The opportunities for career growth in the translation field are undeniable. Given the global nature of business in the 21st century, companies and organizations of all types are in need of highly skilled translators. And although machine translation programs do exist, they do a shoddy job compared to human linguists, so there doesn’t appear to be any slowdown in the growth of the translation field anytime soon.
If you’re interested in taking advantage of these career opportunities, there are some skills that are absolutely necessary in order to succeed as a professional translator.
Fluency in languages
Obviously, you can’t be a translator without being fluent in at least two languages, and preferably more. Not only should you have the ability to speak and write different languages, but you should also be familiar with the popular jargon used in those languages and have a thorough understanding of word usage. Take online or college courses. Although it’s possible to teach yourself a language, it’s always preferable to be formally trained in order to become thoroughly familiar with the mechanics of a language. Many employers will look for someone who is a native speaker, so the ability to accurately translate documents into your native tongue is a definite advantage.
All good translators are also good writers. If you feel as though your writing skills are weak, it’s worthwhile to take a writing course at a university or community college. It’s also important to become familiar with some of the most commonly used style guides. There are a variety out there, and which ones you’ll use will depend to a great extent on what industries you choose to work in. Academic organizations often prefer The Chicago Manual of Style, for example, while many in the legal profession prefer the New York Style Manual. Familiarizing yourself with style guides and improving your writing skills take time, but these skills are absolutely necessary in order to succeed as a translator.
Focus on your area of expertise
Employers and clients in different industries want translators who are subject-matter experts. There are good reasons for this. Often, the language used in professions such as the medical industry or the legal field is specialized and not easily translated unless it is clearly understood by the translator. Ideally, your area of expertise should be a field in which you’ve actually worked. If that’s not possible, take the time to educate yourself by reading books and trade journals from that industry. Take courses – either online or at a local university or community college — that will provide you with a better understanding of the field. Whatever you do, don’t misrepresent yourself to a client. Be totally honest with regard to your level of subject-matter expertise and don’t take on projects that are too challenging to begin with.
It takes time to develop the skills you’ll need to succeed as a professional translator, but given the number of career opportunities in this field, it will be time well spent!