Thinking about a career in translation? Read through these top tips from Web-Translations’ qualified and experienced translators.
Guest post by Georgina Cornforth
1) Master your mother tongue
According to Web-Translations’ linguists, the best way to start is by mastering your mother tongue as much as possible. Translations should have smooth, uniform and consistent usage of language, which is not possible without a good foundation. If you will be translating into English, bear in mind that the English language has over 170,000 words currently in use!
2) Join online translation communities
Online translation workplaces are a fantastic way of finding potential jobs and getting your name out there. The most popular one is ProZ.com, where freelance translators can respond to job offers from outsourcers around the world. Although there is the option of becoming a paying member on the site, it can still be used without cost to a relatively good standard. Translatorscafe.com is also highly recommended by freelancers. Create your own web page (this can be done for free on ProZ.com or WordPress for example) and a portfolio for yourself so that people can find your services more easily.
3) Be professional
Never deal with translation as a secondary job (even if you have another job and translate part-time). Respond to emails promptly and courteously. Become a member of associations, participate in important events (conferences, workshops), and have a good online presence, remembering that your twitter account can be seen by potential clients; think of your online presence as a shop window, and always be professional.
Many translators recommend specialising in different fields, as this can enable you to develop the specialised terminology and understanding of particular subject areas required for a good-quality translation.
5) Manage your time wisely
Time management is crucial to finding success in the business. Rushing to meet a deadline can often greatly affect the accuracy of a translation, so keeping on top of jobs is always advised. Greek translator Alekos Psimikakis feels that when you deliver translations on time, clients can be sure that you are trustworthy and may be more likely to use your services again.
6) Don’t put all your eggs in one basket
It’s a popular phrase used by a lot of translators, but it’s true. Try to work for multiple clients and don’t just depend on one or two. Work is not always guaranteed on a regular basis from the same client and you can go from only receiving a few sentences to translate one week, to a 5,000 word translation the next. Whatever job you are given, remember to be dedicated and to do it to the best of your ability – a client will be more likely to recognise your hard work.
7) Use CAT tools to help you out
Translation software (CAT tools) such as SDL Trados Studio and MemoQ are very popular and are now being used by the large majority of translators as they greatly speed up the process of translation. Multilingual translator Sabine Sur believes that CAT tools are particularly useful when working in a specific field or for certain clients who reuse the same terminology, as well as providing glossaries (containing single terms) and translation memories (often containing whole sentences). They can be expensive, but you will be sure of delivering quality work to your client.
8) Never stop learning
Language is constantly evolving and translators need to use correct and up-to-date terminology for the target audiences of their translations. Researching any terms you are unsure of when doing a translation is important, but continuing to learn about your key subject areas, as well as other related areas, is equally important.
“As translators, we deal with all kinds of subjects and, even if you are specialised in some subject, let’s say, legal, for instance, you may need to translate a contract in sports, or civil engineering, oil & gas, IT. This means you should take as many courses in different areas as you can, and read every kind of material you come across.”
– Adriana Sobota, Brazilian translator
9) Invest in your health
If you plan to work as a freelance translator, working from home can be harder than it sounds. It’s easy to fall into a routine of bad habits, such as not eating properly, working all night and becoming sedentary. Create a work/life schedule, making sure you have time to eat, sleep and enjoy life, as well as work. Establishing good health habits and giving yourself a comfortable workspace with an ergonomic chair are essential for increasing your productivity as a translator. Noise cancelling headphones may become your new best friend!
10) Don’t panic
If you have a difficult job, try not to panic. Spanish translator Mónica Monzonís suggests using forums on websites such as wordreference.com and proz.com to voice your queries and get the opinion of fellow translators or native speakers. Speak to your Project Manager early on if you are really struggling, and feel free to ask them for help understanding difficult terms in the source language. If the Project Manager doesn’t know, they can check with the client.
11) Understand the writing style
Try to imitate the style of the source text when translating – is it sarcastic, serious, humorous? It’s easy for a concept to become ‘lost in translation’, so aim to keep the intended style of the text by translating phrases and ideas rather than word for word.
Thank you to our fantastic translators for the helpful tips! We appreciate you taking the time to help us put this list together.
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