Degree in translation and linguistics
Educational background within the field certainly contributes a lot, but translation skills aren’t limited only to those with university degrees. Language fluency is a pre-requirement for good work, and that can be obtained in a school, at home or while living or traveling in another country. Once you are able to communicate freely in a certain language, meaning you can speak, read and write at a level of an educated native speaker, you are ready to start the career path of a professional translator.
Translation jobs diversity
There are different types of translation jobs that require different experiences and skills. Book translators need to develop a very refined feeling for prose and poetry; therefore they need to work on their writing skills as well. Court translators are aware of basic legal procedures, as they have to pay attention to potential mistranslations that could have devastating impact on court verdicts. Simultaneous and consecutive interpreters are conducting their work at the same time when someone is speaking. In their case speed is the priority. For medical interpreters mastering medical terminology is a necessity, but communicating with patients in a comforting and trustworthy way defines their excellence.
Tools and technology
Translation industry is limitless. And so are your competences! If you are aware of your special skills and world knowledge, you can only expand this knowledge to become the best in your specialization. And nowadays translation is easier than ever. Translators of Epic of Gilgamesh couldn’t help themselves with all the tools, books and technology we are using today. But over 4000 years later translators are still letting some meanings get lost in translation. Looking up words in a dictionary is easy, but dealing with ambiguities and false friends is tricky. Even though machine translation tools still don’t deliver great results, we find them very helpful. Which translator doesn't look up sentences using Google or Bing, or use other web tools that provide an instant translation of text fragments? Spell check is usually integrated into text editors, bringing any spelling mistakes to our attention and giving us an opportunity to correct them immediately. CAT tools like Trados or Wordfast are another chapter. Ongoing research of language technology is bringing out great new tools on daily basis. And as translators, we need to learn about them and find the ones that fit our needs perfectly.
Having too many tools can also be overwhelming. Finding the right ones for our needs is the key to success. No one needs thousands of dictionaries when we can have that one or two covering all domains of our work. You have to know where to look for references for your segment. For example, many translators help themselves with Microsoft Language Portal when they need to translate tech terms into multiple languages. Reading articles, books and following news from other countries will also help you maintain high standards and adding neologisms to the known vocabulary on regular basis is inevitable. If you specialize in a certain field, make sure you don’t only learn about language, but also follow the industry development.
If you work as a freelancer, you are your own boss
And even though this sounds like an advantage, know that managing yourself requires much more discipline than managing others. Organizing yourself and planning the time you will allocate to specific tasks is a virtue. You need to follow a clear schedule and always add some extra time to the planning, just in case you get distracted or you need to take care of another thing at the same time. And as a freelancer, you can’t afford to miss any deadlines! Your reputation is sometimes more important than your work, as your clients can’t evaluate the quality of your work due to lack of understanding of a certain language. Result delivery is the easiest thing to monitor, therefore don’t play with it! If you are not sure whether you can deliver a proper translation within the requested timeframe, ask for an extension of the deadline. Always work fast and avoid submitting work last minute. Give yourself an assurance that in case the workload is greater than expected you could still be able to work without feeling pressured or having to submit a low quality text. Keep in mind that there are many freelancers on the market. But if you are reliable and trustworthy, you don’t have to worry about your future job offers, they will continue coming on their own.
Finding a job as a translator
This task is actually not as difficult as it may sound. There are many companies and organizations that hire in-house interpreters, and working for a translation agency is always a good option. If you are still deciding about your career path or specialization, you can always start translating part time and search for arrangements on translator sites and forums, or join a translator crowdsourcing community like Conyac. These translator communities are a perfect solution for translators who are looking for a side job. There is no better way to practice and brush up your skills as a translator, while getting paid at the same time. Work for such translation services doesn’t require a lot of time, and you can respond to requests practically from anywhere at any time. Working at home, in an office or at the beach doesn’t make any difference to your client, as long as you do your job well.
The more your work, the better you get
And with quality comes a larger amount of better-paid requests that gradually develop you into an expert. It’s always nice to get incentivized feedback for our work, isn’t it? Results of your work serve as a future motivation and you can clearly see which career path suits you best. You can’t become an established translator overnight, but if you work hard, you can gradually build up your skillset, vocabulary, experience, as well as the client base. Accept different projects and try out as many things as possible. Only this way you will recognize your best talent and find methods to improve any disadvantages you might have. Becoming a translator is an ongoing process and your efforts definitely pay off. As with everything else, the hardest step is the start.