How to become a translator?
Thread poster: sperinka
Apr 27, 2010

Hi all,

I am a 31 years old French guy who is just tired of his current job and would like to become a translator. I have some questions for you that hopefully will help me avoid the beginner´s mistakes and provide me with some useful tips. First of all, I have no translation degree. I lived and worked in the US and in Spain for several years, and I have basically the same level in English, Spanish and Czech ( I have both French and Czech nationality).
Well so here are my questions:
- What do you reckon would be the best language combination for me? I am sure that finding documents to translate from English to French is the easiest. But maybe the Czech to French combination is less common and therefore more seeked?
- I guess that since I have no experience in the translation field, the best way to start is getting a degree. What online degree would you recommend? ... I would like to start working on this while keeping my regular job.

Well, I obviously have many more questions but let´s start with these ones and see where it leads me.
If you have any random tip for me, I am all ears.

Thanks a lot for your help.


Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:48
Italian to English
Lots of info in the forums already Apr 27, 2010


Latin_Hellas (X)
United States
Local time: 21:48
Italian to English
+ ...
What is your current experience? Contacts? Apr 28, 2010

sperinka wrote:

- I guess that since I have no experience in the translation field, the best way to start is getting a degree. What online degree would you recommend? ... I would like to start working on this while keeping my regular job.

If you have any random tip for me, I am all ears.

First random tip: revenue - expenses = net income

Why pay for a degree when your experience and contacts may already potentially pay you?

In what field is your current job and what other business/technical experience do you have? How well does that dovetail with French business interests in the Czech Republic and in Spanish/English-speaking countries? What personal/business contacts do you have in that nexus?

I would pursue those questions first before contemplating paying money for an online degree.

Good Luck!


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:48
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Good luck! Apr 28, 2010

Dear Sebastien

A certain amount of university training is always a help, but not a necessity. Good teachers collect the material and arrange it systematically, give you a few tips and warn you of some of the worst pitfalls. They also give you feedback, which clients normally don´t. Then you know what was good, so you can do it again, and where you need to improve. Teachers tell you how to avoid mistakes next time instead of just complaining and refusing to pay.

You may be able to take a postgraduate diploma if you already have a good education, or maybe just one or two modules. A subject speciality is an enormous advantage too - keep that boring job at the back of your mind!

Translate into your native language(s) unless you really, really know what you are doing. I know a few translators who can work both ways, especially in fields like Law, where the 'legalese' is full of very special phrases and expressions, and almost an acquired language for the natives too. But I have ´proofread´ a lot of work by translators who really should NOT have attempted to translate into English... and the same goes for any language. It is wasted effort for the translator and a nightmare for the proofreader.

Keep within subject areas you feel comfortable with. Learn about new areas when you have time, in both or all languages, and work deliberately with the terminology, but do not accept a job with a short deadline in a field you are not familiar with.

Best of luck!



Paula Borges  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:48
Member (2010)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Short courses and self-training Apr 29, 2010

Dear Sebastien:

I spent years translating on my own before I felt confident enough to offer my services to anyone else. Obviously, I've focused on the areas I'd like to work with most, but also the ones I needed to learn more about. All my previous work experience and education came in handy. So, if you have the discipline practice is highly recommended.

Although I was already translating part-time, I did not feel comfortable enough to pursue it as a full-time career before I did some postgraduate short courses. It's not like you'll learn anything that you can't learn on your own (I think autodidacticism is very common among language professionals), but it just feels more real.

Sitting language exams might also help to prove your knowledge.

Also, be prepared to persevere: it's very hard in the beginning. You will make mistakes, learn from them. You'll learn that sometimes you have to say no, just don't let it get to you.

Read all sorts of things, as often as possible.

Good luck to you!


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