Education/Certification needed to freelance translate?
Thread poster: zeug

Local time: 15:26
German to English
Oct 17, 2007


I am wanting to get started translating soon. I was just wondering what kind of education and certifications I might need. I have already been studying German for three years and am pretty proficient. I just graduated high school and am going to college right now. I havn't decided on a major yet, but I don't think I will be staying long. I feel learning something on one's own is much more efficient and effective. If I did stay, I would get a degree in linguistics or foreign language. Do agencies really pay much attention to degrees? As we all know, degrees say nothing about your knowledge of language other than you are a good test taker.
Are there many certifications out there for translators to take? I am going to be doing technical translations, so I definitely plan on getting as many computer-related certifications under my belt as I can, to prove my knowledge of the computer field.
Basically what I am asking is this: what do agencies look for when they are looking for someone to work for them?

[Edited at 2007-10-17 23:37]


Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:26
Italian to English
+ ...
What agencies look for Oct 18, 2007

(in my experience):

someone who turns in an accurate job, on time.

By accurate I mean correct terminology, no typos, no spelling mistakes. Running your translation through a spellchecker is essential (although, of course, not in itself sufficient to ensure a typo-free result). By "on time" I mean precisely that - if your deadline's 3 o'clock, you get it there by 2.55. Earlier is even better.

All the certificates and qualifications in the world won't help if you don't heed these two basic points (although they may help you get your first jobs).


Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:26
Member (2004)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Very helpful but not indispensible Oct 18, 2007

When I went back to freelancing, my American Translator Association certifications got some clients to take a chance on me who otherwise probably would not have. However, bear in mind that the ATA exams are very demanding and have a very high failure rate.

Getting a degree specifically in translation would help, though very few universities in the U.S. offer them and many excellent translators do not have such degrees. There are two reasons to consider studying translation at the university level:

1) Translation is a very specific set of skills. Just being multilingual and knowing about linguistics isn't enough. A degree, or at least some good translation courses, could help you learn the basics before going off to learn on your own.

2) In this age of the internet you'll be looking for clients in many countries, including ones where professions are assumed to be linked to university degrees. This is a cultural barrier that is hard to break through, and just telling them "in my country most people work in a different field than they studied" won't convince them. Having the degree will help get you in the door with clients and agencies in such countries.

[Edited at 2007-10-18 16:09]


Astrid Elke Witte  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:26
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
I suggest you complete a language degree first of all Oct 18, 2007

I very much doubt if anyone is ready to be a freelance translator after studying a language for a mere three years. Another six years might be more appropriate. In my experience, the translations of people fresh out of university with language degrees are very much at a beginner level - from a professional perspective. How do you think you will manage with even less than that?

There is also the question of your target language, i.e. your mother tongue. You need a bit more experience of that yet, before you can produce really polished translations into it. That experience only comes once a few birthdays accumulate.

I would also suggest that - while perfecting your target language - you follow up your degree with a postgraduate course specifically in translation.



Hilde Granlund  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:26
English to Norwegian
+ ...
or perhaps Oct 18, 2007

move to Germany to study computer science?
I think living with your source language for a few years, on a daily basis, does a lot more for your understanding of it on all levels, than any number of courses.

At least that is what I did - a university degree in my field of expertise, in the source language. 20 years of practice of said subject in the target language is not bad either...
At least it cured me of my "anglified" medical terminologyicon_lol.gif

And of course, there is nothing like living in another country for an extended period of time, for broadening your mind in the general sense.

Good luck!


Local time: 15:26
German to English
Clarification on what I meant by studied Oct 18, 2007

I havn't really been studying German as in taking high school courses in the language. I tried that already and was bored out of my mind, and am currently in a college German course. In the course I feel like I am a parrot learning German. All we ever do is
When I first started studying German, all I had were a few Rammstein songs and a dictionary. I then moved on to watching movies, reading magazines, and browsing around online. I'd study for six hours a day on average. After my second year of studying, the german teacher at my high school said I was speaking at a college level and my pronunciation was excellent, which I think is pretty good considering that I have been learning completely passively without ever speaking to anyone.
What I plan on doing is working at a job for a few years while doing some more passive studying and saving up some money and then moving to Germany or doing some volunteer programs there for a few years. I should quickly reach near-native fluency during my time in Germany.
Studying a language passively and diving into the deep end for a few years before speaking it just seems a lot more natural to me than starting at the shallow end and learning how to speak a few basic phrases right away. Think about how you learned your native tongue(s). You didn't start speaking from the day you were born. You passively listened for a few years and then started to speak.
Thankyou everyone for your input and I look forward to reading your future replies.


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Education/Certification needed to freelance translate?

Advanced search

PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »
Wordfast Pro
Translation Memory Software for Any Platform

Exclusive discount for users! Save over 13% when purchasing Wordfast Pro through Wordfast is the world's #1 provider of platform-independent Translation Memory software. Consistently ranked the most user-friendly and highest value

More info »

  • All of
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search