Complete Beginner: Where do I start?!?
Thread poster: MERCEDESAA (X)

MERCEDESAA (X)  Identity Verified
United States
Spanish to English
+ ...
Mar 26, 2011


I grew up speaking both English and Spanish, and I have a command over both languages (spoken and written). I am currently taking time off from working, and would love to give translating a try, as a source of income (and also to see it might be something would like a career in). But I'm having trouble figuring out WHERE TO START!

Do I have to get a bachelor's in translating? Do I just take "translation courses" offered locally? To be accredited by the ATA, it looks like you have to already have some experience/education in the field, so doesn't seem like I can do that yet. Obviously, I have zero experience in the field. All I have is a bachelors in Business Administration.

Could someone please help me figure out where to start?

Thank you!


MERCEDESAA (X)  Identity Verified
United States
Spanish to English
+ ...
Words Language Services? Mar 26, 2011

Is a Translation Certificate from the Words Language Services reputable at all?

Seems to be the most economical way to earn some kind of credential, but is it even worth the money? Would I be able to use it to apply for some jobs on this site?


Anna Konar  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 08:03
English to Russian
+ ...
Sample translation Mar 26, 2011

Why don't you place your translation samples in your profile? I think it is the best credential for the Translator.


B D Finch  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:03
Member (2006)
French to English
+ ...
Study and qualifications Mar 26, 2011

Anna Konar wrote:

Why don't you place your translation samples in your profile? I think it is the best credential for the Translator.

That is hardly the equivalent of studying for and obtaining a professional qualification awarded after three examinations of three hours each, properly invigilated and set and marked by a professional body! Not to mention that it has been known for people to post translation samples that they did not do themselves.

There are various routes, but in the US it seems to be the ATA. As I lived in London at the time, I studied at the wonderful City Lit - an adult education centre - which offered an evening class in French to English translation geared towards the Chartered Institute of Linguists' Diploma exams. I was one of two people on the course who did not have a 1st degree in French (14 in the class). The only person who dropped out of the course did have a degree in French and several of those who failed the exams (including the person who seemed to be the best in the class) had degrees in French. I strongly recommend a course that involves contact and discussion with other students. Correspondence courses combined with meetings can be an alternative.

While, subjectively, doing the course of study may be more useful than taking the exams, until you have a track record, it is the diploma that confirms your ability to potential clients.

Good luck


Local time: 10:33
English to Hindi
+ ...
Your Professional Qualification Mar 26, 2011

What you have with you is always the best to start with.

In the case of Business Administration knowledge, you should try to focus on all the terms and words which are used in this subject.

Try to find suitable target words in your native language.

Assign yourself a sample text to translate from source language to target language. If possible send it to some other persons also(if possible pay them).

Then justify yourself what you have done and others have done. It may be possible that you have done mistakes or you have done better job than others.

If you are satisfied with your translation then you have no barrier to start in your subject.

Good Luck...


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:03
Member (2007)
+ ...
My experience with WLS Mar 26, 2011


Is a Translation Certificate from the Words Language Services reputable at all?
Seems to be the most economical way to earn some kind of credential, but is it even worth the money?

It is certainly reputable and it helped to reassure me that I would produce an acceptable translation, with the difficult areas handled correctly. However, I already had many years of experience in other areas and was not so dependent on qualifications.

I would recommend young people starting in translation to become as well qualified as possible. If a longer or more expensive course is not possible, then this would do very well, IMO. If you search for WLS here you should find other discussions on its value.

Would I be able to use it to apply for some jobs on this site?

It will be some use for jobs on this site, as some outsourcers restrict quotes to those with certification. However, I've never found anyone to be remotely interested in my qualifications. They've been more interested in email exchanges, my CV and my ProZ profile, and in some cases in a test translation. But it certainly can't do you any harm.


sonjaswenson (X)  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 00:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
California Mar 26, 2011

I see on your profile you are located in California. There are many different local and state translator and interpreter associations, try attending some of their meetings and getting to know people. A lot of state colleges and community colleges as well as tech schools have translation or interpreting courses. NAJIT, MIIS, the ATA, and local associations also have a lot of workshops and short courses.

Obviously this doesn't replace a degree in translation but plenty of translators (if not the majority) do not actually have such a degree. The trick is to get your foot in the door and always do your best to maintain integrity and professionalism in your work.

I assume you mean you grew up in the US, there are for some reason far more translation programs in Latin America than here, you could also check out something in the country your family comes from, or any other country in Latin Am. They often have short courses, etc. ISIT in Mexico City might be a place to start looking if you want to go that route.


Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 23:03
English to Spanish
+ ...
L.A. Mar 26, 2011

From your profile it looks like you live in the L.A. area, so there will be many colleagues close by with whom you can exchange ideas. You might also think of interpreting, since there would probably be a lot more demand for it than for translating. So try to contact people there locally to share ideas, while also trying to compare your own as yet untested knowledge and skills with those who are already working in the field. Colleagues can also help in recommending resources for furthering your knowledge. And in our profession, networking is always critical to success, and you are sure to find people who will give you a good reception.

Having been brought up in the L.A. area, I shudder to think of the logistical problems of having to get to interpreting assignments around the area and making any money at it. After all, that's why I've been living down here on the border for so many years! But no one would be doing it if it were not worthwhile, right?


Natalia Mackevich  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:03
English to Russian
+ ...
Read the forums Mar 26, 2011

It is considered very useful to read previous forum threads on similar topics. Hundreds of beginners ask the same set of questions, so you will definitely find some useful replies there.
Good luck!


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:03
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Courses, courses, courses... certification, certification, certification Mar 27, 2011

Yes, getting to meet colleagues and share ideas is all very nice and good, but won't help you establish a serious business.

It is a well-discussed fact that people who speak two languages perfectly are not necessarily good translators. Practice can make you a reasonably good translator, but how do you get to practice in a world that is tremendously competitive, with tons of excellent translators available, and customers who increasingly know the difference between a bilingual person and a pro?

In my opinion, you really need to do as many courses on translation as you possibly can, and in a couple of years do your attempt at certification. I reckon in the US it is best to try the ATA certification, but indeed you need a degree in T+I OR a bachelors degree in another matter and two years of proven experience OR five years of proven experience.

I think that if experienced translators find it hard to pass the certification exams, the only result of doing the exams without solid experience will be getting to get acquainted with the process.

For now, contact the translators association in your State and ask them whether they can recommend learning institutions doing good courses. Also, research your local universities to see whether they offer translation courses and invest as much money as you possibly can. Believe me, when you finish your first course in translation, you will see that you knew nothing! And that will happen with every course, as it has happened to those of us who didn't have any qualification when we started.

Now, once you get to test your abilities and pinpoint your areas of improvement, there is the business side of things. You are starting a business, not just a career. I would suggest you do this ATA webinar as an introduction. Reliability, responsiveness, and a flexible attitude are also a must in this profession. If you say NO too many times, work will quickly fade away, and the opposite: if you are a solution to a potential customer and are ready to go the extra mile, customers will come back again and again.

Just to set expectations right, I must also say that most translators needed one or two years until they started to receive a regular flow of translation work. In most cases, their career really took off when they decided to quit their jobs and devote their full attention to their translation career. I am NOT encouraging you to leave your job until you have learned (a lot, if possible) about translation and you have several regular customers. The interesting customers with bigger volumes of work will come when you are able to respond and react immediately, which is surely incompatible with another job.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2011-03-27 07:02 GMT]


Lucia Leszinsky
"Getting started in translation" video Mar 28, 2011


Perhaps you may want to start by watching the following video on "Getting started in translation":

This video describes briefly the process of becoming a professional translator and the tools and opportunities available at to pursue translation as a career.

Also, I would like to invite you to attend one of the free webinars on "Meeting clients at" offered on a weekly basis,

Next webinar is on Friday, April 1 at 16:00 PM GMT:

Hope to see you there!

Kind regards,



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