Specialisation in Professional Translation
Building bridges between languages and cultures
In the specialisation in Professional Translation, you acquire a thorough knowledge of the theories and practical methods of translation by completing realistic, concrete tasks. You then apply these principles to the translation of texts in selected areas of economics, law, science and technology. This practical approach allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the theoretical and methodological background. At the same time, you become a competent user of the latest translation technology tools (CAT). The programme therefore gives you the chance to acquire the academic, practical and technical competences you will need in your future career. Graduates are entitled to practise as professional translators.
The joint programme modules in the MA curriculum focus on research theory, applied linguistics and multilingual contexts. You acquire a solid foundation in general scientific principles and organisational and intercultural contexts, which enables you to examine issues related to mediation in multilingual contexts.
Professional translators work as freelancers or are employed as in-house translators. Their clients or employers may be service or industrial companies in the private sector, government authorities and public services, national and international organisations, trade unions or professional associations. Your professional success as a translator may depend on certain factors, such as your language combination, the economic situation, your area of specialisation, level of professionalism, flexibility and own initiative. Fluctuating demand may mean that working hours and contracts vary.
Qualified translators also have good career opportunities in the language service industry (as revisors, proofreaders, terminologists or project managers, for example). An MA degree in Professional Translation gives you the chance to enter these professions directly.
In the MA programme, you study at least three languages: your native or primary language (A language) and at least two foreign languages, which are classified as either 'active' (B) or 'passive' (C) languages. You translate out of your B and C languages into your A language and out of your A language into your B language. The minimum language combination is A + C + C. The results you achieve in the aptitude tests will determine which language is classified as your A language and whether your foreign languages are classified as B (active) or C (passive). One of the languages you offer must be German.
The table below gives you an overview of the languages and language combinations we currently cover in the specialisation in Professional Translation. The MA programme director reserves the right to cancel a language version if there are not enough students enrolled.
|A language||B or C languages||C language only|
|German||French, Italian, English, Spanish||Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese, Russian|
|French||German, Italian, English, Spanish|
|Italian||German, French, English||Spanish|
|English||German, French, Italian, Spanish|
|Spanish||German, English, French|
Successful candidates have:
- strong written communication skills in diverse contexts, a quick understanding and good powers of concentration; they are creative in their approach to problem-solving, intellectually curious, able to deal with criticism and to cope with pressure;
- a good general education, a thorough knowledge of economic, social, political and cultural conditions in the cultural areas of their chosen languages;
- an outstanding command of their native language and at least two foreign languages.
Preparing for your studies
Before you begin your studies, we recommend you to do an internship in translation or the language service industry, preferably abroad in a country where one of your foreign languages is spoken. This will give you the chance to gain useful professional experience and to establish contacts, while improving your language skills and enhancing your cultural knowledge. If you complete a translation internship, this can be recognised in the form of ECTS credits in your third semester.
In order to be admitted to the MA in Applied Linguistics, you need to have a recognised Bachelor’s degree, preferably in modern languages or media/communication studies, or an equivalent tertiary level qualification. You are also required to pass an aptitude test to demonstrate your practical skills. Candidates with a degree in an unrelated subject area take an additional test in linguistics.
Candidates for the specialisation in Professional Translation also have to provide evidence of English language competence (at least C1 level) and, in the case of non-native speakers of German, of German language competence (at least C2 level). This evidence can be in the form of language certificates, study records, job references, etc. Candidates who are unable to provide evidence of this kind will be required to take a written language test at the ZHAW.
In the aptitude test for the specialisation in Professional Translation, candidates translate a general language text from their chosen foreign languages (B or C languages) into their native language (A language) and, if applicable, from their native language (A language) into their active foreign language (B language). The minimum language combination is ACC (native language plus two passive foreign languages).
If you are interested in more than one specialisation in the MA in Applied Linguistics, you can apply to take more than one aptitude test. In this case, you pay the enrolment fee for the admission process (see ) only once, but the aptitude test fees are charged individually. Please note that the dates and deadlines for applications and for the aptitude tests vary according to the specialisation.
If you have a degree in a subject area unrelated to modern languages or media/communication studies, you are required to take a test in general and applied linguistics and in translation studies. Depending on the degree you hold, you may be exempt from parts of this test. After the deadline for applications, you will receive a reading list to help you prepare.
Dates and deadlines
|Programme start: Spring semester 2018||Programme start: Spring semester 2019|
|Deadline for applications||30 April 2017||30 April 2018|
|Aptitude test||27 June - 7 July 2017||25 June - 6 July 2018|
|Language test||27 June - 7 July 2017||25 June - 6 July 2018|
|Linguistics test||19 August 2017||18 August 2018|
|Aptitude test (resit date)||2 - 7 October 2017||1 - 6 October 2018|
|Language test (resit date)||2 - 7 October 2017||1 - 6 October 2018|
|Linguistics test (resit date)||11 November 2017||10 November 2018|
Subject to change.