How to become a professional translator

13/09/2021 | Rebecca Twose

Are you looking to pursue a career in the translation industry but are struggling where to start? In our blog, we’ve put together some simple steps that most people take during their journey to become a professional translator…

Language capabilities

The first place to start is making sure your language capabilities are on point. Obviously, to be a professional translator you need to be fluent in more than one language. Some translators are bilingual so they often use these two languages as their target or source language. For those who aren’t bilingual, a second language needs to be chosen. This language may be one that you have been learning since childhood at school, or you may have chosen to start learning a new one later on in life. It doesn’t really matter which language you choose as all languages will have some translation work available, although, it may be easier to find translation work in the more common languages. Once you have your chosen languages selected, you now have to master these languages to the highest proficiency. This will often include studying languages at a degree level, and many also spend time living in the country where the language is spoken to get an even deeper understanding of both the language and the culture.

professional translator

Education & learning

Alongside having excellent language capabilities, professional translators also need to have extensive translation knowledge. Being fluent in multiple languages does not mean you can be a translator. A translator needs to have strong writing and presentation skills, and also have an awareness of industry-related terms depending on the translator’s chosen field. Whilst studying translation at a degree level will give translators a great foundation for the profession, extra research will be required for the industry that you want to specialise in as a translator. Popular industries for translation include both medical & consumer market research, legal, financial, life sciences and more. Each of these industries will have its own terminology that translators will need to know and understand. There are many resources available for translators to learn about their chosen field such as reading materials, online courses and more.

translation experience

Experience

Although there are many benefits to having a formal translation qualification, this doesn’t mean you have to have one in order to be a professional translator. Many translation companies will still work with translators who make up for not having a formal qualification with their wealth of translation experience. Getting hands-on experience is probably the best way that someone can improve their translation skills. The good thing about the translation profession is that not only are there some great full-time roles but there are also lots of freelance opportunities too. Freelance translators are free to take as much or as little work as possible, which is perfect for those who may still be at university getting their qualifications and want to take a few small projects to get some experience in their free time.

Freelance translator

Freelance vs In-house

Like in any industry, there are definitely pros and cons to working in-house vs as a freelance translator. It is up to the individual to choose which path best suits their needs. Working in a full-time translation role offers more job security as you have a guaranteed wage with set working hours each week. You also have paid holidays, sick pay and many other benefits that come with being employed. Being a freelancer means a lack of these benefits but an increase in flexibility to work as much or as little as you want, and at times that are suitable to your lifestyle. A lot of translators often try both options at least once in their career to see which they prefer, and there are some great advantages to both!

professional translator

Showcase your skills

Once you’ve perfected your language skills, got some translation qualifications, had some industry experience and decided if freelance or in-house is best for you, you’re almost ready to become a professional translator. There’s just one thing missing… you need to actually get employed or find some clients! To do this you need to show potential employers your skills and expertise in a clear, concise way on your CV, Linked In or any other professional channels that you use. To make this as simple as possible, we’ve put together a guide of how you can write the perfect translation CV. 

By making sure you’ve covered each of the points above, you’re on your way to becoming a great translator. If you are currently looking for a career in the translation industry, check out our careers page where we post a variety of both in-house and freelance opportunities. Visit our careers page here. 

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