How To Become A Translator (5 Steps to Starting a Professional Translation Career)

The assumption that people who can speak at least two languages will automatically be able to translate in those languages is common. However, becoming a translator requires much more than just having the knowledge of different languages. So, if you want to start a career in translation, the following tips on what it entails and how to become a translator will help you succeed in this career.

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Becoming a translator requires great skills, intelligence, and open-mindedness. Although, being fluent in a minimum of two languages is a basic requirement to becoming a translator.

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In this article, thorough work has been done to enlighten you on all you need to know (and do) to become a translator. The vital information contained in here will guide you through the path to becoming a professional translator.

But first:

Who Is A Translator?

In simple terms, a translator is one who specializes in converting both written and spoken words from one language to another. The individual reads, understands and re-writes the messages involved in another language. They work with texts that require accurate translation from one language to another.

Their services are required by people who live outside their home country, students, businesses – most especially those involved in international dealings – and other groups of people, or organizations who require translation of written texts from one language to another.

What Does A Translator Do

The duties of a translator and an interpreter share some similarities though different but most times they stand-in for the same purpose. A translator handles written text only but an interpreter deals in converting messages verbally.

A translator reads the original document, understands it, and converts it into written form for a free flow of communication. He may also be required to revise the already translated document to ensure it reflects the current policies.

A translator works closely with government agencies, courthouses, medical centers, and businesses (most especially international businesses) to interpret spoken words or written documents from one language to another.

To the government -Translators change written information from one language to another.

To the courthouse –Translators are responsible for changing legal documents into a language that can be understood by those in the legal system.

Also, the only way it would be possible for someone who cannot communicate in English to effectively participate in the courtroom is through the help of a translator. They interpret sign and speech languages into a language that is easily understood.

To a business –translators contribute to the global success of businesses by ensuring effective communication through an accurate translation of information from the source language to the target language.

To the medical field – translators convert medical documents like lectures, slides, and books for a better understanding of medical issues.

And to the educational system – translators ensure effective communication between the district, teachers, students, appropriate public agencies, and the learning institution.

Average Salary For A Translator

The average pay for translators in the United States is $ 19.67 per hour. However, there are some translators who have become experts in the industry and have also earned the certification of the American Translators Association, and as such earn over $66/ hour.

See a detailed guide on how much translators make.

Some of the major determinants of translators’ earnings include;

Language Pair

A language pair is created when a language is converted into another. For instance, converting English to German is called the English-German language pair. So, If there are many translators working on a particular language pair, the pay will be low while language pairs with fewer translators will attract higher pay.

The Type Of Translation

There are basically four types of translation we have, and they are administrative translation, professional translation, technical translation, and literary translation.

Professional translators are experts who work generally in different fields such as tourists, expats, etc. The administrative translators are majorly needed in the administrative sector of business management. The technical translators deal in documents created by technical writers like user guides, owner’s manuals, etc while the literary translators convert short stories, poetry, long novels articles, and other forms of literature from one language to another.

Among these major types of translation, the literary translation is believed to be the most challenging of all and obviously will attract a higher pay.

Level Of Expertise

The level of expertise a translator has gained can also be a determining factor in how well he or she earns. A newbie will obviously be paid lower than a pro in the industry.

Level Of Education

Though being fluent in at least two languages is the basic requirement of becoming a translator, however, the level of education acquired has a major contribution too in determining how much a translator will earn.

A translator who holds a degree cannot be compared to one who has not obtained any form of education, and this will bring about a disparity in earnings.

How To Become A Translator

photo of a woman working on her laptop; here are tips on how to become a translator

To become a great translator the following tips will help:

Select A Language

To get started in the world of translation, having a good knowledge of a language is important. In your selection, I will advise you to go for languages that are not so common because it will make you highly sought after and help you to earn the kind of money you want.

Note that sometimes there may be low demand for uncommon languages yet you will encounter low competition over the few available ones therefore you stand a chance of securing job opportunities.

In situations where you naturally have a good knowledge of a second language, you will still need to get specialized training for a clear and efficient translation. Schools approved for training can be found in the top translation schools in the United States.

Get Certified

Certification places you ahead of non-certified translators. It proves your ability in translation exercises, securing a job opportunity easier and faster, and attracts a better pay. You can obtain a certification with the American Translators Association

Select Your Preferred Industry

Once you are able to learn your selected language and also obtain certification, deciding on the industry to work in is the next most important decision.

The technicality of every industry differs. While some may require the basic level, others require some form of technicality. For instance, the law and medical field demand that you understand the terms or jargon of the profession before you can be a perfect fit.

So once you have selected your preferred industry, learning the terms relating to it matters for you to fit in well and deliver your assignment accurately.

Experience Is Needed

The final stage in your quest for how to become a translator is the need to gain some experience.

One way to do this is to get a few gigs and charge lower than the usual amount to attract potential clients. If you are able to do a few gigs (check out translation jobs online no experience, for sites to get gigs), add them to your resume, from there your confidence is built and you can begin applying for jobs with attractive pay.

Also, learning more languages will open you up to more opportunities giving you an edge in the industry therefore don’t hesitate to improve on your language skills.

Frequently Asked Questions on How To Become A Translator.

Here are some questions people ask on how to become a translator.

What Is The Difference Between An Interpreter And A Translator?

The major difference between an interpreter and a translator is that while a translator converts information into written words, an interpreter translates verbally.

What are The Important skills A Translator Must Possess

These are important skills a translator must possess

  • Excellent writing skill
  • Language knowledge
  • Detailed research skill
  • Sound translation judgment
  • Computer skills
  • Good comprehension
  • Active listening
  • Computer-assisted translation skill
  • Good communication skill
  • Deep cultural knowledge

What Languages are in high demand for translators?

  • Russian
  • French
  • Italian
  • Chinese
  • Persian
  • Japanese
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Polish
  • Portuguese

Can I Become A Translator Without A Degree?

A degree will give an edge in employment selection however it is not a criterion in becoming a translator. So this implies that you can work as a translator without having a degree.

How Long Will It Take To Translate A Document?

The source text depends on how long it takes to translate a document. It is generally believed that a translator can handle up to 1,500 words daily for documents that are not complex while a lesser word count will be achieved for complex documents.

What Qualities Should A Translator Have?

These qualities will make a great translator

  • Appreciating other cultures
  • Having a passion for language
  • Time management ability
  • Being open to correction and criticism
  • Paying attention to detail
  • Having an area of specialization

How Do I Overcome Translation Problems?

The only way to overcome language translation problems is by having a firm understanding of the grammatical differences for both languages.

Final Thoughts

Becoming a highly paid translator requires a lot of determination and consistency. The chances of success depend largely on your language pair and expertise. 

If you are willing, ready, and able to commit yourself by putting in the work and required effort, rest assured your translator career will bloom and thrive.

Lily & The FBM Team
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