Do you love the English language? Are you looking for a job that will allow you to indulge in that passion? If so, a career in translation could be the answer. Working as a professional translator can be a hugely satisfying way to make English a crucial part of your daily life. As such, let’s look at some standard requirements for those looking to work as a language translator.
Professional translation: the basics
You can start a career in translation services – or indeed, in interpretation services – in various ways. One route into professional translation is through study. Academic qualifications are an excellent basis for a translation career. You can gain translation-specific qualifications, including bachelor’s degrees or master’s degrees in translation studies, as well as more general language degrees.
Academia isn’t the only route into translation. Provided you speak two languages fluently, you should find it easy to locate a translation company that will give you a chance. Then, it’s up to you to prove your worth. As with so many roles these days, you can also take to social media to enhance your career prospects.
Gaining experience as a translator
Working with a translation agency allows new translators to build up their skills and confidence. Many translators work freelance, which means building up their client base. Agencies can be a part of this.
Translators looking for long-term client relationships can benefit from:
- Registering with multiple translation agencies to maximise their sources of income.
- Approaching local companies in person.
- Setting up a simple website to demonstrate their expertise and help them advertise.
- Networking with fellow translators to offer holiday cover and support during busy periods.
A realistic look at professional translation
Translating for a living has many advantages. Those who work freelance can set their hours, work from wherever they choose, and take holidays whenever the mood takes them. Of course, there are disadvantages too. Freelance translation, like many other freelance careers, can mean peaks and troughs for work – the peaks can be stressful as there’s too much to do, while the troughs can be stressful as there’s not enough money coming in.
Thankfully, there are practical steps that you can take to help ensure that your translation career runs as smoothly as possible. These include:
- Setting up a work-related bank account to ensure that sorting out your finances at year-end doesn’t turn into a massive time drain.
- Hiring a professional accountant for the same reason!
- Using an invoicing software to track which client owes what at any given time.
- Networking frequently to ensure that you have contacts to call on for more work during lean times.
- Using freelancing job board sites (like Upwork) to pick up jobs during quiet periods.
Translation services: how much do you earn as a translator?
Before you embark upon a career in translation, it’s essential to know what you can earn. The University of Exeter reports that newbie translators in the UK earn £18,000-£21,000 per year, rising to £30,000 or more for those with experience. In the US, the average salary is $40,000 per year.
Many factors determine how much you can earn. If you speak some of the most common languages, you’ll have greater competition, which can drive your rates down. If you translate English to Spanish, for example, you’ll find yourself competing for work against countless other English to Spanish translation professionals. The same applies to the language pairing in reverse: Spanish to English translators will find the internet awash with Spanish to English translation experts.
However, that’s not the whole story. The reason that so many people translate English to Spanish (or vice versa) is that there’s a considerable demand for that language pairing. So don’t despair if you want to work as a Spanish translator – there’s plenty of competition out there, but also plenty of opportunities.
Of course, you don’t need to translate the most spoken language in the world or even one of the most spoken languages. After all, there’s unlikely to be a considerable amount of competition for jobs translating from Khoe to Miwok. Specialising in less spoken languages means that your competition will be vastly reduced so that you can command higher rates. Just bear in mind that there will be less work available.
If you’re looking for more on language pairings before studying for a translation or language qualification, it’s well worth googling “What languages are in high demand for translators?” before you make any life-changing decisions!
Keeping your love of language alive
You might love the English language now, but what about when you’re spending hours every day translating dull documents for clients who pay late? It’s easy to let that love slip, so be sure to take positive action to keep your love of English alive. Examples include:
- Watch a movie in your second language.
- Play language-based games – everything from hangman to board games can help here.
- Branching out. The whole interpreter vs. translator debate, for example, is well worth considering.
- Network with fellow linguists online to discuss obscure grammatical points and interesting language facts.
Do you know, for example, which are there only three English words that end with ‘gry’ or what ‘triskaidekaphobia’ means?
If you love the English language, translation could be the career for you. Just make sure you keep your passion for language alive by finding new ways to learn and enjoy it!