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Interested in becoming a translator and do not know how to get started.
Thread poster: Gina84

Gina84
United States
Oct 17, 2016

Hello all !
This is my first time on a website like this and am in desperate need of orientation. Any information is appreciated.
I was lucky enough to grow up in Spain and therefore am bilingual. I'm considering becoming a translator but do not know where to start. Is this a matter of finding small jobs and getting experience ? Or do I need to take classes, online training or are there any books anyone would recommend I read to educate myself ? So far what I have found online is how to become a certified translator but I feel I need experience to become certified. Thank you for your time.


 

Nicole König  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 01:10
German to English
+ ...
Please provide context :) Oct 18, 2016

Dear Gina.

The first rule of the translation world: it all depends on the context.

Of course, there are super books, go-to blogs, and podcasts on the topic and mentoring programs.

Would you kindly provide more information on you and your professional background?
Your talents, things you are very interested in and passionate about (potential niches) and so forth.
In case you feel reluctant to open up on a public stage like this, please feel free to contact me via private message and I will be more than happy to help.

Have a wonderful Tuesday!

Nicole


 

Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:10
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
More info? Oct 18, 2016

Hi Gina,

Language ability is only one of the things a successful translator needs and you haven't given us much to go on regarding your background. Do you have a degree? Ever had anything you have written published? Does your work history give you any specialist knowledge (for example, if you have worked in a bank you will have knowledge of banking that can form the basis for a specialism). Without more information it's hard to advise you on what your next step should be.

The ATA website might be a good place to start to gather more information: https://www.atanet.org/careers/
Also, if you can attend any events for translators where you can talk to people actually working in this profession that is always a good way to get a better idea of what's what.

Rachel


 

Mario Chavez (X)  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:10
English to Spanish
+ ...
Two questions for you, Gina Oct 18, 2016

1) Do you write exceedingly well in English and in one other foreign language?
2) Do you enjoy writing?

If you answer no to the first question, forget about becoming a translator in any capacity. In the meantime, go to college and get a 4-year degree in a field you're interested in.

As Rachel pointed out, language ability is not enough. In today's highly competitive world of translation, a 1- or 2-year translation certificate is ridiculously inadequate, even coming from an accredited university.


 

Gina84
United States
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you for ypur responses Oct 19, 2016

This time I'll be more specificicon_smile.gif

I moved to Spain when I was 10 years old and lived there for 15 years. I finished high school then went to a vocational school to become a flight attendant. I've been in the aviation industry for the past 11 years. I love it ! I love to travel, read, music, art, history and learning about new cultures. Customer service is my thing. I love helping people and I'm very social.
I'm married and have a 2 year old girl. She is the reason I'm looking into becoming a translator because from what I understand you can potentially do this from home. I really just started to do some research a few days ago so I really appreciate your guidance.

I was raised speaking English and German ( my mother is German ). I lived in Germany for 8 years but I feel more confident in my Spanish. I would say my Spanish is like my mother tongue. I have never written anything. Honestly, I'm not sure if I love writing. Again, this is an idea and I'm trying to make an informed decision.

Could the lack of a college degree be an impediment to become a translator ? Is this career very solitary ?

Thank you all for taking time to answer. I really appreciate iticon_smile.gif

Gina


 

Isabelle Wagmi
New Zealand
Local time: 13:10
English to French
1 - or 2 year translation certificate ridiculously inadequate???? Oct 19, 2016

Mario Chavez wrote:

1) Do you write exceedingly well in English and in one other foreign language?
2) Do you enjoy writing?

If you answer no to the first question, forget about becoming a translator in any capacity. In the meantime, go to college and get a 4-year degree in a field you're interested in.

As Rachel pointed out, language ability is not enough. In today's highly competitive world of translation, a 1- or 2-year translation certificate is ridiculously inadequate, even coming from an accredited university.


Mario, I don't really agree with you on that point, for a training in translation school aims mostly at equipping the students with the required skills to convey a message from a source language into a target language. It is not about specialization in any given field. Specialization can come before or after the training, depending on each individual's experience.

[Modifié le 2016-10-19 09:03 GMT]


 

Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 00:10
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
yes and yes Oct 19, 2016

Gina84 wrote:

Could the lack of a college degree be an impediment to become a translator ? Is this career very solitary ?
Gina


Hi again Gina,

In answer to your questions:

The lack of a college degree will indeed be an impediment, though this is not insurmountable, and there are translators on this forum who don't have one either. But most translators have at least a Bachelor's degree and many have a Masters too so you will be up against tough competition.

And, yes, translation is a solitary career - one of the most solitary you could pick (and you say you are a social person).

Honestly? It doesn't sound like a great match to me and I think your language skills could be better employed in a more sociable role. Translation is a hard job even if it's your passion and that doesn't sound like the case for you.

Good luck,

Rachel


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 01:10
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
There is a lot more to it than meets the eye. Oct 19, 2016

While translation is a very solitary job - which is precisely why it suits some of us! - interpreting calls for much more sociable personalities.

It is also a very different job, and could be hard to combine with looking after a small child, as you normally have to go to different venues in person, sometimes travelling, staying overnight and/or working unsocial hours. It definitely calls for training too, but if you are seriously interested in languages, you could look into it.

Translators all need to specialise these days. If they don't have a qualification in translation itself (not necessarily linguistics, but how to translate between specific languages, deal with the cultural differences and various aspects of their specialist subject), they tend to have a qualification in the subject itself. Many have both.

Inside knowledge of an industry definitely counts as a qualification, so don't be discouraged. Your knowledge of aviation will be very valuable, as well as having lived in the countries where your languages are spoken - you pick up hundreds of little things that you can never learn at college.

Translation, however much it depends on hands-on experience, is very much a question of writing and rephrasing, with careful attention to detail. That side of it will become more and more important in human translation, which has to be top quality, as machines are taking over the repetitive and predictable situations.

Have you ever tried writing? Some people find they can write well when they try. However, you do need to be absolutely confident about grammar, spelling and getting your translation to sound right. Especially with English, where there are so many varieties, you have to go for one and be able to defend it! Spanish is not just Spanish either, as I am sure you know.

Take a look at the ATA website https://www.atanet.org/newcomers/ and see if you can get advice from there. (I'm in Europe and don't know it well, but contact someone who can give you some advice).

Best of luck!


 

John Fossey  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 19:10
Member (2008)
French to English
A translator's work Oct 19, 2016

Gina84 wrote:

I'm very social.


Most translators work alone, and often only meet their clients virtually, over the internet.

from what I understand you can potentially do this from home.


Yes, that is what most freelance translators do.

I have never written anything. Honestly, I'm not sure if I love writing.


Translators write and write and write. The main difference (and it is a major difference) between a writer and a translator is that a writer puts their own thoughts down, while a translator has to accurately convey in the target language the thoughts of the original author, without injecting their own.

Could the lack of a college degree be an impediment to become a translator ?


You need either training or experience (or preferably both). Many translators come into the field from another field where they gained experience first.

Is this career very solitary ?


It often is.

[Edited at 2016-10-19 12:56 GMT]


 

Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 00:10
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
What translation isn't Oct 19, 2016

Gina84 wrote:
I'm considering becoming a translator but do not know where to start. Is this a matter of finding small jobs and getting experience ?

Others have covered what it is. I just want to say that this is the wrong route to becoming a freelance translator. I expect you've found several sites for freelancers in general where you can bid and do a bit of translation for a private individual or a small business. You can do that today if you want. Nobody will ask for credentials; they just want the lowest price. Of course you'll be bidding against people in parts of the world where the proverbial loaf of bread costs a fraction of the one you need to buy for your kid. Local bidders will probably be amateurs who aren't really doing it for the money. Note that if you do enough work on those platforms to earn anything like a "wage", you'll have no time to look for anything better, or do any studies, or even look after your kid properly! So, I don't advise that entry into the profession.

Christine Andersen wrote:
While translation is a very solitary job - which is precisely why it suits some of us! - interpreting calls for much more sociable personalities.

It is also a very different job, and could be hard to combine with looking after a small child, as you normally have to go to different venues in person, sometimes travelling, staying overnight and/or working unsocial hours. It definitely calls for training too, but if you are seriously interested in languages, you could look into it.

Phone interpreting might be possible, after training. There are also hotline jobs of various sorts that can be done from home, and training would normally be given. Also, market research companies often use homeworkers. I imagine these are some of the jobs that might suit you a little more and might make use of your languages. For instance, maybe you could do a market research interview in a foreign language, and then report the answers in English. I honestly don't know if there's a market for that, but there may be. Teaching through Skype is another possibility, but there again you'll need some training.

On the other hand, kids really need to learn social skills from an early age, as well as benefiting from a mother's love and care. Why not put your child into some sort of care scheme for a couple of hours a day and find a job in customer services that allows for face-to-face contact?


 

Richard Purdom  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 00:10
Dutch to English
+ ...
Go for it Oct 19, 2016

Don't be put off by everything you've read here Gina. It's a rather jealously-guarded profession, but there is no real reason you shouldn't succeed. Your English writing looks fine to me, so that's a good start.

I suggest you contact some agencies who deal with your language pairs, offer to do some test translations for free, not more than 300 words, and insist on feedback. Do as many as you can, learn from your inevitable mistakes. That's the acid test to see if you've got what it takes, but I'm sure if you really want it you'll be successful anyway.

One last tip; only translate into what you consider your mother tongue. Good luck!

[Edited at 2016-10-19 14:39 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-10-19 14:39 GMT]

[Edited at 2016-10-19 14:39 GMT]


 

Gina84
United States
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you ! Oct 19, 2016

Than you all for your in put ! It's great.

 

Robert Rietvelt  Identity Verified
Local time: 01:10
Member (2006)
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Don't romanticize the job ..... Oct 19, 2016

.... because that is exactly what I think you do. It is hard work for little money.

Furthermore, being bilingual is not enough. What are your specialities? Do you have enough knowledge about the subjects you are translating? Can you 'translate' them correctly and to the point 'ON PAPER' into another language (instead of talking about them during a conversation)? Points to consider.


 

Kay Denney  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 01:10
Member (Apr 2018)
French to English
mothering and working Oct 20, 2016

Gina84 wrote:

This time I'll be more specificicon_smile.gif

I moved to Spain when I was 10 years old and lived there for 15 years. I finished high school then went to a vocational school to become a flight attendant. I've been in the aviation industry for the past 11 years. I love it ! I love to travel, read, music, art, history and learning about new cultures. Customer service is my thing. I love helping people and I'm very social.
I'm married and have a 2 year old girl. She is the reason I'm looking into becoming a translator because from what I understand you can potentially do this from home. I really just started to do some research a few days ago so I really appreciate your guidance.

I was raised speaking English and German ( my mother is German ). I lived in Germany for 8 years but I feel more confident in my Spanish. I would say my Spanish is like my mother tongue. I have never written anything. Honestly, I'm not sure if I love writing. Again, this is an idea and I'm trying to make an informed decision.

Could the lack of a college degree be an impediment to become a translator ? Is this career very solitary ?

Thank you all for taking time to answer. I really appreciate iticon_smile.gif

Gina


Translation is a profession littered with introverts who hardly ever speak to other people all day. I have always worked in an office (either an agency or sharing an office with other free-lance introverts who work quietly with me and chat only at lunchtime) because I know if I worked from home I'd become a total hermit. I worked from home when my children were small, like yours, but even then it was only part-time and I made sure I socialised, mostly with other young mothers so our kids could play together.

I see Christine suggested interpreting, which would probably suit your personality better, but you'd definitely need training because it is not something you can do off the cuff. Given that your languages are all pretty common you'd also need some specialist subjects to stand out from the crowd. In short, it's not a job you can just dip into for a few years until your offspring goes to school, but a profession. You wouldn't expect to just dip into nursing or engineering for a few years because of unrelated circumstances, the same goes for interpreting and, to a lesser degree, translation.

While I don't regret working from home with my littluns, it was a really tough time and I got very little sleep finishing up some projects. I have memories of typing frantically with one hand, holding a breastfeeding baby with the other, then reading print-outs as I walked up and down waiting for baby to burp. Nowadays you have baby carriers which will free up both hands, but that's not so much good with a toddler. It's pretty hard trying to concentrate on a translation with a toddler sticking their fingers where they shouldn't. I had a post-it that said "Texte, you are here -->" that I used to stick to the page before rushing to deal with whatever the emergency was, and there were plenty.

Another profession involving languages that is more child-friendly: teaching private students. I scheduled lessons for when my partner could take over parenting and occasionally took a baby with me when I could be sure of the baby sleeping peacefully in my arms throughout the whole lesson. I found clients on the strength of being a native English speaker and nobody ever asked if I was qualified. My adult daughter is now doing the same and the situation doesn't seem to have changed much.


 

Paulette Romero  Identity Verified
Colombia
Local time: 19:10
English to Spanish
+ ...
Fill out your profile! Oct 21, 2016

First, if you want to be successful on proz you really need to fill out your profile as completely as possible. Agencies look at this.

You don't NEED a degree, but having one is almost essential and some agencies even require one. Either way, don't let this deter you as a piece of paper does not therein make thee a fabulous translator.

Since you seem to be trilingual, I suggest you specialize in English to Spanish and German to Spanish translations, preferably in aviation since you were in that field for a long time. Of course you don't have to stick to aviation, but it's a good place to start.

Translating is absolutely a solitary job since you do it from home. I love it but perhaps you wouldn't. As other people suggested perhaps interpretation might be more your thing although I would suggest you do some research into bachelor's degrees in interpretation since interpreting is far more difficult than translating.

In regard to writing, perhaps you could start your own free wordpress.com blog and start writing about getting started as a translator and your family or other topics. The idea is that you start writing... in English, Spanish and German.

I hope this bit of information was helpful to you.

P.S. Don't listen to the naysayers. If you really want to do it, then go for it. You'll never know if you're good at it if you don't try.


 
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