How to become a translator?
Who is the most likely to become a translator?
Sometimes, when we look at people who are incredibly good at whatever they do for a living, we say that they were born to be a doctor, a lawyer or an actress. The truth is, none of them became successful just thanks to the innate predispositions. Being flexible does not guarantee you a gold medal at the Olympics, just like being good at mathematics won’t secure you a top position in a global accounting company. In the same way, having a gift for languages or being a native speaker of a given language does not equal immediate success as a translator. Language specialists could be also further divided into those that enjoy interacting with people – being therefore more likely to become brilliant interpreters - and those who prefer a rather reclusive way of living, usually hard-working for their reputation as legal, literary, medical, financial or sworn translators. Translation is a wonderful profession which can accommodate both outgoing and shy people.
The best time to launch your career as a translator – and are native speakers of a given language at an advantage?
The truth is, there is no best moment to incorporate translation work into your life. Among these specialists there are those professionals who were educated in linguistics and have pretty much devoted their whole career into development as an interpreter or translator – and those, who decided to change their field having challenged themselves in a completely different field. Either way, perfect command of both native and foreign language is a cornerstone of translator’s career. This brings us to the immediate thought – does this mean that people brought up in bi- or multilingual families are more likely to become successful in the field of translation services? Turns out it’s not that easy, as language comprehension is only one (although undoubtedly incredibly important) factor contributing to the overall occupational triumph. The meta-knowledge of a language is far more important, as it allows for a juxtaposition of two languages and selection of appropriate grammar structures and lexical items, enabling further transposition of an utterance prepared by the means of one language into another tongue. Whether you acquire it through a complete course of study (such like first-degree or second-degree studies in English – or any chosen language – studies, applied linguistics or related majors) or on your own, preferring learning by doing and gaining experience, depends only on you and your choices. Bear in mind, however, that becoming a translator can be quite challenging with no proven education in a given field, without basic work experience gathered during internships and with no references from reliable clients that could speak volumes about the quality of your work.
Back to the square one – careful career planning
No matter whether you are eighteen and deciding on your future or thirty eight and completely reinventing your life, you need to go through some basic training. Mastering the language is one thing – but it is its practical application that helps you utilise theoretical knowledge. Look for internships at international companies; if you are interested in legal translations, volunteer at notary offices; even if at the beginning you will most likely just proofread the prepared texts, you will considerably broaden your lexicon and knowledge on various legal systems. Finally, try to prepare translations related to as many fields as possible – it is the easiest way to find your niche, usually somehow linked to personal interests. Unleash your potential and become the absolute master in a chosen field.
Career path of a translator has been dynamically evolving over the past two decades. Nowadays it is rare to hire in-house translators, as due to limited budget simple translation tasks are often delegated to those employees who have basic knowledge of a given language and are able to convey the general idea behind the text. More and more people decide to work as freelancers, appreciating the freedom that comes with leaving your 9-5 work behind and setting up your office wherever you like, as long as there is Internet connection available. Some people enjoy being in the spotlight, standing in front of thousands of people and becoming the centre of attention; such bubbly personalities and confident specialists usually make great interpreters during cultural events and conferences.
There are no shortcuts to success; carefully select projects and gain great reputation among your clients
The success of a translator is mainly determined by the quality of completed orders. Unless the text undergoing translation is highly specialised or requires particular knowledge within a given field, clients rarely bother to ask for a diploma or language certificates. References from previous employers and sample translations are another thing. While establishing reliable business partnerships it is worthy to have credible contacts to people who can prove that you are a trustworthy, success-driven and experienced professional. Carefully select offered projects and always make sure that you deliver a top-notch target text to the client. Never forget about quality assurance and, if needed, find a proofreader or editor who can look at your work from a distance and make amendments. Underestimating the power of the word is one of the most common mistakes – people who are satisfied by the results of your work will most likely silently appreciate it or send a kind thank you e-mail. Those who were disappointed with its quality will probably be very vocal when it comes to their feelings – and that could be a serious blow to your reputation, especially when you are a beginner in the industry.
It’s a long journey, and it can surely be a bumpy one – but it’s so worth it!
The work of a freelance translator can challenge the idea of “flexible working hours”, often simply meaning working until the breaking dawn. It has also its bright and rewarding moments – such as being offered a gig that requires you to travel, with your client covering all of the travel-related expenses. Upon the completion of a complex project you will feel nothing else but satisfaction that the amount of work and knowledge you have put into it has finally paid off. Last but not least; there are just a few vocations that offer so many diversified possibilities of making lifelong learning this promising, attractive and inspiring.