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A translator’s CV - a translator’s best friend (Part 2)

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Part 2: Experience


Part 1 of this series on “A translator’s CV – a translator’s best friend” has been published in the July 2005 edition of ITIA Bulletin is available in Adobe Acrobat (36kB) at http://www.infomarex.com/articles/articles.htm

Part 1 has produced a considerable number of eMails which the author has saved and will compile with any others which arrive. The author will reply in general lines at the end of the series.

Most of the comments raised so far fall into one of three categories:
- a misunderstanding as to the purpose and aim of a CV;
- cultural, national or stylistic differences;
- simple errors of fact.


Many persons writing a CV for the first time will fall into the simple trap of continuing from the section on their personal details – as covered in Part 1 - and proceed to give details of their education.

This is particularly the case of those coming out of language school, college or university and whose actual outside-of-classroom experience is a bit thin on the ground.

The simple way over this problem is to list at this point your language skills, where some extremes are best avoided.

The first extreme to be avoided is not to list your languages at all in a CV and, believe it or believe it not, one in twenty translators and interpreters overlook to mention their languages.

The second extreme is to attempt to give oneself some form of points system, e.g. Spanish (10 or excellent), English (9 or very good), etc., even if extracted from an academic record.

A third error to be avoid is to list your languages either alphabetically or in a string, e.g. Spanish, English, French, Catalan, etc., where the client might suspect that the first listed language is a mother-tongue, but such is not clear in this instance.

Language pairs: English, French to Spanish

Mother-tongue Spanish
Fluent English, French
Read/written Catalan, Italian
Read Portuguese, Latin




The above or similar layout will clearly show to a client or agency that a main document could be sent in English or French, with perhaps footnotes or annotations in Catalan or Italian and that the translator would be able to handle these competently. A client, however, would be at risk if a full document in e.g. Catalan or Italian were to be sent for translation to Spanish as the professional competence in a total familiarity with the source language(s) would not be there.

Experience proper should be listed in the following ways. Your experience should start with your present or most recent job and work backwards,

June 2003 to present:
Important Co. Ltd., London – In-house translator – English to Spanish Business correspondence, contracts, etc.

January 2001 to May 2003:
Petite Compagnie S.A., Geneva – In-house translator – French to Spanish Two business manuals – 17 month contract.

Ma non troppo...

There is no need to give the full address or contact details of the previous employer, nor to break any confidence that about the nature of the correspondence or even the titles of the manuals. It suffices to show in what languages you were working and for how long. Itemisation of the workload is counter-productive and a future client might well think ‘If so much detail is being revealed about previous clients, will the same amount of detail be revealed about us at some point in the future?’

Walking encyclopaedias

Few translators realise that they can be walking encyclopaedias and sources of great knowledge about the clients and companies for whom they work. Simple business correspondence between client and supplier on nondeliveries, details of slow client payments, contract documents on a proposed takeover, patents, contracts of employment listing key shareholdings, exit parachutes or golden handshakes are but a few areas to mention. The translator not only knows about all of this. He/she knows it in two languages with the nuances of every comma and colon!

The translator in his/her CV must show knowledge [with restraint], experience [in summary] and discretion [in abundance].

However, having said all that which might make it seem that the life of the translator on the inside track of things is exciting, it is also tediously boring as anyone who has ever translated a two hundred page takeover document will attest, where after the third “aforementioned” and the sixth “subject to paragraph 5, sub-section 4” intellectual curiosity grinds to a halt and professionalism hunches its shoulders at work over the keyboard.


The section of your CV dealing with experience should not show gaps. If between clients, you have gone back to school/college/university, a line should read: See Education.

If it has been a genuine gap year(s), a line should read, e.g.
Jan 2003 – Dec 2003 Round the world trip – ten countries.
Jan 2005 – May 2005 Aid-relief worker – South-east Asia

It does avoid awkward questions which may not be allowed in your culture or country, e.g. “Were you sick? Hospitalised? In jail?” and it shows unbroken continuity and reliability. It also allows the client or company enquire about this, if appropriate, or if the CV is being presented as part of an interview process for an in-house position, it is an opportunity for the translator to show another interesting side to his/her personality which may have little to do with translation, but a lot to do with outlook and attitude.


Agreement or disagreement with any of the above, can be registered by sending an eMail to comments@infomarex.com which the author of this article will attempt to sort, compile and answer when the series of articles is complete.


Michael McCann is a graduate of the Gregorian University (Rome), Trinity College (Dublin) and a professional member of the ITIA. A former chairman of the ITIA and presently secretary of its professional sub-committee, he is resident in Celbridge, Ireland and is the owner of the InfoMarex translation agency and database.

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