How to become a translator
There are several routes leading to the translator profession – winding alleys walked by enthusiasts or experts in specific fields, as well as steep mountain trails climbed by philology students during their long education. Is one path better than the other? What awaits us at the end of the journey? Can the destination be reached by taking shortcuts? You will find answers to all those questions in our article.
Types of translation
Prior to discussing what it means to work as a translator and what steps should be taken to get the first paid assignment, let us take a closer look at different types of translation:
Pros and cons of being a translator
Translation industry – like every other – has its good and bad sides. Much depends on whether we decide to work full-time or as freelancers. There are localisation agencies and translation companies in the market that are willing to offer employment contracts, thus guaranteeing their linguists the comfort of fixed working hours and a steady income. The same profession looks somewhat different for freelancers – in this case, it is not enough to possess necessary skills – you also need a bit of luck.
Oftentimes, getting assignments is dictated by the “first come, first served” rule or by competitiveness of rates. A flexible work schedule, which is so frequently listed as one of the advantages, in reality often becomes the opposite – it is not unusual that freelancers are given very short deadlines; in such cases, the “flexibility” means that they have to work relentlessly for over ten hours a day.
Naturally, it does not mean that being a freelancer has no good aspects and no proponents whatsoever. After every exhausting marathon, a translator can take a few days off to rest and gain strength for the next project. Moreover, the translation market is constantly growing, and along with it grows the need for different types of translation – it gives all freelancers a huge field of activity and increases their chances of finding a good agency with which they will establish a fruitful, regular cooperation on favourable terms. In such cases, they might earn more than in-house translators.
When it comes to remuneration, there is no one universal rule, as it mostly depends on the entity that is commissioning a project. Very broadly speaking, the ones that earn the most are interpreters and those who work with less popular languages – for example with a different writing system than the Latin or Cyrillic alphabets; whereas sworn translators are remunerated based on official state rates.
Character traits and skills that a translator should possess
There are many stereotypes regarding the translator profession, many of which do not faithfully reflect the reality – the set of features and abilities that every representative of this occupation should have could surprise a lot of people outside the industry. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular opinions and debunk some myths.
Route no. 1 to become a translator – formal education
One of the simplest (not to be confused with the easiest) ways to become a professional translator is by completing philological studies. Many fields offer translation courses, thanks to which students can acquire useful skills from the very beginning. During classes, students use specialist tools and software, whereas their progress is constantly monitored by the best experts in the market.
It is worth mentioning how one can become a sworn translator, since this topic is closely related to education. In Poland, in theory, every person who has completed undergraduate studies can take the exam.
In practice, graduates of linguistic studies have a higher chance of receiving the certificate, as in the course of their education they get familiarised with the required terminology, get to know the nature of the required types of texts and learn about cultural differences that can impact decisions made while translating.
If during studies you were not exposed to materials related to legal and certified translations, it is definitely worth getting acquainted with them prior to the exam – there are many books on the market that can be easily bought or borrowed. However, the oral part of the exam can turn out to be quite problematic – without adequate preparation, it is more likely to make a mistake or become overwhelmed with stress.
Interestingly, in Great Britain, there is no official system for certified translation. Any agency can undertake such a task. The only requirement is that they must prepare a document that will vouch for source and target text consistency, containing contact details of the translator.
Route no. 2 to become a translator – self-taught skills and knowledge
Many language enthusiasts or experts in certain fields are probably wondering how to become a translator without proper education. First of all, it would be helpful to obtain a certificate confirming knowledge of a given language. It’s also important is to get acquainted with everyday speech – it is especially advised to read books and press articles, listen to the news or try to translate something by yourself.
If such an option is possible, it is worth the time to travel to regions in which the language chosen by us is used on a regular basis – that way, we will be able to explore the culture of a given country and broaden our knowledge regarding the current social or political situation. The right selection of fields in which we want to specialise is also significant. When such a decision is made, we have to patiently enrich our field-specific vocabulary and try to stay on top of any changes that may occur.
How to start your translation journey
Although the demand for translators is definitely large and constantly growing, it is relatively hard to distinguish yourself from the competition and ensure a constant flow of assignments. Since employers primarily take experience into account, it is worth doing voluntary work or apprenticeships and internships organised on good, transparent terms – while such an effort will not generate an immediate financial profit, it will definitely pay off in the future. You may contact an organisation called Translators without Borders, where translators and linguistic specialists provide their services for free, performing tasks that help entities working as charities, and for the sake of personal development. After translating a certain number of texts, volunteers receive a special certificate that will definitely be an extremely valuable addition to their resume and will open doors to further assignments.
To sum up: how much we achieve is up to us and our determination. And even though there is not one clear path leading to becoming a translator, there are certain already-walked-on trails, thanks to which we are able to see a better view at the end of the road.
Are you curious about the translators working at locatheart? Read our article and find out who they are and what their job is!