Choosing one’s professional path is always a tough decision. The ultimate choice is a unique combination of aptitude, predispositions, and hard work put into perfecting one’s skills. Some professions allow for clear distinction of subsequent stages of education and practice; others come with much more complex ways of gaining experience. And what does it take to become a translator?
In this article, we will explore the issues regarding education, gaining experience, and finding employment as a translator. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of freelance work and see how we can find our area of expertise. So where do we start?
Which university degree is necessary to become a translator?
Studies of a given language seems to be the most obvious answer. Admittedly, there is some truth to it – for example, English studies allow for obtaining deep knowledge not only about the language itself, its history and structure, but also discover the wide cultural, political, and sociological background. With this component we can rest assured no reference to local phenomena would surprise us. But is a degree in language studies necessary to start working as a translator?
No – which is perfectly reflected in requirements for candidates wanting to become sworn translators. While higher education is a must, it does not have to be linked to foreign languages. In case of translations, any additional degree is an added value: the more information we have, the easier it is to find a niche and specialise in a given type of translation or interpreting services.
It’s also worth saying that studies focused on a given language help in more conscious language use. As a result, a translator with extensive linguistic background is able to deliver a translation that is more reader-friendly.
Specialisation – how to discover your strengths in translation?
One word – practice! Preparing a few sample translations may come in handy. Choose texts that cover various disciplines. Which ones would work best? Redacted legal documents available on the Internet, a scientific article from a medical journal, a technical text, an excerpt of a literary work and a marketing text (e.g. social media content) will help you find the area that works best for you.
Very often it overlaps with our interests and talents. It’s easier to translate texts that we find intriguing and that help us grow. Investing in your general knowledge also pays off – that’s why popular science books, documentaries and docuseries, as well as non-fiction podcasts are a translator’s best friend.
The profession of a translator: requirements
Even though it might be challenging to precisely indicate characteristics that will be particularly useful while building a career as a translator, punctuality, reliability and curiosity of the world around us are definitely positive features. Working on a translation usually equals in-depth analysis of specialist areas of knowledge, often demanding a specialist to reach for non-digital sources. The language services industry is a unique place where stability meets creativity. There are no two identical texts and every task requires a specialist to use a different set of skills. Still, it’s worth mentioning that preparing translations is largely a one-person job that entails schematic rituals accompanying one’s daily work. If we strive for new challenges, lack of additional stimuli might become tiresome in the long run.
It doesn’t mean, however, that only those with dominant introverted side of their personality can become translators! If human interactions and being the center of attention are your jam and adrenaline boosts your motivation, interpreting might be the right direction to follow. It’s a great opportunity to travel, establish new contacts, as well as experience conferences and events from an entirely different perspective.
Benefits and drawbacks of freelance work
When it comes to benefits associated with the profession of a translator, the possibility to work individually, in one’s own name, is brought up most frequently. Independence and autonomy, particularly regarding the location of remote work, can stir one’s imagination – especially nowadays, when the concept of a digital nomad gains popularity. For translators, the only tools needed to complete tasks are a computer and stable Internet connection. It doesn’t matter if it’s going to be one of European capital cities or a small, cozy town tucked away in the mountains. As tempting as it seems to work and simultaneously see the world, constantly change environment and explore local cultures,
it is not devoid of drawbacks. Working on a translation often equals hours spent alone – and constant wandering doesn’t make it any easier to establish a network of reliable relationships. Yet another challenge comes with financial stability: loyal customers allow for predicting available financial resources, but there are still so many factors that influence your ultimate bank account balance.
Is it worth it?
The profession of a translator is undoubtedly a unique adventure that helps us discover our strengths and weaknesses, as well as learn more about the world around us. It’s a job that requires unparalleled precision and generous creativity – the only one that blends such extreme characteristics. Stable yet unpredictable; allowing to work alone, but requiring alertness and attention to the client’s needs. Want to see if you would make a good translator? Alingua Internship Programme, dedicated particularly for students and graduates of linguistic studies is a perfect way to discover if that’s true. You can find more information in the ‘Career’ tab. If you’re interested in participation, please contact our internship coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.