Hablas Espanol? A Guide To Becoming A Translator

Do you speak Spanish fluently, or any other language besides your mother tongue, for that matter? If the answer to this question is “yes” then why not consider using this skill to form the basis of a career change?

If you’re finding that your current job is leaving you feeling overworked and stressed, and you’re growing increasingly tired of commuting to work, then have you thought about using your knowledge of another language to become a translator? With companies competing with each other all over the globe, there is a growing demand for translation work both on and off the internet. Perhaps you’ve already done some translation work, either paid or pro bono or maybe you’re totally new to the business and wondering whether being a translator is a job for you.

Basic requirements

It goes without saying that you have to know at least two languages, but how fluent do you have to be? Firstly, we need to touch upon the source and target languages. The source language is the language of the original text which you are translating from. The target language is the language which you are translating to.

Generally speaking, most translators will translate into their native tongue although exceptions occur where a person has been living abroad for some considerable time. Thus, an English expat who has lived in Spain for several years, may well offer their services to translate Spanish into English for other English speakers living in Spain, often on a freelance basis.

It’s not just about fluency. A person wishing to become a translator also needs to have superior writing skills in their target language. In essence you need to have a good command of grammar and style. Any company paying a large sum of money for a translation is going to expect a well written piece of work which makes perfect sense. Whilst it pays to have an excellent grounding in your source language plus an understanding of the culture and customs of that country, you will obviously have access to dictionaries and reference material.

Do I need a translation degree in order to become a translator?

Deciding whether to study for a translation degree is an important decision to make if you are considering a job as a translator, but is it really necessary? Well, yes and no. Having a qualification such as a Batchelor Degree from University will certainly make it easier for you to find your first job. However, when you’re first starting out, you will inevitably find yourself in a catch 22 situation whereby a translation agency will want experienced translators, but how can you gain experience if you haven’t yet worked as a translator.

If you have a translation degree agencies are more likely to put you on their books and quite often that degree may have included a work placement which will have given you hands on experience. However, most employers, agencies and end clients are looking for people with not just a degree in a modern language or translation but also with experience and will ask for a sample translation in order to gauge proficiency. In some instances a degree isn’t necessary and a person who has two languages could always study for a Diploma in translation. The Institute of Linguists’ Diploma in Translation is well regarded and can be studied alongside normal employment.

It helps to specialise in a specific field

When it comes to translation work it pays to specialise in a particular field such as legal, medical, technical or literature and to have a degree in a subject relevant to the specialist field. You’ll also need to invest in a minimum of equipment and software including a computer and word processing software, a telephone, an internet connection, fax machine and various dictionaries. Today’s translators are also using translation memory software and other tools for translation. In an office translation environment you will often be required to use a computer aided translation tool such as Trados.

How much will I earn?

Experienced translators working for companies can earn up to £80,000 a year and possibly more in embassies. As a freelance translator you could earn as much, but obviously you have to find your own clients, but you have the flexibility which comes with working for yourself.

So, if you’re beginning to think “I hate my boss”, then perhaps it’s time for you to consider a career change, and translation is a great industry to get into and one which is growing steadily.

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