Professional translation is very complex and takes more than a person knowing how to speak the language. It takes years of practice and understanding of the language. A professional translator must be able to understand, assimilate and reproduce the information and meaning of the translation and do it all naturally. Here’s a quick look at what it takes to become a professional translator.
To become a translator you have to at least know two languages. Most of your professional translators translate no more than four languages. Any more languages than four and it will start to take time away from practicing and mastering the languages. A college degree is essential but not necessarily a degree in a particular language is needed. It’s beneficial to have qualifications or experience in a different field and even more beneficial when you follow it up with postgraduate linguistic training. When choosing your language combinations think about also learning the cultures and the customs of the countries as well. You can do this by traveling abroad and immersing yourself in the language and culture. Most universities will give credits toward your degree for a semester abroad. There’s no substitute for first-hand experience.
Besides classroom education, linguistic training and studying abroad you’re going to need some tools and resources for your language and document translations. First and foremost you’ll need a computer with internet connection. And, if you’re traveling abroad you might want to purchase an internet card so you always have the option of going online. You’ll also need to purchase word processing software, a telephone, answering machine and fax machine. Other resources include dictionaries, translation memory software and CAT tools. CAT refers to computer aided translations tools. These tools can be quite expensive but will be worth the investment in the long run.
Once you’ve completed your education and have purchased your start-up equipment it’s time to find that professional translation job. When creating your resume remember to include a brief description of your education and any degrees you received and the different fields of those degrees. Also include your qualifications and the languages from which you translate also known as your source language. In some countries adding a photo to your resume is the norm. It’s also important to include the equipment and software you use to produce your translations and how you communicate your daily work via email or fax.
To find a translation job start hitting up your network of friends, college career centers and search online. There are a myriad of forums and groups online for translators. You can also research a localization company. A lot of localization companies hire freelance translators to work all over the world.
It takes years of practice to master two to four languages and become a professional translator, but if you like to travel then this may be the job for you. Just stay in school, get some linguistic training, travel abroad and practice, practice, practice.