How to proceed to start working as a translator?
Thread poster: Agnès Metanomski

Agnès Metanomski  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:51
Member (2014)
English to French
+ ...
Jan 8, 2014


I apologize in advance should this be an already well discussed subject.

I am fluent in 4 languages, thanks to having lived in different countries since childhood, and I've wanted for a while already to start working as a translator, as a secondary job for a start, and hopefully building up to this being my main income source if possible.

Unfortunately I have no degrees in any of the languages I speak, since I learned them on site, through interaction with the locals. The only documents I can provide are my nationality and what corresponds to my A-levels, which I passed in a german school.

From what I've seen in the job offers here, this will hardly allow me to compete, especially since my 4 languages are the ones with the most competition, as far as I can tell.

What would be the best way to enter the market?

I must add that, due to the restrictions existing in my current country of residence (Venezuela), I have limited financial possibilities.

Thanks a lot in advance for any help


Taru Laiho
Local time: 17:51
Finnish to English
+ ...
A degree is a must Jan 8, 2014

Dear Agnès,

I recommend applying to a university (or an equivalent training program) because a) the ability to speak a language is not the same as the ability to translate it and b) I don't think any (decent) language service provider would consider hiring/doing cooperation with someone who doesn't have any language education, no matter in how many languages they say they are proficient.

In addition, just speaking a language is a good start for a career in translation, but you should also get some training in a specific area (such as technology, IT or medicine) to be able to translate more demanding texts. You will get to do this at the same time if you start studying in a translator training program.

Good luck with your career in translation!



Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:51
Chinese to English
Alternative view Jan 9, 2014

I wouldn't say a degree in languages is a sine qua non, but a degree of some kind is usually necessary. You don't say in your post whether you have a BA of any kind. If you don't, then you have to accept that it's going to be hard. A first degree is seen by many as a minimum qualification for white collar work by many organisations. For translators, doing a degree means that you get a lot of practice writing, and writing is what we do, day in and day out.

If you don't have a degree and you aren't able to get one quickly, then you are going to have to find other ways to demonstrate to potential clients that you are a competent writer. You can try things like starting small - translating for direct clients in your local community. You can blog and try to get published online, or in local traditional media. You don't say if you have a job at the moment, but many translators start as specialists in the area in which they already work. If you work in sports, write and translate about sport.

But Taru's advice is basically right. Most big translation agencies won't consider you unless you have a relevant degree: either languages, translation, or something relating to your specialist area.

Good luck!


Barbara Bonatti Divers  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:51
English to Italian
books that will help you Jan 9, 2014

Two books will give you every answer and lots of useful advice:


good reading!


Agnès Metanomski  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:51
Member (2014)
English to French
+ ...
Thanks! Jan 9, 2014

Thanks a lot for the advice!

Taru: I would have started on such a road if I could find a course I could do after working hours, since I have a full time job right now, and that would be affordable even for someone living in Venezuela. I haven't found a local evening course so far, and internet courses are near to impossible to pay for me, not only because of the level of my salary but because of the restrictions applied by the local government to anything related to foreign currencies. I am allowed $400/year for internet payments. I guess you can see how that would restrict my options.

I'll continue looking anyway.

Phil: I studied (Astro-)Physics and have a PhD in that specialty, but have been working as a software programmer since finishing my studies. Would that be of any help?

I've found a translation service site about 2 months ago, that gives me a possibility of practicing, since they do not require more than language knowledge. They work through a review system for new translators. Unfortunately, it's a japanese site, so the main work load is japanese -> other languages (and vice versa), but they have quite a bit of english->french requests too. Would listing this be of help too?

I can understand how a blog with translations would help, but writing? so would the idea be to write about any subject matter and then translate this into the other languages I know? Because just being able to write in one language is about the same as being able to speak it, it doesn't prove you have the skill to translate, does it? Which I guess is the main reason why a certificate of some kind is required by most agencies and employers.

Barbara: thanks! I'll see about acquiring those books as fast as possible.

[Edited at 2014-01-09 13:46 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-01-09 22:50 GMT]


Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:51
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
Use the keyword section in your profile Jan 9, 2014

Dear Agnès,

Enter keywords in all your languages without modesty. Try to come up in ProZ and Google searches when clients enter PhD And Astro-Physics, PhD And Astrophysics or PhD And Physics. SEO isn't rocket science.

Good luck,


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