No experience with translation, want to get established
Thread poster: KeithAStellyes

Local time: 01:04
Spanish to English
Jan 1, 2015

Hi, I'm looking into working in translation, but not as a career. However, I have no experience outside of Duolingo in translation, nor do I have any certifications. I live in the US if that's relevant.

What kind of certifications, volunteer translations/contributions should I be doing?

Thanks so much.


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:04
Member (2007)
+ ...
Not sure if I've addressed your query Jan 1, 2015

What exactly do you want to do, Keith, if you don't want to make it your career?

Are you saying you want to earn a few extra dollars away from your full-time job, or during your studies? If so, you'll have very little success and would do better with a little job that pays a wage. Translators are self-employed business people, and every one of those (translator or not) will tell you it takes time to build up a business. Then, when work arrives, deadlines are invariably tight (especially for beginners). Combining translation with a part-time job to bring in a wage is a good way to begin, but the reverse doesn't work.

If you want to do pro bono translations, I would advise you to use one of the crowd-sourcing sites. There are the TED videos, Wikepedia etc., where your work will be checked by others. TWB etc. all need experienced, autonomous translators. Please don't offer to do commercial translations for free - that does nothing but harm to the industry.

In a nutshell a translator needs either a good deal of life experience and a solid background in a terminology sector (i.e. coming into translation as a second career), or a qualification such as a Master in Translation, or both. And above all, he or she needs a lot of availability and patience.


Fiona Grace Peterson  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:04
Italian to English
Occasional translation Jan 2, 2015

You can do translation in a "minor capacity" if you are lucky and manage to make the right contacts, or if you have become established over the years and decide to change direction, making translation your secondary source of income. I think it is difficult to want to do just a few translations straight off the bat, in a way that is satisfactory to you - that is, earning the desired rate and earning the recognition you feel you deserve.

My 2 cents. There is no "single route" to translation, everyone has a different background, education and experience. But wanting to "get established" while not wanting to make it your career will be very difficult, I think, for the reasons Sheila has listed.


Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:04
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
Translation is not a 'pocket-money job' Jan 3, 2015

It is a demanding profession. Most of us here find it very satisfying - because we are not here for the money alone! There is a lot of competition if you translate from Spanish to English, so you need to have special skills as well as a deep knowledge of both languages.

You may have experience that you are not aware of - you do not tell us much about yourself. Do you work in a bilingual or multilingual company or environment? Or have international contacts you could draw on?

Have you lived abroad and really learnt about another country's culture and ways of doing things? Translation involves reading between the lines and behind the words - even in closely related languages and cultures, people simply think differently, and the most unexpected things work differently, so you have to adapt and 'localise' as well as translating the text.

There are valuable short cuts in taking courses and certificates, but they make you aware of things you really need to go out into real life and experience. You may already have some of the necessary background - and you can go on expanding it and refining it for a lifetime!

Some of these things simply happen in the course of living life and working in the right mixed environments or by travelling between different environments. Some people do successfully combine part-time translation with other work such as teaching, or is in some way language related, or may involve communications between different communities.

Think why you want to translate, and what already qualifies you to do it. Then see where the gaps are - what is stopping you from translating?

With a bit more information we may be able to give you a few hints. But Sheila may already have given you the best advice - if you need to earn some money here and now, then find a job that pays a wage. It takes time and requires commitment to build up a freelancing business that actually pays its way, although it is certainly not impossible to do it part time.

Best of luck, whichever way you go!


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