Can I be a translator?
Thread poster: cisneros

Local time: 14:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
Dec 15, 2007

Hello everyone

I am a native spanish speaker and fluent in English as I have lived in the UK. I am a doctoral candidate in Economics and I usually work in english about topics like marketing, advertisment, management, and many others related.

I do not hold a degree in translation but I would really like to earn some more money by doing it during weekends and free time.

How do you think that I should start? I feel kind of lost :S

Thank you very much


Kerati Kuaimongkol  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:34
Member (2007)
English to Thai
Fluent in language is good start in this career, but it not enough... Dec 15, 2007

Hi man,

To be a translator you have to love this career because sometime you have to work very hard just to make the job done before deadline.

Translate very long document require a lot of energy, time, attention, and also your health.

You should start by translate some short article, with the highest standard of your own, and assume how much you will get and compare to the time you use and your feeling.

If you ok. with it. Welcome.



Local time: 14:34
French to English
Translation degree not necessary Dec 15, 2007

although degrees in translation are probably very useful they are in no way essential. Having the necessary language skills and specialist knowledge of a particular sector are essential though.
I would suggest that you gain some knowledge of the techniques of translating: by doing a short course, by reading about the subject or by looking at posts and articles on this and other similar sites.
Then, you could try and translate a few documents in your specialist subject and ask a professional translator working in the same language combination and area, or a specialist with sufficient knowledge of both languages, for an opinion.
When you start offering your services professionally, I would advise starting small, with short documents and clients who will be able to give you feedback on your work. It may also be a good idea to arrange for a more experienced translator to proofread your work - for a fee, so you will be earning less, but you will be learning from him/her.
Kind regards,


Latin_Hellas (X)
United States
Local time: 14:34
Italian to English
+ ...
You need your first customers to start Dec 15, 2007

Well, since you have experience in both a specialisation and living in a country where your target language is spoken, what you need now are your first customers.

It's tough to make a living in academic translating, you usually must go to the business world (banks and other businesses have money, in academia the supply is usually limited).

Best is to try to network among the people you already know, both in the UK and in Spain (I assume). Next, try applying with agencies in your local area (you didn't mention whether you are in London or somewhere else in the UK).

Sometimes starting with a local agency is best because you can receive person-to-person feedback. If you are highly confident of your bilingual command of certain subject matter, you can try the direct route immediately.

I can't prove it, but the customer portfolio of most translators is probably a combination of director customers and agencies.

In either case, test your skills and dedication, and take it from there.

Good luck!


tazdog (X)
Local time: 14:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
some considerations Dec 15, 2007

JackieMcC wrote:

It may also be a good idea to arrange for a more experienced translator to proofread your work - for a fee, so you will be earning less, but you will be learning from him/her.

I think this is a good idea, too. You should also make sure that you are charging high enough rates to cover this expense, and to make sure that you are not undercutting those of us who do this for a living rather than just to earn a little extra cash. Spanish rates, for example, can be very, very low and a large part of the problem is that so many people seem willing to accept whatever they're offered--and I imagine that more than a few of them are in your situation (part-timers who don’t rely on translation to pay the bills).

If you plan to earn money translating (legally, I mean), you will also have to register as a freelance translator and pay Social Security, charge VAT (IVA), declare your income, etc. You can find out more by searching the Spanish-language forum, where these things have been discussed umpteen times (from the "Community" tab above, click on "Forum Search", and then type in key words like "seguridad social", "alta" and "autónomos", “facturar”, “IVA”, etc.).

You might also want to browse this "Getting Established" forum. There are dozens of threads opened by people who want to get started, and you may find some good advice there.


Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:34
Member (2007)
+ ...
Give it a go Dec 15, 2007

Nothing to stop you giving it a go, seeing how the clients react - if they come back then you probably aren't doing too bad a job!

My only advice would be to stick to English to Spanish. You're registered as doing Spanish to English but you say you're native Spanish with fluent English. Of course, if you've spent half your childhood in England, maybe you are qualified to use it as a second target language. However, if you just spent a year there studying, I don't think you should translate into it. Personally, I've been living in France for the last 11 years but I wouldn't think of translating into French for money (I sometimes do it as a favour for English friends but I wouldn't take their money as it wouldn't be professional).

If you decide to go into translating seriously, I'd advise a course of some sort in the techniques, but not necessarily a university course.

Good luck!


Deborah do Carmo  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:34
Dutch to English
+ ...
Agree Dec 15, 2007

Sheila Wilson wrote:

My only advice would be to stick to English to Spanish.

I have to agree with Sheila here, it is pretty clear from your post that English is not your native language (or at native standard).

Not that it's bad, don't get me wrong - just that there are a few errors in it that a native English speaker would never make - therefore it's not at a professional standard for translating.

Good luck, with your area of specialisation, you should be able to create a niché for yourself over time.

[Edited at 2007-12-16 09:19]


Hilde Granlund  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:34
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Agree with Sheila Dec 15, 2007

Your background is quite similar to my own. Like you, I have a university degree, taken in another country.
I think this is a good place to start. Gives me a specialist subject and good knowledge of the vocabulary of the subject in my source language.
I do not have a degree in translation either, but I am thinking about getting one.
The lack of one has not stopped me getting a lot of work, though.

Like Sheila, I only translate into my native language, except for the occasional favour for friendsicon_smile.gif


Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Local time: 14:34
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Two hands Dec 16, 2007

cisneros wrote:
I do not hold a degree in translation but I would really like to earn some more money by doing it during weekends and free time.

On the one hand I'd like to concur with the first responder of this thread. Translation looks easy, but it aint.

On the other hand I encourage you to start translating, but you must get some training, and the best training for your situation would be... colleagues.

Get a couple of people willing to proofread/edit your translations. Pay them a share of your rate. Get all your translations proofread before you send it off to the client. Do not accept jobs with short deadlines because you'll lose the opportunity to learn. Be open-minded and critical about your own work. As for the editors, encourage them not to use Track Changes, so that they can freely chop and change your poor work (you can compare the files in WinMerge).


Marcelo Silveyra
United States
Local time: 05:34
Member (2007)
German to English
+ ...
Whoa! Wait a second here! Dec 19, 2007

cisneros wrote:
I do not hold a degree in translation but I would really like to earn some more money by doing it during weekends and free time.

This immediately raised a red flag for me. If the only reason why you want to do this is to earn some more money (i.e. you're not interested in pursuing translation in the future) AND you already make enough money to cover your needs (including planning for the future), someone has to warn you that doing translation work "during weekends and free time" could spell disaster in the long run. Not because of the money and not because of what it does to the "profession" or anything like that, but because, as a human being, you're going to need some free time sooner or later. Doing translation work on a regular basis in addition to work can be very taxing, and although it might take a while before you realize it, it very probably will wear you down - in a big way.

Of course, only you know how much work you can handle without having any free time, but I would really suggest factoring this into your decision.


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