For me, translation is a challenging and truly rewarding career. Working as a translator is not for everyone, though. It requires attention to detail, flexibility and the ability to work collaboratively with clients. But, for the right person it is an intellectually stimulating job that always offers new opportunities to learn and help people.
The first skill that an aspiring professional translator needs is fluency in at least two
languages. The best translators love language and are curious about languages’
individual quirks and charms. Cultural fluency is also important. Translation is more
than simply switching a text from one language to another. The translated text has to
have the style and voice of the original text. It often has to translate meaning across
culture as well as language. Immersion in a language and culture is one of the most
valuable experiences a professional translator can have.
There are many ways to become multilingual – through schooling, living in different countries or being raised in a bilingual household. Most professional translators have formal post-secondary education, though. This might be a Bachelor or Master’s degree in a second language, a specialized degree in translation studies, or another degree not directly related to language or translation at all. It is common for translators and interpreters to have specializations such as legal documents, marketing materials, business documents or literature. A translator might fall into their specialization because they have education or professional experience in another field that ends up intersecting with their work as a translator.
Beyond a post-secondary degree, pursuing certification or accreditation is an important way to advance a career in translation. There are provincial, national and international professional organizations that provide certification and accreditation courses and exams for translators and interpreters. Becoming accredited by a respected organization demonstrates a level of professionalism, knowledge and skill that potential clients and employers look for.
Like in many professions, gaining experience can be daunting to a new translator but it is an important part of launching a career. Aspiring translators can gain experience by seeking out projects while they are in school, through internships, as well as freelance and volunteer opportunities. Entry level translation experience sharpens your skills, teaches you about the business of translation and allows you to build a body of work to show to prospective clients and employers.
Many professional translators are freelancers, so business skills such as marketing, accounting and client care are key to building a successful full-time career as a translator. Networking and marketing yourself will help connect you to new projects, clients and employers. Dedication and persistence are also important for anyone who is self-employed in a competitive field.
And finally, to grow and maintain a career in translation, professional translators must always keep learning! Once your career is established it can be easy to get settled in your ways, but it is important to keep up to date on new ideas, techniques and tools. Maintaining curiosity, a passion for the work, and love of language is even more important!