Considering a career in translation
Thread poster: reckspeedy

Jan 30, 2014

Dear all,
I found this website while i was browsing online, i'm a newly arrived Syrian to Canada.
I have a B.A in Law from Syria, however i can't use it here unless i go back to school and study for 3 years to be able to practice law in Canada.
That's why i'm considering a career change, since my mother tongue is Arabic and i have a passion for English, i was thinking about studying Arabic/English translation and vise versa.
I found while searching for schools that NYU offers an online program for that.
Therefore, my questions are:
1- Is the Arabic/English translation trade on demand nowadays?
2- What opportunities does an Arabic/English translator get on the long run, and is it easy to find a job after graduation even if it was an entry level one.
3- What's the average salary that a translator make, and are there any fields that pay more than others?
I'm in a period in my life where i have to start all over, and I appreciate any helpful answers or tips since i know nothing about this field.
Thanks in advance.


Ewa Olszowa  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:43
Polish to English
+ ...
Some info Jan 30, 2014

Hi Maher,
I am often getting phone calls from people looking for document translations (passports, driver's licence, etc.) from Arabic, thus I would say that there is definitely a need for certified translations. In order to do so, you would need to be a member of the association of translators organization in the province that you reside.
While your background is in law, why do not you try something different to speed up your employment possibility to work in this field - like a licensed Immigration Consultant (short program in college and licensing exam) or paralegal (longer program but still easier and cheaper than law).
Combining that with professional translations would definitely be great business opportunity.
As for work opportunity in translation, I would not expect anything but freelancing as there are hardly any in-house jobs for language combinations other than English-French.
Also keep in mind that the rates for translations are relatively high in Canada comparing to other countries, thus it is difficult to land any projects if they can be done somewhere else cheaper, so focusing on document translations makes more sense as these are often required to be done by a Canadian translator (driver's licence for example).
You may also consider getting into interpreting. Do some research about community interpreting - maybe you will find it interesting.
Good luck


LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 19:43
Russian to English
+ ...
Hi. Jan 31, 2014

Yes, Arabic/English is in great demand, especially in the United States. If you are already a lawyer form Syria, you should concentrate on law--to learn as much as possible about the legal systems of the English-speaking Northern American countries. Secondly, you should work on your English--take some writing classes--especially legal writing. I don't think a degree in translation, or even extensive studies in translation would be a good choice in your case. Perhaps, you should just take a short course on translation, and work on your language and the legal systems. Good luck. Also the United Nations and the UNICEF may need the services of qualified legal Arabic/English translators. As to the salaries--it varies, from $0-$200,000 a year.

[Edited at 2014-01-31 06:23 GMT]


Joakim Braun  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:43
German to Swedish
+ ...
Law school Jan 31, 2014

Go to law school. You can always become a translator later (or do that on the side while studying).


Much appreciated Jan 31, 2014

Thank you all for your useful feedback.


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:43
Member (2007)
+ ...
I get the impression you'd rather be a translator than a lawyer now Jan 31, 2014

Hello, and welcome to

I wonder whether it would give you an edge as a lawyer to have studied Syrian law too. Perhaps there isn't much call for a lawyer with knowledge of both systems, so you'd be up against all the local students who grew up in the system. That's not to say you couldn't make a very good living at it after graduation, but as a legal translator you've already got a very worthwhile qualification, which can be backed up by short courses or even self-study in local law plus translation techniques. And as another poster said, there are interpreting opportunities, too.

As Lilian says, you'll be extremely unlikely to find a salaried position as a translator (I was going to say "lucky", but I personally would hate to go back to being an employeeicon_smile.gif). So, you'll need to find out about freelancing in Canada (you may well find some information on this site), and then just get started! Income will probably be very low to start with, not because your rates should be low but because there will be gaps between jobs until you build a reliable client base. It's often a good idea to find a part-time job for the first few months to bring in some steady income, but the more flexible it is the better as you'll need to be able to respond quickly to clients as deadlines are almost always very short.

If you want to make your window on the translation world, and have any chance of meeting clients here, you will need to follow all of the advice here: and elsewhere on the site. Of course, you shouldn't rely on one site for your clients; you also need to contact potential direct clients and translation agencies locally, in Syria, and anywhere else that may be interested in your services.


Louisa Berry
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:43
Member (2009)
German to English
+ ...
Good knowledge of both legal systems vital for a legal translator Jan 31, 2014

I specialise in legal translations and have an English law degree and other post-grad law qualifications (I was initially planning to be a solicitor but life had other plans).

It is essential to know both legal systems in order to be a good legal translator.

I am just finishing my dissertation for the now sadly closed MA in Legal Translation at City University and we had lectures on both the English legal system and the system of our other language in additional to translation classes.

So I would think you would be a good candidate for legal translation having a background in law you would also need to learn about Canadian and/or other English speaking legal systems


Arabic/English translators are in great demand these days. Jan 31, 2014

Hello Maher,
Yes, Arabic/English translators are in great demand these days. If you are studying law form Syria, you should concentrate on law. And at the same time you should take a short course on translation, and work on your language and the legal systems. A certified translators can get good opportunities in the translation industry.


Tim Friese  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:43
Member (2013)
Arabic to English
+ ...
Salaried jobs are rare... Jan 31, 2014

...and mainly at international organizations like the UN. If you plan on making a living as an Arabic translator / interpreter in Canada, the main viable option is being a freelancer.

Formal studies in translation are not very important in North America, certainly much less important than in most of the world. You should know whether your English is perfect or not. If not, hire a good proofreader, preferably one who also works in Arabic. This person will clean up your translations and act as quality control, especially as you start out.

The most lucrative fields are law, medical, technical, etc... anything where the content itself would pose a barrier to many people. Your knowledge of Syrian law is certainly an asset to you, but in the end we all make our living based on the quality of our translations.

Good luck!


Thanks Feb 2, 2014

Thank you guys, i guess i should really consider Legal translation since it's my field of study.

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