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Beginning translator needs your advice
Thread poster: Robert Manipole

Robert Manipole  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:08
Spanish to English
Oct 18, 2007

I am currently teaching Spanish, and have been in one way or another studying the Spanish language and its cultures for close to 20 years now. I have arrived at a time in my career where I need to utilize my skills once again, as opposed to just teaching them. I love translating. But with all of the CAT tools, certifications(of which I have none in translating) and other jargon of which I know nothing about, is there any place in the freelance world for me? Will I be able to supplement my income without the tools/certifications mentioned earlier? I am very eager to get started. Any information would help.

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Amy Duncan  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:08
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Not to worry, Robert... Oct 18, 2007

Just to give you a slice from my own experience:

I have no college degree.

I have no certification.

I used to use Trados, because I company I worked for required it, but I haven't used it in well over a year, because no one I work for requires it.

YES! You can earn money and have a perfectly fine translating career without all that stuff. The important thing is that you translate well, which takes time and practice, but with patience, you'll make it.

Best of luck!


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teju  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:08
English to Spanish
+ ...
Ideas Oct 18, 2007

I'm sure you know there are a lot of translators out there without any formal training in translation. And darned good ones too. I think not too long ago this same topic came up in the forum. It helps if you have some accreditation from ATA or a similar entity, but it's not crucial. As far as CAT tools, I don't use any. I don't know what others will tell you, but I do just fine without them. It may be because of the type of translations that I do.
Another thing to consider would be to take a court interpreter exam. In the U.S. even though interpretation and translation are two very different things, a lot of clients request that you have a state or federal court certification, particularly, if the document will be used in court, or for some sort of accreditation (like a school transcript or degree). There's a lot of work in that field. (Who says crime doesn't pay? I make a living!)
Seriously, you could look into joining a local translation and interpretation association, maybe attend a conference, those are two good ways to network and get ideas about how to market yourself. You may even want to consider being an interpreter, if you live in the right area, it can be an excellent job. I do both things, and I couldn't imagine giving up either one.
Good luck to you!

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patyjs  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
Can he do it? Yes, he can! Oct 18, 2007

Hi, Robert,

I, too, had been teaching (English in my case) for about 20 years in Mexico when I decided to make translating a full time occupation.

Like Amy, I don't have a degree, but I do have a University certificate for a translation and interpretation course I did.
I use the free version of Wordfast for the few translations I do that ask for it. Otherwise, I prefer to work without a CAT.

There seems to be enough work out there for everybody, and I for one haven't looked back, especially since joining Proz. In fact, I'm doing very nicely, thank you.

Again as Amy said, the important thing is that you translate well. In my opinion, there is no substitute for living (at least for some prolonged period of time) in your source language. I don't believe any amount of academic study can give you the degree of fluency you will need to be a competent translator.

Let us know how you get on.....

Good luck

[Edited at 2007-10-18 18:18]

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Laura Tridico  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:08
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
I started about a year ago... Oct 18, 2007

There's absolutely a place for you in the industry. A year ago I was asking myself the same question.

I'm a former lawyer, lived in Belgium for several years and taught French. I do French>English translation. I have no credentials in translation and knew nothing about the industry when I began. I decided to translate because I love language and wanted a more flexible career since I have little kids at home.

I took an Intro to Translation course through NYU (on-line) then started looking for clients through this site last December, while I was still teaching. I answered KudoZ questions to practice my research skills and build credibility. I quoted on jobs that fit my experience (mainly law and commercial work) and submitted my name to agencies looking for people with my background. Soon I found several clients, who sent me repeat business. My lack of a certification hasn't been a problem up to this point.

At this point I rarely quote on jobs because I'm generally booked (I only quote on things that really interest me). I work 25-30 hours a week (ideal for me), I have a good client base and a reasonable income. My advice:

1) Above all, only translate subjects that you know. For example, I wouldn't touch a technical manual with a ten-foot pole.

2) Your English language writing skills must be top-notch. I'm a native English speaker but sometimes I have to think to find the right words, the right sentence structure, etc. The key is to turn your Spanish text into something that reads flawlessly in English, not like a translation. This can be tricky.

3) Always be professional in your dealings with clients. This is obvious, but for example, create a good profile, a top-flight resume, and be sure every e-mail or other communication with clients is suitably formal. First impressions really matter when a project manager is choosing a translator from a bunch of submissions.

4) Never miss a deadline, and be very clear in your communications when those deadlines are (i.e., make sure you account for time differences, etc.)

5) You don't need a CAT tool, but I find it useful. A good one to try is Metatexis. You can try it out for free (30 days?) and if you like it it's fairly inexpensive. I did invest in Trados after a while, which has been helpful in my marketing.

6) Keep reading and developing your skills. I don't have a translation degree, but I'm continuing with the NYU program and will probably go for the certification through them. I don't think you need a translation degree to be a good translator, but I think it's important to keep up your professional development.

That's all I can think of for now...


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Yvette Neisser Moreno  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:08
Spanish to English
+ ...
Very helpful Oct 18, 2007

Laura, although I didn't start this thread, I just wanted to say that your advice is very helpful to me.


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Hilde Granlund  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:08
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Amen Oct 18, 2007

to everything Laura said.

I did some translating when the kids were small.
After 20 yrs in my main line of work, I have taken it up again.
My experience is obviously very useful.

Don't be afraid of CATs.
Depends what kinf of translations you do. For me, Trados is useful and worth the money. And not difficult to learn, although there are probably tons of tricks I do not know yet.

And I started up translating again five months ago.
Good luck!

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Local time: 05:08
Arabic to English
+ ...
Thanks Laura :) Oct 18, 2007

Your explanations were very useful. Thank you very much!

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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:08
English to French
+ ...
What it really takes Oct 19, 2007

Yes, many clients, outsourcers, agencies, call-them-what-you-wills will request degress, certification, software, access to a Blackberry 24/7, etc., but what really matters to them is not all of these fancy things, which by the way are by no means necessary for a successful career.

In my experience, there are a few rules to getting and keeping clients, and these are not taught at school, nor sold for money. Here they are:

- Excellent communication skills
- Attention to detail
- Motivation to do your personal best
- Being interested in the document you translate and the client you translate it for
- Respecting deadlines
- Taking the time to ask questions and to explain problems
- Counselling the client (yes, I know, this is getting a tad bit closer to sales, but hey, it's part of our business)
- Having a positive attitude
- Being pleasant with the client
- Telling the client you can't do what s/he is asking for rather than lying to them about your abilities/capacities and then letting them down

I am sure I forgot a few, but it gives you an idea. No diploma, certification or piece of software will ever provide you with these qualities. A client wants to be able to rely on you, wants you to take matters into your hands so s/he doesn't have to. S/he needs to feel s/he's in good hands. That's what they are paying you for and that is what you are selling to them. They don't want a translation - they just want work done in a way that will allow them to concentrate on what they are paid to do, which certainly isn't translation.

Trust me, a client who will be worth working with will prefer a translator without degrees and certifications who is reliable and motivated over a translator who has 15 degrees and 24 certifications but who doesn't deliver on what s/he promised.

All the best!

EDIT: I just wanted to add, in case you were wondering, that all of the above mentioned qualities shine through in a simple initial e-mail to a prospective client. If you have what it takes and are willing to get better at it, the client will feel it when s/he reads you or talks to you. They will soon forget all about degrees and such because they will be impressed by your professionalism.

[Edited at 2007-10-19 01:04]

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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:08
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
It depends on your marketing strategy (or vice versa) Oct 19, 2007

Robert Manipole wrote:
Will I be able to supplement my income without the tools/certifications...?

Perhaps. If you base your marketing strategy on having those tools and certifications, you will fail, however.

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Robert Manipole  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:08
Spanish to English
You are all so very helpful Oct 19, 2007

To all of you that responded to my question. I feel very motivated thanks to all of your advise! Thank you especially to Laura for all of your information and encouragement.

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Local time: 12:38
English to Spanish
+ ...
Thank You Laura Nov 24, 2007

Thank you Laura. I read your advice. It was very helpful. I would like to thank others on this thread. Your advice has motivated me to study harder so I can be a translator. I was wondering, does one have to live in certain geographical areas to get translation work? Some job postings say I need to live in a certain country to get the job, so I was just wondering.

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