Newbie Translator Advice
Thread poster: wernermeg

United States
Local time: 14:37
Chinese to English
+ ...
Jan 10, 2017

Hello all!

My apologies if this is the wrong forum on which to post this topic, or if this is a repeat topic, but I am seeking advice on where to begin my translation journey. I graduated from The Ohio State University in May of 2015 with a B.A. in Chinese and a minor in Spanish. Since then I have been pursuing a music career rather quixotically and my skills in both languages have rusted. However, I still have a strong desire to become a translator (possibly interpreter as well); it is a career at which I'm confident I would excel. I'm aware (or at least as aware as I can be while still lacking any experience in the field) that in order to really succeed and make a living as a translator it will require a great deal of focus, effort, and sacrifice.

Because of all this, I'm not terribly sure where to resume my efforts and feel both overwhelmed and lost. Any advice or information would be greatly appreciated.


Rachel Waddington  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 19:37
Member (2014)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Job Jan 11, 2017

Maybe looking for a job that allows you to use your language skills would be a good first step? You would gain knowledge of the world of business, brush up your languages and maybe start to establish a specialism. And earn some money!


Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:37
German to English
Ohio has a lot of manufacturing companies Jan 11, 2017

You might contact the state Chamber of Commerce (or other relevant state agency) regarding companies doing business with China. Doubtless some of these companies will require translations from Chinese to English. You should also look into joining one of the Ohio translators associations, such as NOTA.


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:37
Member (2007)
+ ...
You'll find all the info and help you need here Jan 11, 2017

Rachel Waddington wrote:
Maybe looking for a job that allows you to use your language skills would be a good first step? You would gain knowledge of the world of business, brush up your languages and maybe start to establish a specialism. And earn some money!

That's certainly a good way to start, for several reasons. Firstly, first-hand knowledge of your specialist sectors is invaluable to a translator. A translator who specialises in tourism and has worked in the tourist industry (for example) will find life easier than one who hasn't. Secondly, if you need to earn money to live on from Day 1, then translating is not ideal as you'll be self-employed. No clients asking for translations equals no income icon_frown.gif. It's quite normal for a freelancer to have no income for a while and very little for the first few months. It can take a good year or two to become established. Finally, it takes a certain level of maturity to run your own business and stand up to the rigours of negotiating with clients, especially with translation agencies who know the business inside-out and would like to have anything but a level playing-field. You may have that maturity so soon after university; you may not.

However, I believe there's nothing to stop you starting out as a freelancer in the US - no registration fee, monthly contributions etc of the sort that we have here in Spain. So, give it a go as soon as you feel able. The ideal would be a part-time salaried job, whether in your specialist sector or simply to earn a living (in which case something relatively undemanding is best so as not to tire you too much for intellectual work at other times), and part-time work as a freelance translator. You could try with a full-time job, but most deadlines aren't flexible enough to allow you to translate only weekends and maybe evenings. Clients want prompt responses and fast deliveries.

Start off by visiting the Site Guidance Centre here on You can find loads of info on (a) making use of this site to start and grow your business, and (b) translation in general.

Good luck!


Tomás Cano Binder, BA, CT  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:37
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Course(s) in Translation! Jan 11, 2017

To me, the first step to learn more about the challenges of translation and your long-term potential as a translator is to take a long-ish (several months) course in Translation. The course should contain both theory and practice, and ideally should be offered by a reputable training centre that specialises in Translation or Linguistics, or by an university offering a degree in Translation (i.e. they will have suitable faculty doing the course).


Preston Decker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 14:37
Chinese to English
Live abroad Jan 11, 2017

You didn't mention your proficiency in either language, but unless you're exceptionally gifted linguistically, you really should immerse yourself in one of your languages for at least two years. I studied Chinese for four years in high school and three and a half years in college (including six months study in Beijing), and it still took me almost an additional two years of living in China to get to a point where I felt somewhat comfortable translating professionally. You might be able to get by living in the US in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood if you wanted to go with Spanish, but if it's to be Chinese, go abroad young (wo)man!

If I had it all to do over again, rather than going the English teaching route, I would find an MA program at a Chinese university, enroll, and take things from there. This way you'll improve both your language skills and your marketability for whichever industry you decide to center yourself in.


Maddison Norris  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:37
Member (2016)
Chinese to English
Go to China! Jan 12, 2017

Preston Decker wrote:

...but if it's to be Chinese, go abroad young (wo)man!

I definitely agree! I started Chinese (Mandarin) in high school, did it as my major at university for my undergraduate (3 years in Australia), went to Shanghai for a semester during that, went to Tianjin for a year after I graduated just to study the language, then came back to Aus to do a Masters in Translating and Interpreting (1.5 years)

I would also recommend actually studying the theory of translation.

Also, it will be a slow start but don't give up. I was very dubious about my translation prospects just 6 months ago, and now I'm getting regular work. Not as much as I would like, but still pretty regular =)


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