelly Davis
: Introduction to Translation
, Introduction to Interpretation
, Strategic Branding and Marketing for Interpreters and Translators
Judy Jenner’s got one of the coolest jobs ever. She and her sister, Dagmar, are the (identical) twins behind Twin Translations
, a bi-national business that provides translation services in a range of settings, from courtrooms to boardrooms to international governing bodies. The sisters grew up in Mexico City, in a trilingual household, and parlayed their fluency in German, Spanish and English into a successful business. Judy, whose Extension courses are offered online, says a career in translation requires a unique skillset that goes beyond simply being fluent, but can be incredibly rewarding.
How did you get started in your career field?
I had the great pleasure of growing up in Mexico City, the Austrian-born daughter of an expat, and was surrounded by a variety of languages at an early age. One fine spring day, on the school bus home from middle school in Mexico City, my twin sister and I decided that we would work with languages when we grew up. We didn’t know exactly what that meant back then, but we have made our childhood dream a reality, for which I am grateful every day.
What do most enjoy about your profession?
Above anything, I love seeing the impact translation and interpreting have on the global economy and our lives in general. Without us, there would be no international commerce, no diplomacy, no literature in other languages. It’s powerful to remind yourself how critical language services are. There are even interpreters who work for the International Space Station, as the Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts can only talk to each other through interpreters who are located in Houston. Not every interpreting assignment or translation project is exciting on its own, but on the meta level, what translators and interpreters do in aggregate has an enormous impact.
What advice would you give to someone looking to enter this field?
Newcomers need to understand that there are relatively few in-house positions for translators and interpreters in the U.S. (the situation is a bit different in Europe). That means that the vast majority of linguists will be self-employed and will be running their own business. Ask yourself: are you too risk-averse to run a business? Can you deal with the uncertainty of not having a paycheck? Do you have the necessary business skills? How will you acquire clients? Not everyone is an entrepreneur, which is completely fine, but if you go into this field expecting to have full-time in-house employment, you are probably setting yourself up for disappointment. There are, of course, in-house jobs, but there just aren’t that many. The second piece of advice is to critically evaluate your language skills and understand that being perfectly bilingual is the minimum requirement to be a translator or an interpreter. Being bilingual doesn’t make you a linguist just like having two hands does not make you a pianist — but you do need those two languages and the hands, in the case of the pianist.
How is your field changing?
Technology with all its positive and sometimes negative effects has had a significant impact on our industry. I am personally a technophile, so I enjoy exploring the new trends and software and using the ones that work for me. Newcomers to this field definitely need to embrace technology.
What new skills do people need to stay current?
Technology skills and people skills — in this industry and in any other.
What do you like most about working for Extension?
I truly enjoy seeing the impact I have on students’ lives and it is amazing to meet them in person at conferences. I treasure the notes that students send me at the end of the quarter. Many of them have made me quite teary-eyed. Teaching is very much a labor of love, and it’s fantastic to see how useful my classes have been to my lovely students. I can’t wait to see where they all go from here.
You can learn more about UC San Diego Extension's Translation & Interpretation classes and programs on our website, or you can contact the department at firstname.lastname@example.org.