• Abby

Specialising as a linguist: editing, education and languages

Education is a great specialism for freelance linguists, but it seems to be a relatively little-known path. I've been asked by recent graduates and experienced translators alike about the kind of work that is available in this field, so I thought I would write a post giving an overview of the sector and outlining some of the opportunities that might be waiting for you.

Why specialise in education?

In my experience, former language students tend to be quite well suited to working in educational publishing. Firstly, having learned a second language, you will have a good understanding of English grammar and usage, as well as lots of experience with learning resources - if you're anything like me, you'll have a well-thumbed stash of reference books, exercise books and textbooks. Secondly, you likely have some specialist areas ready to roll, whether that's your second language, experience as an EFL teacher, or another area of interest, such as history or literature.

I've found that working on modern foreign languages books is a great way to use my language skills in my day-to-day work. Although you won't be expected to edit text written in your second language (this is usually done as part of a separate check by a native speaker), you will be asked to draw on your knowledge of the language to review exercises and explanations from the point of view of the learner. Personally, I enjoy the variety that comes with educational projects; if you are working on a textbook, for example, your brief may extend to commissioning artwork or checking photos.

What kind of work is there?

Educational publishers such as Hodder Education, Pearson and Oxford University Press (to name a few) publish a wide range of educational materials, from textbooks and teacher guides to digital classroom resources. These companies have in-house teams of publishers, commissioning editors and editors, who increasingly work with freelance editorial project managers, copy editors and proofreaders. Educational publishers also outsource to publishing services companies, or packagers, which hire editorial freelancers to work on projects.

You can specialise in a wide range of areas, including assessment, English for the workplace, self study and teacher training. As you speak multiple languages, don't limit yourself to the UK; consider approaching companies that publish English language teaching resources in countries where your source languages are spoken.

What are clients looking for?

Clients are generally looking for qualified editors with a specialist area. Classroom experience can also be valuable, whether that's as a qualified teacher or even as a classroom assistant on a year abroad. A professional membership can also help to demonstrate your expertise and experience.

As digital resources are becoming more widespread, technical skills and a willingness to learn new systems are seen as valuable. In general, experience with project management tools such as Trello can be useful, and some publishers like to use Google docs.

In-house teams often outsource because they themselves are short on time, and publishing deadlines are usually hard and fast. As a result, clients are looking for proactive freelancers with strong communication skills and the confidence to take on responsibility and solve problems. Packagers in particular tend to value flexibility and adaptability, given that goalposts such as project scope and schedules can shift over the course of a project.

How do I find work?

Once you've worked out the area you want to focus on within the education sector (primary, secondary or higher education? Which subject(s)?), you can start searching for potential clients. The Education Publishers' Directory of the United Kingdom is a good place to start, and Google is your friend, of course! I'm currently working on another blog post with plenty of hints and tips for finding work, so watch this space!

I hope that this post has given you some insight into the educational publishing industry, and maybe some inspiration if you're looking to diversify your business!

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