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Wannabe translator - How to start?
Thread poster: Nukles
Local time: 02:40
English to Italian
+ ...
Jan 25, 2007

Hey! It's one of my first posts here hehe.

I am an italian student in engineering with a (discovered) passion for languages. I speak English fluently so far, as well as French and Norwegian; other languages I speak are Spanish and now I'm learning German.

But I want my main field of study to be engineering, not languages, since I feel much more fit in technology.
Anyway, I discovered this new possibility of translations, and I discovered it's really worth: the rates are rather high! So why not applying for jobs? Than I signed up here, but before paying for a complete membership I'd like to earn some money with any job found here, in order to "test" if I'm able to make it.

But unfortunately nearly all the posts I read have requirements that I don't fill, since they request professional translations and so on. I don't have credential since I'm not in the field of translations. Plus, most of them require experience.

That's why I'm writing this post: do you have any suggestion about "where" to start from and possibly "how"? Can you tell some of your experiences when you still were beginners? How much time did you spend in finding an even short and brief translation, but with the scope of having an even low income on your (maybe Paypal?) account?


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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:40
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Getting established Jan 25, 2007

Have you read through the archives of the Getting Established Forum, which includes many questions from others in a similar situation to yours? You might like to read what tips they were given by other beginning and established translators.

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xxxGabi Ancarol
Italian to Spanish
+ ...
why don't you... Jan 26, 2007 a visit to the Italian forum, since you're Italian?

There's a good deal of friendly and professional people that could tell you about the Italian market. This could be great help. I'd say you should read some of the Italian forums first, so as not to ask the same thing twice. Then, if you still have doubts, go ahead and place your questions.

If you allow me, just a little piece of advice: it takes lots of things to became a good translator... it takes less to "just translate".

Let me make myself clear: we're doing our best here to defend our profession from all those who believe translating is similar to working as a typist in an office. You don't just sit in front of a computer to copy words or phrases, from a language into another one. Anyway, most people still think this is how it works, unaware of the fact that behind it, you'll find research, hard work and love for what you do.

You're not a translator just because you know languages, or because you lived a couple of months in a country, or because you always go on holiday to, let's say, England.

Many people know languages fairly well, and this does not mean they are translators. As a matter of fact, this is not enough to become a good translator. You've got to know your native language as well, and not just be a native speaker of it, and by knowing, I mean studying it, everyday. You need to know what an adjective is, or an adverb, or a modifier; what function a struture has in a sentence in one language, and then in the other one...etc. etc. etc.

Of course I do not know you, and I'm not saying you could not become a translator. I'm just saying: be sure that this is what you really like, what you really want.

Oh.. and one more thing, don't think rates are always "rather high", as you said. If you take a look at some Italian (and not only) threads, you'll see that, specially if you're just starting, this market can get really rough at times...

Hope you find this rather long opinion useful.

All the best,
... and welcome


ps: sorry I kept on editing, new ideas kept on coming to my mind! Good luck again!

[Edited at 2007-01-26 00:14]

[Edited at 2007-01-26 00:15]

[Edited at 2007-01-26 00:18]

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Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:40
Italian to English
Knowing languages is not enough Jan 26, 2007

The others have given some great advice, and your engineering knowledge will stand you in good stead should you wish to pursue a career in translation. But using "just any job" to test the waters is not a very professional approach; while everything is translateable, not everyone can translate everything! Why not find someone willing to proofread your work for you? This will give you some feedback on your strengths and weaknesses. But I recommend reading the forums that the others have suggested, you will find a lot of useful suggestions there. Good luck

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:40
English to French
+ ...
Please consider this VERY important information Jan 27, 2007

1. The rates are anything BUT high. The rates you see on ProZ, I am sorry to say, are the worst in my experience. Also, don't forget that more than half of that amount will go towards your expenses. It may not look like it, but you will have to spend money on this business, and you will have to pay taxes as a freelancer. Most freelancers live paycheck to paycheck - they get by, but many of them would not even dream about buying a house.

2. It sounds like you are saying that translation is something you'd be happy to do because it pays well. If this is why you want to work in this field, it's best that you keep with engineering and forget about translation. As a freelancer, you are responsible for everything - accounting, sales, negotiation, taxes, customer service, etc. You don't have a boss - you have to motivate yourself. You also have to prospect new clients continually - without being paid. I don't think being money-hungry alone will motivate you enough to do all this. I love what I do and I know I would feel sorry for myself if I only was in this for the money.

3. You make it sound like translation is easy work. It really isn't. From the outside, it looks like we are sitting comfortably all day, raking the money in. But we also spend sleepless nights, get waken up by clients who don't care that it's 5 a.m. in our location, have trouble consolidating work schedule and social schedule, etc. It's much harder work than it seems.

4. Knowing many languages doesn't mean you would be a competent translator. In fact, it means quite the opposite. How can you be excellent in a language when you speak six of them? Serious clients steer clear of people who translate into more than one language. It would be the same thing as someone applying for a physician's job - when they also have experience as a rocket scientist and as a spy. Do you think a physician who has spent a few years of his life as a rocket scientist would be a better physician than a person who knows nothing about rocket science but has extensive medical experience?

Please, by all means, do read the articles in the knowledge base and do spend a LOT of time in the forum looking up specific subjects. This is not as easy as you seem to think - and it certainly doesn't pay as well as you think, especially in Italy and most countries around it (France where taxes are way too high and Spain where clients literally pay once every leap year). In fact, I am sure engineering is more stable and it probably doesn't pay less than translation - it may be even more lucrative (remember, it's not a 9 to 5 job and sometimes, you'll be out of work).

All the best!

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Local time: 02:40
English to Italian
+ ...
Well... Jan 27, 2007

Maybe my enthusiasm let you think I was unaware of all the matters and so on. Of course I am, as any beginner is, but try to understand an enthusiastic 21 years old boy If you start something just considering the problems, I think you'd start nothing.

Actually I don't want to translate INTO any language but just Italian for the most specific texts, and English for what is simpler, in a way. Thus I would for example translate something scientific into Italian, but maybe translate something related to Websites into English. Or localise the website of my Erasmus association in English. I'd not translate everything into everything.

The idea of translating came to my mind when a friend of mine, Romanian in Erasmus in Rome, told me she found a really nice job to pay her houserent: she's going four days a month to an office and translate texts for 87 € per day, from 8 am to 1pm. I think this is really worth for a University student. Thus one would improve his/her knowledge in a language.

Acutally I think every job has its bad sides, engineering too. And I wouldn't want translation to be my PRIMARY field, but maybe just something to "round off", as in Italian we say. This means less work and less money too of course, but it's all calculated since my field is another one, adn I hope to receive most of my income from *that*field - and maybe clients would call me because I'm an Engineer and I am able to know the specific terminology, so specific that an ordinary translator would not know maybe.--

I hope my concept is understandable.

PS - I didn't spend "a couple of months" abroad; I spent something more: 6

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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:40
German to English
+ ...
Nukles Jan 27, 2007

Could you tell me where I can find an online forum for Wannabe Engineers?


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Maria Karra  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:40
Member (2000)
Greek to English
+ ...
topic moved Jan 27, 2007

FYI, I have moved this topic to the "Getting Established" forum.

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Jande  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:40
Danish to English
+ ...
translating found me Jan 29, 2007

As an engineer working doing technical translation is a good and rewarding experience.

I didn't feel that I'd given up my engineering because I found the technical translations actually increased my engineering knowledge.

To start up you can do many things. You can start working as an engineer and begin to translate documents as I did.

You can also start as a technical translator and begin in a niche market e.g. norwegian to english where there are not many native English speakers with a technical background. I translate technical documents from Danish to English and although jobs are sometimes scarce there are often only two or three proz quotes especially when a native English background is required.

You can get experience and references by translating for local groups (e.g. foreign clubs, children's groups and the church). You can also translate a sample technical document to show to a potential client. You can also teach a beginner another language, which can provide a good reference too. Also you can translate something of your own free will that you feel passionate about and send it to the original author, who may be able to provide a reference.

Once you have done two or three jobs then references and experience are not much of an issue any longer.

Translate your resume too. That can help.

Starting up you have to think a bit creative and possibly do a bit of work off your own back (i.e. volunteer work). I don't however recommend to ever do any advertised jobs for free, half price or cut your rates, because that is not professional.

Once started I recommend charging applicable rates and not to forget that you have specialist technical knowledge too.

[Edited at 2007-01-29 02:08]

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B Honeywell
United Kingdom
Local time: 01:40
English to French
+ ...
You can't be serious Apr 18, 2007

Viktoria Gimbe wrote:

1. The rates are anything BUT high. The rates you see on ProZ, I am sorry to say, are the worst in my experience. Also, don't forget that more than half of that amount will go towards your expenses. It may not look like it, but you will have to spend money on this business, and you will have to pay taxes as a freelancer. Most freelancers live paycheck to paycheck - they get by, but many of them would not even dream about buying a house.

What does the average translator earn per year in the common language pairs - £20000 - £30000?

Surely that's enough to buy a house and pay a mortgage is it not ?!

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