Choosing what to translate for sample translations
Thread poster: BrianHayden

United States
Russian to English
Dec 7, 2013

I'm trying to get started as a freelance Russian-English translator. With this in mind, I'd like to build up some sort of portfolio of sample translations. But what exactly should I translate for this portfolio? Up to this point I've only translated (with varying degrees of success) a few short stories, but putting only short fiction in a portfolio strikes me as somewhat pretentious and impractical. I should add that I'm not interested in technical, legal, or medical translation; I'm looking for work with general texts, advertising, tourism materials, the humanities, journalism, and -- most of all -- literature. I'm aware that, alas, literature is the area in which I'm least likely to find any sort of pay.


United States
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Just choose something you like. Dec 8, 2013

I don't agree that it's pretentious and impractical to put short fiction in a portfolio, and nor do I agree that it's necessarily poorly paid. Sometimes the rate doesn't reflect the extra amount of work you put in compared to (say) an instruction manual, but you can still make good money.

If you want your portfolio to include things like tourism and the humanities, just find texts online that you're likely to enjoy translating. In the case of journalism, for example, have a look at some Russian newspaper sites.

Good luck!

[Edited at 2013-12-08 00:16 GMT]


Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:02
Italian to English
All fields need translators Dec 8, 2013

Given that all fields need translators, and that all fields therefore REQUIRE translators, why should anything be construed as pretentious?

My best advice would be to include texts in the area you work in (or want to work in) and that reflect your skills as a translator.


United States
Russian to English
That's good news Dec 8, 2013

“Pretentious” was definitely bad word-choice on my part. I more than agree that there’s nothing pretentious about literary translation – it’s my dream, actually – but to a certain extent I assumed that presenting literary translation work as part of a portfolio would seem a little over-ambitious. It’s good to hear that I was mistaken in thinking that.

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Choosing what to translate for sample translations

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