I studied Screen Translation and I am now a screen translator – I like to think that says it all

Adam Kiddie
Adam Kiddie
Freelance Subtitler and Translator
MA Screen Translation
Adam discusses his career in subtitling and translation.
Adam Kiddie

What is your current role and your main responsibilities?

I’m currently in my sixth year working as a freelance subtitler and translator, collaborating with a range of translation agencies and media broadcasters to provide Spanish-to-English translation within the fields of TV, film, marketing, commerce, and journalism. This has involved work for end-clients including Channel 4, Harley-Davidson, and the Catalan Tourism Board. Additionally, I work as an English language specialist within the wider localisation field. My work in this area includes writing audio-description scripts for film and television; creating and editing subtitles for the hard-of-hearing; and providing final-eye proofreading for foreign-language content (in any given language from Dutch and Swedish to Hindi and Korean) that has been translated into English. This side of my work has included projects for end-clients including the BBC, Warner Bros., and Red Bull TV.

Please summarise your overall career since graduation, but in particular, what was your first relevant role to the area in which you work now and how did you secure that position?

I decided to do my MA part-time over two years so that I was able to work full-time alongside it and therefore support myself financially. During the summer in between my two years on the course, I applied for an unpaid internship at a translation company called Wolfestone Translations in Swansea, Wales. I was lucky enough to land a place on the internship and my first role within the translation industry. The intern coordinator who accepted my application told me personally that my being on the Screen Translation course made my application stand out and was ultimately a key factor in me being accepted onto the internship. Ultimately, I gained a wealth of experience and made so many connections on the three-month internship that I was able to launch a freelance career the day after leaving Wales and returning to Sheffield. I freelanced full-time throughout the second year of my MA, having the invaluable experience of simultaneously working within the industry and learning the necessary skills. Luckily, that freelance career continues to this day.

How has your qualification helped you in your career?

Having my MA in Screen Translation has been invaluable. I think one of the main concerns anyone has when choosing a university course is, “Am I going to leave with a fancy qualification but not much practical expertise, or am I going to gain practical skills and knowledge that can lead to a career and also be applied to that career on a daily basis?” Without a shadow of a doubt, the MAST course genuinely prepares you for a career within the subtitling industry. Not only do you leave the course with the creative and technical skills you need to be an effective translator, but, due to the approach the course takes, an approach that focuses on mimicking real-life translation projects and freelancing scenarios, you feel fully equipped to start a career within the industry.

What is an average day like for you in your current role?

One of the main reasons I was so keen on pursuing a career as a freelancer was the flexibility to shape my own schedule and constantly be working on something new. I’ve been lucky enough to forge very strong relationships with several clients over the last few years, meaning that no two days are the same, as I can be working on a Scandinavian TV crime drama one day, translating a blog about hair transplants the next (that’s a real example), and writing audio description for a classic eighties movie the next day.

What do you think is the most exciting thing you've done as part of your current role?

Unfortunately, I can’t mention the most exciting stuff by name purely due to contractual agreements. But suffice to say that when you spend your days working on some of your favourite TV shows and movies, it’s pretty exciting.

What is your greatest achievement to date?

Last year I created the English translation for the entire series of a Spanish musical gameshow for one of the world’s largest streaming platforms. It was my first credited translation for an entire series, and it’s really fulfilling to know that people are streaming (and hopefully enjoying) my translation around the globe.

What advice would you give to current students who are interested in pursuing a career in your field?

I remember when I was doing the internship I mentioned earlier and one of the people who was mentoring me throughout it (also a freelance translator herself) said, “You’re going to have to believe in yourself, because you’re on your own, so, if you don’t believe in yourself, there’ll be nobody else there to do it for you.” I would say the same thing. Do it with full commitment and back yourself all the way. Everyone has doubts, but a good dose of self-belief is a key attribute for a freelancer, in my opinion.

Recruitment questions

What were your previous academic qualifications?

A BA in Spanish and Marketing from Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett).

What were your career aspirations when you were younger?

My aspiration was always to work for myself in some way. When I started taking translation and interpreting modules during my undergraduate degree, they were my favourite modules by a distance, so I wanted to find a career route in that area. Freelance translating seemed the perfect way to combine those two goals, so I started looking for translation Master’s courses. When I came across one specialising in translation for film and TV (another of my passions), I didn’t want to do anything else, and that’s when I applied to the Screen Translation course.

What impact has attending University had on you?

I’ve studied at two different universities. Because of those two degrees, I’ve made great friends, travelled around the world, and started a career within the field I studied. It’s fair to say the impact has been huge!

What advice would you give to young people considering University?

Follow your gut, don’t go into it with any preconceptions, and, if you do go for it, throw yourself into it.

Why did you choose Sheffield? / What sets Sheffield apart from other Universities?

Sheffield University was actually my first choice for my undergraduate degree. I had visited the city and the university several times for open days and was really excited by the city and the campus. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite meet the conditions of the undergraduate offer at Sheffield, but four years later, when it came to looking at Master’s courses, Sheffield was at the forefront of my mind, so when I found the Screen Translation course, it immediately went to the top of my wish list. Luckily, I was successful second time around and got my place in the end.

What other elements of University life/extra-curricular activities helped you to achieve success?

I made some great friends who were also studying in the School of Languages and Cultures on similar translation MAs. When it came to the time of writing our final dissertations, that friendship was so valuable because we were all able to support each other through the process. We had a real team spirit going in those last few crucial months, and that definitely helped me produce work that I was proud of.

What did you most enjoy about your time at Sheffield?

One of the best things about the Screen Translation course is that the people you’re learning from are genuine experts in their field, and I always felt incredibly privileged to find myself learning from the best. When I wasn’t studying, I enjoyed exploring the city of Sheffield, from the historic pubs of Kelham Island to the beautiful Peak District and the amazing theatre scene.

Why would you recommend the University of Sheffield as a good place to study?

Sheffield has the perfect combination of first-class on-campus facilities and a vibrant cultural and social scene off-campus. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for the all-round Northern university experience.

In one sentence, how would you describe the impact Sheffield had on your career and life after University?

I studied Screen Translation and I am now a screen translator – I like to think that says it all.

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