Naturally, for one to become a professional translator, he or she must be fluent in at least two languages, in addition to the mother tongue. Becoming a translator takes great skill, as a translator must be intelligent, intellectually curious and open minded. The level of the language skills must be quite high.
The language services industry is huge and is not affected by recession. In 2017, the global language industry revenue reached $43.08 billion and it is projected to be about $47.46 billion by 2021. The industry is expected to grow steadily, which means that the potential for employment in this field is always high.
Over 3,000 language services providers (LSPs) operate in the United States and more than 55,000 professionals are employed in the industry as interpreters and translators, and in other jobs related to the industry.
Competition within the translation industry is fierce. The same is also true with translators, because the number of professional translators is small compared to the market demand for their services.
If you speak another language fluently other than your mother tongue, and you have always been interested in other languages and foreign culture, you might want to become a translator.
Translation work is very rewarding and fulfilling. Aside from the monetary benefits, translation allows you to help people understand one another, allow more people to enjoy the works of literary writers and generally facilitate communication.
Road to becoming a professional translator
Just like any career, the road to becoming a translator is not easy. It takes dedication and perseverance and a genuine love for languages. You need the right education and a good set of skills, as follows:
1. Language skills
The first skill you should possess is on language. You need fluency in the source language or the language you would be translating from. You must be a native speaker of the target language or the language you would be translating into. It is also necessary for you to be a good writer in the target language.
Very few people are able to translate into a language that is not native to them. To work as a professional translator, only native speakers are considered by most translation firms. Living in the country or at least spending a major part of the year in the country where the source language is spoken will help improve your language proficiency. Most translation companies make this a prerequisite.
As a professional translator, you have to be able to write very well and understand the source text, have a mastery of vocabulary and grammar and a good command of the idiomatic methods to express things and the intended meaning precisely and accurately. To become a good translator you should have a mastery of the target language and a good knowledge of the different dialects, punctuation, grammar, axioms, slang, variants, styles, jargon and its euphemisms.
2. Computer skills
You should have good computer skills if you want to become a translator. It is to your advantage if you are adept at using several programs, especially MS Office programs, as well as desktop publishing, Photoshop and InDesign as there will be translation jobs that require using these applications. Using these applications will improve your efficiency and help increase your chances of getting employed.
Aside from the mentioned applications you also need to know how to use CAT (computer-assisted translation) tools. Knowing HTML is an advantage as well but not a requirement.
A good translator should also have good typing skills, as you would be dealing with written documents. Above-average typing speed and accuracy will help you tremendously.
3. Business skills
Many translators today are freelancers. If this is also your aim, it is better if you have some business acumen. You should have some knowledge in marketing and sales so you can build a network, get known and get translation jobs. You have to develop tenacity because there will be stiff competition among other freelancers. You must learn to be punctual and organized as well.
Steps on how to become a professional translator
If you're sure that you want to become a translator, here are the steps to take.
Step 1: Acquire an education
Aside from being proficient in at least two languages, you should take translation studies to become a translator. A high school graduate can take courses on writing and comprehension, and foreign languages. Many have a bachelor's degree, majoring in a particular language.
Many translators today are also specialists in different fields, such as business, the arts, legal, medical, pharmaceutical, finance and more. They use their being bilingual and years of experience in the practice of their profession to become translators who are subject matter experts.
Step 2: Apply for and pass certification program
After satisfying the education requirement and honing your skills, it is advantageous to get certification or accreditation to become a translator. When you are certified, you have proof that you possess the required skills to translate on the professional level.
Once certified by an organization, your name is listed in their directory where clients can find your name and credentials.
Step 3: Pass language proficiency test
You can boost your resume by passing language proficiency tests. This shows proof that you are fluent in the languages you speak. Several organizations, schools and many translation firms offer language proficiency tests for translators.
Step 4: Acquire job experience
Industry experience is important for translators who are just starting. To gain experience, you can start by working as an intern. When you have some experience, you can look for entry-level work, which will expose you to the intricacies of the translation process and the business. Experience is essential if you want to become a translator.
Step 5: Learn to market yourself
Marketing yourself is important if you decide to go freelance or even if you are seeking permanent employment as a translator. Look for companies, firms, organizations, government agencies, hospitals, clinics and LSPs that may be looking for translators.
You can create a website, write blogs and join online groups of professional translators to start building your network. Because work may come anytime, it is prudent to have copies of your resume ready. It is also important to establish competitive rates for different types of translation work. Ask freelance translators from the online communities you've joined what rates they charge.
Step 6: Continue learning
As you start to establish yourself as a professional translator, it is very important to stay updated with translations trends, with new technologies and industry news. It is also important not to stop learning. Many translators continue their education to be a cut above the rest. A number of translators take their master's degree to improve their marketability. Continuing education allows you to either specialize or diversify.
Standing out is essential in the job, so everything you do to improve your profession helps you to stand out.
Step 7: Improve your knowledge of the subject
If you decide to specialize in any subject, it is critical keep up to date about your specialization. Keeping updated on developments, trends and regulations will keep a translator in good stead. The translation of a specific subject matter requires a thorough knowledge of the language and the subject matter, so improving your researching skills is a must.
Characteristics of a good translator
A good translator should follow the procedures required by client; know how to provide the details and comply with the client's as well as the agency's rules. A professional translator must have knowledge of the general laws and the legalities implemented and observed in different countries, so that the translations of documents comply with the target countries rules and regulations and its laws.
2. Committed to each project
Professional translation requires commitment from the translator. The translator should be flexible, responsive, duty-bound, dedicated and a professional through and through. To become a good and effective translator, you should ensure that each and every translation project you handle is treated with respect and will be consistently of the highest quality. On-time delivery is also a requirement.
3. Trustworthy and handles confidentiality well
Each translation work must remain confidential. It is part of the work process of being a translator. Document security is a priority. You have to comply with the privacy guidelines set forth by your company as well as the client. Although a standard operating procedure, this is one of the things that build client trust in you and your company, which will eventually lead to repeat orders.
To sum it all up, a good translator should have a mastery of the source and target languages, deep knowledge of the subject matter and has top-level skill in doing research. The translator must possess an analytical mind and capable of critical thinking. Lastly, a good translator is fully committed to the task and delivers high quality work consistently.