How to Become a Translator: A Student’s Complete Guide 2024
7 September 2022

How to Become a Translator: A Student’s Complete Guide 2024

So, you want to become a translator but don’t know how and where to start?  Do you dream to become a translator and make translation your career or profession? We’ve put up this article “how to become a translator” to guide you in your quest to start this journey in your life. 

What do translators do?

Both interpreting and translating require a minimum of one language, technically speaking. However, these are two different professions and the manner the output is delivered are also different.

Translation is written. Interpretation is spoken. If you want to become a translator, your focus will be on translating written text from the source language to the desired language.

Generally, translators translate text from a source language and then into their native language. They also work and are in demand in a lot of industries, including medicine, business, legal, education, and government.  Nevertheless, all industries will need a translator from time to time, like when translating legal and business documents.

Part of knowing how to become a translator, you should know that they’re often with their own businesses or doing freelance translation. There are also translators that work with at least one employer or agencies.

So, as you can see, translators have a lot of choices on how they work, making translation one of the most flexible jobs. They can choose a permanent and consistent work or do freelancing for work hours flexibility.

how to become a translator

How to Become a Translator: Job Description

A translator usually works with scientific, legal, technical, and business materials, like articles, books, letters, and reports.  Their work may incorporate –

·        Writing and editing copy

·        Preparing summaries

·        Building relationships with clients

·        Developing contacts

·        If required, using applications and software to upload the content

·        Reading documents

·        If required, consulting with the experts

There are also translators that specialize in a specific industry, such as financial, legal, or technical. They can also progress in their careers from translators to becoming a project manager or team coordinator.  Some of their employers include –

·        Manufacturers, industrial or commercial organizations

·        Governments and international organizations

·        Police and other public sectors

·        Translation agencies or companies

Translators are paid per  project or hourly and many work for agencies or as freelancers. How to become a translator if you have what it takes? 

You will find their job listing at job boards, career services, and recruitment agencies.

You’ll also find them in publications of authoritative bodies, such as the Institute of Translation and Interpreting and directly on websites of governments.

how to become a translator

How to Become a Translator:  Qualifications, Trainings, and Skills

You don’t necessarily need a degree provided you are fluent in the specified language. However, there are also employers that require an A level of understanding in the language or a degree. For example, the United Nations will require applicants to have a degree in a certain language.

If you were a graduate from another discipline or area, you will need a postgraduate qualification for some translation jobs.

For the skills, you need to possess the following –

·        Ability to comply with deadlines

·        Attention to detail

·        Ability to maintain good working relationship with clients

·        Ability to write clearly and with knowledge in grammar and spelling

·        Ability to learn new concepts fast

·        IT Skills

·        A level fluency in a specific language

How to Become a Translator: What You’ll Need?

If you aspire to become a translator, you’re on the right path if it is your passion to help other people and probably businesses translate their documents from the source language to their target language. 

While there are different apps and software that can help with translation, they may not be as good as a human translator that can manually translate and polish the document for accurate results. So, do you want to work from home, keep your work hours flexible, and live the life you want?

Choose a language and study it

You’ll find a lot of translation jobs because translators are highly in demand in almost all languages that exist.  Normally, more jobs will be available for common languages for translation.

But since there are a lot of people that will be able to perform translation jobs for common languages, there can also be a tight competition in them.  

It is why it pays off to learn at least one uncommon language because this will give you an edge over the rest of the applicants, who cannot perform translation in a less common language.

Are you ready to select a language? Check out the different translation jobs on the market. You might want to see listings on Indeed and other similar websites, or try investing in a language most used in a specific field in which you are interested.

Are you interested in international translation?  A few languages to study carefully and become an expert on are Russian, French, English, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish.

Once you’ve chosen a specific language, study and master it! Not just the basics but the advanced aspects of the language. You should develop a high fluency in your chosen language and thus might also want to major in language when you get to college.

Alternatively and if you have the chance, you might also want to study abroad, particularly in the country where the language is what you want to master and put into practice when you become a translator.

To stand out further, you might also want to obtain a degree in your source translation language, giving you more advantage than the rest. And if possible, you might want to get more language education and experience.

You might also want to regularly study and maintain your language mastery with language learning websites for lessons from materials, like movie trailers, videos, inspiring talks, and news.

how to become a translator

Learn more languages to grow your career!

Expand your offerings and stand out among the crowd by learning more languages.  For example, if you are well-versed in translating from Russian to English and English to Russian, you can add Chinese into your portfolio.

When this happens, you can now translate from Russian to Chinese, Chinese to Russian, English to Chinese, and so on. Multiply your options and earn more money being a translator.

Get a specialized training and certification

Being fluent in a language doesn’t mean you are already qualified for most of the translator jobs out there. Many companies will be asking for your specialized training.

Check out the American Translators Association for the approved schools to help you become a translator. Online, you’ll also find brief courses that will prepare you for the job.

You will also need certification, which can show potential clients or employers that you have what it takes to perform the job accurately. 

The ATA can offer a certification, which will give you a CT or special designation to use with your name on your website, resume, promotional material, or business cards. 

If you need more certifications, you’ll also find industry-specific certifications; however, they’re often for interpreters. Even so, you can use such certification to show that you have a clear understanding of the field’s language and terminologies, and that can also help you land jobs.

It will also help if you would get certifications, although not language related, in an industry that you want to be translating for.

Do you want to do legal translation? You might want to consider a paralegal certification to show understanding of the legal industry.

Do you want to do medical translation? To become a medical translator and land medical translation jobs, it will help if you would be a certified nurse.

Learn industry-specific terms

Aside from learning a specific language, you might want to target a specific industry, and then learn its terminologies.

This will help you become familiar with not only the language to translate but also the specific industry words that you will encounter once you’ve started working in the translation industry. 

Do this when you become fluent in your selected language.  It is because just being fluent in the language is not enough if you are not working for general translation jobs.  So, if you’re targeting a specific industry to work in, you must be able to translate accurately, and learning relevant words, phrases, and terminologies will help you with it. 

Learn words relevant and necessary per industry, like education, government, business, or medicine.   Check out online for courses for your chosen field.  For example, if you’re looking for medical Russian translation, look for resources and courses available.

Busy? Don’t worry because many of the online courses are self-paced courses, so scheduling can be quite flexible.

You should not also miss out on relevant books or eBooks related to translation in your chosen field.

When you’re already familiar with the industry of interest, then you must start listing down some important English terms and then find and study the words in the language you’d be translating from (e.g. Chinese).

There are also tutors online who might be willing to help and can customize training for you. Nevertheless, reaching out to them these days will not be an issue because of the internet.

Pro tips

How to become a translator? 

There are a lot of times when you need to translate the latest reports and findings, like in the medicine field.  Thus, if you would do medical translations, you must be able to keep up with the latest trends and breakthroughs in the industry, ensuring you’ll deliver correct translation results in the target language.

Initially, be able to focus on one field, and then consider adding to it as you gain experience and improve.  As much as possible, you might also want to select a niche in translation. You can think about this based on the current market demand and your personal interest.

Right now, fields like life sciences, manufacturing, and software industries as well as public sector, publishing, and retail hire more translators.

Improve computer and technical skills

In translation, you need to learn specific computer programs that will make your work more efficient, productive, and faster.  Some of the programs that professional translators use are Wordfast and Memsource. 

You can also enhance your linguistic and technical skills through massive open online courses. They’ll help in keeping high standards throughout your career. There are also formal trainings, such as on-demand webinars and certification programs that teach you useful information about the latest language technologies.

Get experience

One of the best ways on how to become a translator is to get experience.

Not only will you have something to list or enumerate on your resume, you can also show clients that you know how to perform the job, increasing your chances of landing more translation jobs.

Get some experience from freelance translation jobs or gig jobs. Check out freelancing and gigs websites to help you look for translation jobs.  A few examples include Fiverr and UpWork.

The more experience you can show clients, the more likely you will find more translation gigs or land a permanent translation job with an agency, government, or business.  More experience may also mean more compensation for the services you offer.

Business connections, networks, and acquaintances are a few sources from which you can ask for gig translation jobs.  You might be hired for checking blogs written in another language.

Nevertheless, you’ll find a lot of opportunities to work as a translator, so be able to grab those for experience in the language services, which may also include interpreting.

Pro Tips

Past experience in another industry can be one of your assets as a translator. However, translation is not for everyone. This profession requires much investment in resources and time and dedication so that you will learn about your target market and their culture. 

You must also be able to master the source cultures and your industry of specialization. And lastly, you should keep up with the latest language technologies and industry updates in your target field (science, medicine, legal…)

How to Become a Translator: Understand Client Needs

It is essential for every language professional to understand your client’s needs whether working in-house or in a freelance translation job.

Before you start with a job order, for instance, ensure that you understand the requirements. Ask questions, probing questions.

Do you have direct client access? 

If you’re working on a freelance or gig job and you can directly communicate with your client, ask questions to ensure that you clearly understand the instructions. If you don’t understand a part of the instruction or the client seems unclear with what he wants, you might want to give them suggestions with the best solutions.

Are you working for a translation agency? Typically, the language service provider will be the one asking the client of his needs and understanding those. 

To avoid revision as much as possible, you must translate in the best way that you can. Assume that there will be no editors, proofreaders, or revisers to check your work.

How to become a translator? Know that many translation companies have their standards, so it might do you well to ask before accepting to work with them. Nevertheless, aim for delivering quality translation output to avoid revision. And again if you have questions on the instructions, ask.

how to become a translator

Connect and widen your network

A wider network will help you find clients as well as learn about the latest developments and updates in the field of translation.

Look for local and national organizations, join, become active, and learn their codes of conduct.

Growing your network, you will be able to discover and learn new opportunities, exchange different ideas, and give/receive advice from colleagues in the field.

Besides community groups, social media is also a great place for translator groups in which you can find opportunities and also exchange ideas.

Podcasts are also great places to connect with other translators, share ideas, and look for new opportunities.

Local industry-specific conferences and meetings can also help you connect with more people, while also keeping you updated of the most current industry trends relevant to your profession. How to become a translator through this? You will learn…

Nevertheless, there is more than one way of broadening your network and connecting with like-minded individuals.

How to Become A Translator: More Tips

To stay competitive in the long run, enroll and complete a translation program, but that’s not all. The following are additional tips on how to become a translator.

·        Follow and subscribe to thought leaders to stay updated with the latest technologies and trends in language and language services. This will also help you gain understanding of the industry.

·        Develop and establish a brand.  Before you can become a thought leader, in case you want to someday, you must build your brand. One way to do that is through social media where you can share the latest news, tips, and advice on translation or perhaps how to become a translator to beginners.  Social media can also help you connect with different translation groups and communities and clients.

·        Practice and improve critical thinking. Not everything you read or hear about the translation industry is true. That’s why you should do your research and verify information, like in technical developments. At the end of the day, find out things that work and that do not work for you and your clients.

·        Be open to change, always upgrade your knowledge, and keep learning! Welcome constructive criticism because it is one of the best ways that you can improve your craft to become a better translator that clients can rely on.

·        Engage and connect with other translators, read their stories and experiences, and ask questions.  In this way, you will learn more about a translator’s work and what it takes on how to become a translator.

·        Look for a mentor. Go to YouTube and look for industry experts and thought leaders in translation.  Watch useful videos that will help you become a better translator.

·        Be professional. Deliver quality outputs, whether it’s a small or large project. In this way, you will build trust and credibility with your clients. Remember that the translation industry is a high competition industry, so you should always see to it that you meet or even exceed client expectations.

Final Thoughts

Translation is a dynamic industry; what works today might not work well tomorrow. Technological advancements are being introduced day by day.

How to become a translator? A translation career needs dedication and commitment to learn and improve. 

Keeping up with the changes and updates can help you stay competitive. And as a beginner, your patience is a must. All those we’ve shared here might sound too much to handle, but at the end of the day it will be rewarding to equip yourself with what it takes to become a translator.