How to become a translator

If you’re well versed in a range of different languages, then a career as a translator can be truly rewarding and flexible, allowing you to work from home and manage your own schedule, or fit your work around further academic study.

You will have the opportunity to work on a range of different translation projects and interact with a number of different people.

If you’re interested in becoming a translator but aren’t sure where to start, we take a deeper dive below.

What skills do you need to become a translator?

If you are thinking of becoming a translator, you’ll need to know what skills you will need.

Excellent language skills

You must be able to write and speak any languages you want to translate with ease. If one or more of your languages are not natively spoken by you, then you must be at a very advanced level.

Excellent understanding of the target language and culture

This means having extensive knowledge of grammar rules and vocabulary. In order to translate accurately from one language into another one with no mistakes made during this process. You will also need to have a deep understanding of the culture and cultural conventions of your target language – in order to tailor your translation to the expectations of the target readership.

Dictionaries, glossaries, term bases and other reference materials, whether on paper or web-based, are useful tools to help with specialised terminology within a specific subject

What qualifications do you need to become a translator?

To work as a translator, you’ll ideally hold need a bachelor’s degree in translation or a related language field. You can also pursue further education through an MA or PhD programme in translation studies.

In addition to having an extensive knowledge of languages and cultures, translators will need to build expertise in their subject areas. This could include law, medical, science, industrial or any other field where there are specific terminologies that need translating into another language.

If you want to translate Spanish legal documents into English for example, you’ll need to have knowledge of legal terminology and jargon – especially where industry terms cannot be directly translated.

How do translators typically work?

As a translator, you’ll likely work from home or an office rental space. This means that you’ll have your own space and can choose when to work on your assignments within the given timeframes.

Typically working as a freelancer, translators will need to look for their own work opportunities, build their own client list, and manage all the necessary invoicing and back-office operations needed to manage their business.

How do translators work with language solutions providers?

A great way to gain new clients, is to partner with a language solutions provider.

When a business needs a translator, they typically go through a language solutions provider – who can provide a range of translation and interpreting services. They in turn work with a network of translators, to ensure they can cover a wide range of languages and industry specialities.

As a translator you may have the opportunity to apply to join their team of linguists, so you’re on their list when new assignments that fit your skillset arise, helping to bring in new business for you, without the added hassle of managing your own marketing and direct to client business development activity.

Before you’re put to work though, you can expect to go through a thorough assessment process. The language solutions provider will want to check your qualifications, experience and language skills – to ensure they’re happy for you to represent their business.

What does a typical day look like for a translator?

As a translator, you’ll normally work on one project at a time – within agreed delivery timescales. Depending on the volume of work required, you’ll usually be paid based on the number of words that need translating.

Work may include translating full documents, proofreading translated materials and providing written scripts from audio-visual recordings.

Where a document is required for a specific region of a country, the client may be looking for a localisation check to be made to the document, to ensure it includes regional colloquialisms.

What are the first steps to become a translator?

It’s good to start off with some research. What opportunities are there in the market for your skillset? What language solutions providers are looking for additional linguists in your field? What specialist fields could you develop experience in?

Join a trade organisation such as the Institute of Translation and Interpreting, to register yourself on their translator directory.

They can also provide training to help you set up your business. Check out their Setting up as a Freelance Translator online course.

Then when you’re ready to get to work, don’t forget to get in touch with us to register to join our translator community.

Become a translator with NRL

If you’re interested in joining our linguist community visit our working with us page to find out more and register your interest.

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