Building a foundation to become a translator
Thread poster: kylebennett

kylebennett
United States
Local time: 07:37
Spanish to English
Dec 21, 2015

Hello,

I am a Spanish teacher and am interested in entering the translation field. I have read many forums, blogs, and articles and there are varying opinions as to what skills are necessary before entering the translation field (for example whether or not to take college courses, or the importance of becoming certified). What do you believe are the essentials in building a strong foundation before taking on work as a translator.

Thank you!


 

Philippe Etienne  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 14:37
Member
English to French
Here will be no exception Dec 21, 2015

kylebennett wrote:
... and there are varying opinions as to what skills are necessary before entering the translation field...

Some will claim that you cannot succeed without formal translation education, suggest business courses if aiming at full-time freelancing, venture that some kind of professional practice is paramount to find your niche market, expect you to have spent a lot of time in the "source" country, profess that broad and deep general knowledge is enough...

And others will disagree.

To state the obvious:
writing skills to differentiate us from machines
fierce competition as there are no barriers to entry
translation viewed as a low-paid, temporary side job by the general public

Good luck,
Philippe


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 13:37
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
You have to offer more than "I speak two languages so I can translate your text". Dec 22, 2015

Philippe Etienne wrote:
Some will claim that you cannot succeed without formal translation education, suggest business courses if aiming at full-time freelancing, venture that some kind of professional practice is paramount to find your niche market, expect you to have spent a lot of time in the "source" country, profess that broad and deep general knowledge is enough...

I think all of those are incredibly useful, but it's an unregulated activity in many parts of the world, the US included, so there are no real "must-haves".

@ the OP:- We have far too little information about you to know what you personally need to do to succeed as a translator. As Philippe says, there's fierce competition for every job, so what do you have to offer potential clients? Put yourself in the client's shoes (direct client or translation agency) and decide how you can best convince him/her that you're the person for the job.

Qualifications: I'd say that any young person coming into the profession really must have some high-level qualifications in relevant areas, e.g. a degree in languages, translation studies or a sector which will form the specialisation. The world is going that way and translation is no exception. Often a Bachelor in your languages or specialisation is best followed with a Master in translation. After all, if you can't show years of experience, what evidence can you give to show you have some idea of what to do? OTOH, if you've had years of experience as a doctor, lawyer, HR manager... and are looking for a second career, maybe you don't need any grand diplomas and a simple course on translation techniques will be enough.

Aptitude: If you don't have the nous to run a business, you're going to risk a "career" as a low-paid pieceworker for the major agencies, who will see you simply as "Supplier N° NNN", to be paid as little as possible for each and every job, and replaced as soon as someone comes along who'll work for less and not object to jumping through all sorts of hoops for their paltry pay. Some people have innate entrepreneurial skills (I don't believe Sir Richard Branson ever studied the subject, for example), but if you don't then you'll need to acquire some. You also need to be able to write very clearly and concisely in your target language. There are people out there who simply cannot acquire entrepreneurial or written expression skills, however many courses they go on.

translation viewed as a low-paid, temporary side job by the general public

I've never found that to be the case. People don't understand our job very well, and almost always assume that we translate books. But they rarely view it as a "low-paid, temporary side job", IMO. But then I always make it clear that I'm self-employed, running my own business. I don't give the impression that I'm "working at home" instead of "going to work".


 


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