Many professional translators and translation agencies are asked what qualifications are required in order to become a professional translator. Is being bilingual enough? The answer to this question is ‘No, it’s not enough! Of course being bilingual is a great skill, but being fluent in another language means that you’re able to speak, comprehend, read, and write in that language at a high level – in fact, you must have as much knowledge of the language as an educated native speaker. Being fluent in the language is just one step to becoming a professional translator. And, just like every other profession, it requires experience, lots of practice, and ongoing training. The path to success is different for everyone, but here are some guidelines that may help –
Having Credentials Helps!
If you want to become a professional translator you need to get some sort of certification or accreditation, because credentials provide the documentation that’s required to prove that you have the skills to translate professionally. If you do some research, you’ll find that there are many universities out there offering advanced degrees and professional certifications in translation. Find out if your state offers accreditation programs for translators, because being certified through one of these organizations will ensure a listing on their website directories – and it’s here that your potential clients will find you. Understand that certification is not a prerequisite to becoming a successful translator, but it’s a really good place to start!
Take a Language Proficiency Test
There are language proficiency tests you can take to show potential clients that you’re fluent in your second language, and of course, it looks great on your resume. A well-known proficiency test is the DLPT (Defence Language Proficiency Test). This test is used by the Department of Defence in the United States in order to assess the language proficiency of native English speakers in a specific foreign language. Again, go online and find a language proficiency test that best suits your situation.
Get as Much Experience as You Can
In order to climb the ladder of success, you have to gain experience. Most people began their work career working entry-level jobs and doing internships, and becoming a professional translator is no exception. It’s absolutely vital that you gain as much experience as you can so you can get recommendations and show samples of your work to potential clients. If possible, take classes in translation, and look for work opportunities on campus, volunteer work, or wherever you can gain some experience.
Start Marketing Yourself
Now that you’ve got your credentials and you’re getting lots of translating experience, you need to start marketing yourself and your translation skills to government agencies, language agencies, police stations, hospitals, law firms, and any other business you can think of that may be able to use your services. In general, translators work for their clients on a contract basis, and not as full-time employees. Make sure your resume is up-to-date, and you have your rates list ready. Not having an established rates list is the first tell-tale sign that you’re not a professional, so make sure this doesn’t give you away! If you’re not sure what to charge, either contact other translators or check out professional translators’ websites to see what they charge. Many professional translators have their own website, with an active blog, and you might like to consider joining an active community of online language professionals.
Never Stop Learning!
Have you considered specializing in a specific subject? Are you keeping up with industry trends? Are you familiar with and comfortable using translation memory software? Translating is a very competitive industry, but many others have achieved success and you can too. Just remember to always keep your knowledge and skills up-to-date, and never stop learning!