Best options to be a tourism/travel translator
Thread poster: Charlotte Scavarda

Charlotte Scavarda
Local time: 04:27
Apr 5, 2018

Hi everyone,

I'm new on this website so forgive me if my topic is not in the right place.

I am a native French speaker and have a bachelor's degree in languages (with a specialisition in translation) in English and German. My university has a Master's degree in technical translation, but I don't feel quite ready to do this Master so I was thinking of doing a one-year course in travel/tourism and hopefully find work in that sector. As I'm not 100% sure I want to be a full-time translator yet, could it be a good option to work in tourism and gain knowledge in that area so that I can later consider being a translator specialised in travel and tourism (or something more specific in that field)? I'm truly interested in translation and did an internship as a full-time in-house translator for a company at the end of my degree, but as I said I'm still unsure about making it my job now and am just considering all the options I have.

So would it be wiser to do a Master's degree in technical translation? Or start working in something else and gain knowledge in a specific field while slowly getting into translation on the side? Is the second option not reasonable if I'm hoping to become a translator?

Just to clarify, I've had my degree a couple of years ago and have been working, volunteering and travelling since then. I have been living in English-speaking countries for 2 years, but haven't gained real experience in translation apart from my 2-month internship.

I've talked about it with a few translators I know and been reading topics on this forum, but would love some advice from more translators. Thank you!



Kevin Fulton  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:27
German to English
Training can be useful Apr 6, 2018

I've worked with a number of translators over the years, and I've found that graduates of **good** translation programs tend to have skills that make them more efficient translators. They tend to have research skills, are familiar with various CAT tools and possess organizational talents that make them preferable cooperation partners. I'm not claiming that they are necessarily better translators because of this training, but developing skills early in their careers puts them a leg up colleagues who learn by trial and error as they start the profession. I'm not a "trained" translator and can state that I've made almost every mistake that one can make in this business. Some sort of training might have helped me avoid some of them.

It doesn't matter that the training available to you is for technical translation. A worthwhile program will provide you with approaches to translating difficult texts, expose you to resources that can be applicable to a variety of fields, will teach you how to research and organize terminology. Such a program will also introduce you to computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools, the use of which is becoming increasingly vital in maintaining economic viability in this profession. Evidence of training will also be a plus when applying for jobs.

It certainly is possible to have a successful career in translation without related training. The vast majority of translators here are self-taught, having entered the field from other endeavors. However, I believe you, as a novice, would benefit greatly from formal training.


Fiona Gonçalves  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:27
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Hands-on experience Apr 9, 2018

Hi Charlotte,

Many years ago I graduated from university with a degree in modern languages and no idea what I actually wanted to do with it. While I tried to work out where to go next career-wise, I jumped on the opportunity to work for a summer as a tour operator's representative in a holiday resort. The result? Twenty years spent working in tourism before I finally changed direction and went into translation. No prizes for guessing what I specialise in as a translator!

Obviously this, although true, is a bit extreme. There is no need for you to spend that long gaining experience before turning your hand to translating. However, I can tell you that the knowledge I gained while working in tourism has been far more useful to me than the dozens of books I had to study in my literature classes at university.

Since tourism appears to be something that interests you then I would say it is definitely worth your while trying to gain some professional experience in the field. Many opportunities in tourism are seasonal so you would not necessarily have to commit to anything long term: a summer season at a beach resort, a winter season at a ski resort, and so on.

You may even find some opportunities arising through such seasonal jobs to do a bit of translation on the side. This is in fact what I did to begin with before switching completely from working IN tourism to specialising in tourism translations.

Also, perhaps you could explore other types of Master's degrees in translation. There are plenty of them out there and you might be able to find one that feels "righter" for you than the one in technical translation that you seem to be hesitant about. The thing is, if you are going to specialise in something it really needs to be something you have a genuine interest in, otherwise you will get to the stage where you dread switching the computer on in the morning.

Hope this helps.


jyuan_us  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 22:27
Member (2005)
English to Chinese
+ ...
My points on the topic Apr 9, 2018

I don't think industrial experience or formal training is necessary for you to do well in translating for the tourism/travel industry.

If you are inclined to write attractively in your mother tongue, and you have an excellent reading ability in your second language, you may find yourself an excellent tourism/travel translator after you have taken on only a few assignments.

I would advise you to start to read a couple of tourist websites or booklets in both of your languages today. Within a couple of days, you will realize that this is a field that is so easy for a professional translator.

Translation for the travel industry is not a specialization per se. Everything is just common sense.

Also, I heard that tourism/travel translation is one of the lowest paying fields of translation.


[Edited at 2018-04-09 21:39 GMT]


Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:27
French to English
@Charlotte Apr 9, 2018

Colleagues have posted what is already a fairly good sample of the various points of view possible. Tourism/travel is a vast field. A lot would depend on who your clients might be.

If what you have in mind is translating travel guides, prose about various destinations and so on, then writing excellent prose will be a key skill to have. It can be improved upon every day, but you certainly need to have a flair for it and some have it, others don't. If you are interested in the commercial and business side of the travel "industry", then you may find that being able to translate legal and insurance documents may be required too. You may also be interested in working on texts specialising in a particular part of the world. Cultural, political and economic knowlegde of the region may help convince particular clients that you are the best one for the job. Further, you may also be interested in a particular type of travel, sports and adventure travel, for example. It may be necessary for you to have or acquire knowledge of particular activities.

The most likely scenario is that some or all of the above will come into play at various points in time. A number fo translation agencies do consider tourism and travel as a specialist field. Any field can be.

One thing I would like to add, is that I see no practical use in doing a course in technical translation if you have no intention or wish to translate technical texts. You need to be technically minded to do that sort of work. It's mind-blowingly boring if your true desire is to translate descriptive prose. Some people do both and enjoy both, but it is certainly not something all translators can or should do. It may also "catalogue" you in the mind of potential clients as a technical translator.

In today's technological world, a course in translation, chosen to suit what you enjoy doing, should equip you will a few tools to put in your toolbox. Not only would this be of direct use to you in your working day, it should also help you to market your skills.


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