How To Break Into The Translation Industry

Written by Mo Stone

Translation is a huge industry that has shown a tremendous amount of growth in the last ten years, and will continue to do so as the internet, technology and connectivity make it easier than ever to communicate across borders. As such, there is a lot of opportunity for translators, depending on what area you would like to specialize in and whether you choose to freelance or work for a company. Read on for our advice on breaking into the industry as a translator. 

Education and Qualifications for Translators

First, while it may sound like we’re pointing out the obvious, you should know at least two languages. Some of the top languages that are currently in-demand for translation are English, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Russian, German, and Japanese. Show a high level of proficiency in your language by being a native speaker, majoring in it in university, or studying or living abroad in the country where the language is spoken. 

However, the fact of simply knowing another language won’t guarantee you a career in translation. Getting some extra education and qualifications in translation can only benefit you. Big translation companies often list what kinds of qualifications they look for on their websites, so if there’s a company you are interested in working for this will give you a goal to work towards. Look into translation certifications for your country, such as the ATA (American Translators Association) certification for translators based in the US. 

Also consider certifications for the different software and tools of the trade, since potential employers will definitely be looking for those when they consider hiring you! All translators should continue to develop themselves through courses, webinars, and networking events to stay abreast of latest technology and trends. This will help to set you apart from the competition and help you get hired in the industry. 

Getting Started as a Translator

Thankfully, you don’t need to have gone to school specifically for translation to become a translator. Set yourself apart from the crowd by having good language skills, cultural knowledge, and awareness of the latest technology, tools, and market trends. And previous experience in another field can be useful, rather than a hindrance. If you worked in the legal or medical fields for example, this could transfer easily into legal or medical translation, two highly specialized divisions of the industry. 

If you’re going to freelance, invest time in building your brand through a website, social media, and professional networking, taking care to keep your online image professional and your posting consistent. While you are getting started, either while completing formal education or doing some translation on the side, start looking for some jobs to get under your belt. ProZ is a great site to look for work, or check out more general job posting websites like Fiverr or Upwork. These initial jobs may not pay the best, but will give you experience and ideally great reviews from clients!

Quality Over Quantity

While you embark upon your translation career, make sure you hold yourself to a high standard through accurate translation and careful proofreading [link back to proofreading article], even if you have other colleagues who check your translations. Having a high quality of work will help ensure that your clients come back to you, continuing to get you future work and glowing reviews from happy customers. As the saying goes, the best advertisement is word of mouth!

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