Published on August 1, 2020
How to Become a Translator
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Do you have a penchant for language, and want to make a difference in people’s lives? Here’s your ultimate guide to becoming a professional translator.
Translation is an incredibly rewarding field that will always be in high demand. It involves converting written documents from one language to another, whether that’s from your mother tongue to a second language or even a third or fourth foreign language that you’ve chosen to specialise in.
Accuracy and ethics are crucial to become a successful translator, and there are plenty of job opportunities for translators in non-for-profit, academic, commercial and government settings. Demand for translation services only continues to grow, with increased migration, technological advancements, and the global economy requiring greater cultural collaboration.
The translation is also an incredibly flexible career path, as you can choose to work from home or for a translation agency. The role can also suit anyone from high school graduates with a knack for language, to polyglots with plenty of life experience who now want to monetise their language abilities.
7 Steps to Becoming a Translator
Got your heart set on a translating career? Here are the steps we suggest taking:
Choose which languages you want to work with
While many translators work just between their native language and the second language they have acquired due to migrating or having a diverse family background, it’s still worth thinking about what other languages you might want to work with. Perhaps you’ll find that a language you are interested in is in high demand and that it would be worth studying this language extensively to make you a more diverse translator.
Map out your career path
You’ll then have to decide whether you want to work as a freelance translator or enjoy stability as a full-time or part-time translator at an agency. This will help you decide what continuing education you might want to pursue, and what your job prospects look like. Remember that this doesn’t have to be set in stone – you can always shift from freelance translation to a full-time job, or vice versa.
Get certified and educated
To provide translation services in Australia, it is required that you are a certified translator. The National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) offers certification programs for hopeful translators. In terms of formal education, anything from a bachelor’s degree to an online course in your target language can help to boost employability. Remember that simply having solid language skills isn’t enough to be a translator – translation is a skill in itself that must be developed, while writing skills are essential for ensuring information is conveyed accurately.
Target a specific industry
Translation work is incredibly diverse, so it’s not enough to simply be skilled in a particular language. For example, medicine or government have their own industry-specific terminology, which you might not even know in your native language! It’s therefore important to hone into one or two industries that you are interested in, and learn the relevant terminology as needed.
Develop work experience
As mentioned above, translation is much more than just being good at a couple of languages. Developing work experience will demonstrate your skills in real-world scenarios, and expose you to slang and cultural context. You could work on a volunteer basis for a while to develop this experience or provide freelance services to your family members and community.
Develop your cultural sensitivity
While perhaps more relevant to interpreting, the translation industry also requires a level of cultural sensitivity and empathy. You could try expanding your view of the world through language clubs, mentoring programs, or even a global exchange program, improving your language skills and gaining first-hand experience of the culture.
Start the job hunt
Once you’ve developed the relevant skills and experience and acquired the necessary certification and education, it’s time to start the job hunt. Working with translation agencies will usually be your best bet, as they do all the work to acquire clients for you. Or, you could choose to apply directly to a government agency, a law firm, or another organisation that consistently needs translators across a handful of common languages.
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