I want to be a translator. Where do I begin?

I want to be a translator

Translation is a passion, of that there is no doubt. This job is so much more than a pay cheque, and those who choose this path love languages above all else. Despite the growth in translation apps and automatic translation, there is still a growing demand for language professionals who can provide quality, professional translations. Are you thinking about becoming a translator, but don't know where to start? This article will certainly help you.

 What exactly does the job consist of? 

Technically, interpreting and translating are two different professions. While both professions require the mastery of a foreign language (in addition to your mother tongue), interpretation involves spoken communication while translation is written. As such, the work of a translator focuses on translating written texts from one language to another. In this article, we will focus on professional translation.

In general, translators translate from the source language into their native language. Although a translator must completely master the source language, they usually only translate texts into their native tongue, as the resulting text will flow more naturally. For example, if a native English translator is fluent in Spanish, they will translate from Spanish to English. For this reason, it is of vital important to work with native translators, as the result will sound far more natural, as though it isn't even a translation!

Translators specialise in a wide variety of fields: technical translations (carried out by engineers from different disciplines), medical translations, marketing translations (by translators who are specialised in different branches of marketing), legal translations (lawyers who are also qualified translators), and so on. Any sector that uses language to communicate may need a translator.

Translators often work on their own as freelancers. However, it is also possible to work as an in-house translator for translation agencies or even directly for a single employer. This offers translators the flexibility to decide whether they are looking for a steady job or whether they prefer to manage their own timetable.

Requirements for a translator

In a previous article, we explained that being bilingual is not enough to make you a professional translator. If your dream is to become a translator, the first thing you will need is extensive knowledge of your native language, as this will be your target language. You need specific training in languages. The best way to achieve this is through a Translation and Interpretation degree, which is offered by many universities. Another valid option for training as a translator and interpreter is to study any other university degree and then follow up with a master's degree in translation. This can offer a significant advantage: specialisation in a specific field, comprising knowledge of the subject matter alongside specific technical language. For example, if you have a law degree followed by a master's in translation, you can specialise in legal translation.

Fluency in an additional language

First, choose a language and cultivate a deep understanding. Translation work is carried out in almost all living languages. Naturally, more work is available for the most common languages. However, as more professionals know these languages, there is also more competition. Although there may be fewer translation assignments in less common language pairs, knowing these lesser-known languages can help you to stand out among the crowd and give you access to jobs that are more niche.

Once you have chosen your language, you will have to study it until you reach a degree of fluency similar to a native speaker. To do so, it can be useful to live abroad for an extended period in addition to studying the language in order to achieve a high degree of fluency. The studies you have chosen may also help you to differentiate yourself. The more language training and experience you have, the better.

 The importance of specialisation

Translation is, naturally, based on specialisation. We, as a translation company, do translations for sectors such as fashion, medicine, banking, manufacturing, etc. A translator who specialises in fashion, for example, should never translate a medical text, unless they specialise in both fields. It is incredibly challenging to change the subject field from one day to the next, with everything that this entails in terms of the terminology and phraseology that is specific to each field, the technical knowledge necessary to understand such different and complex texts, and any other problems that are specific to each speciality.

Our translators specialise in a single field and are experts in it. This guarantees the quality of the translations, and hence the importance of having translators specialise in them. Because of this, we are convinced that the future of most translation professionals is a matter of specialisation. These days, it is no longer enough to know another language perfectly and master translation techniques and programs. This all matters, of course, but we believe that an in-depth knowledge of a certain field (medicine, finance, law, engineering, architecture, computer science, biology or any other) will become increasingly important when it comes to carving out a niche in the market and being able to make a living in this beautiful profession.

Acquire more experience

One of the cruel ironies of translation, and sadly this applies to most professions, is that experience is often required to get a good job. But there's a rub: how can you get that experience when you don't have experience?

The answer is easier than you might think. Working as a freelance translator is a relatively easy way to acquire the desired experience to add to your CV. The first jobs may not be as well paid as you might like, but as you continue to work and your experience grows, you can increase your rates.

New technologies can become your allies

Expertise in new translation technology: Gone is the image of a translator with pen and paper in hand. Computer-assisted translation is part of our profession and the presence of new technologies continues to grow.

Learn more languages

In addition to specialisation, if you want to stand out even more amongst your peers, you could consider learning more languages from which you can translate, and thus expand your services.

For example, imagine that you have mastered Chinese and can translate between Chinese and English. Then, imagine that you could add Spanish into the mix. Then, you could translate from Spanish into English or from Chinese into English. Your job opportunities would multiply!

Other requirements to be a translator

Alongside a mastery of languages and extensive training there are some further skills, whether innate or acquired, that are important in order to shine in this profession. Let's take a look!

Good writing skills

A translator must write well in different styles and registers, while also possessing an analytical mind which enables them to detect possible incompatibilities and choose a translation that is fitting at all times. In addition to the ability to write well, a good translator must be concise and clear to avoid cluttering up their translation.


How could we forget the intellectual curiosity that a professional translator must demonstrate for their subject?

A translator does not need to know every word they come across; it is more important to understand and know how to use the resources at their disposal (glossaries, databases, etc.) to back up their choices and provide responses to any queries that may come their way.


A professional translator must be precise with their language and committed to improving the quality of their work. A professional translator should not change the meaning of their text because it "sounds better". They consider their target audience every step of the way.

Finally, to ensure the quality of the translation, a translator should always carry out a thorough review of their work. Potential errors should be identified and rectified. Furthermore, a good translator ensures that the presentation of their translation is flawless.


Organisation and punctuality are vital in this profession. A translator knows their own rhythm and how long it will take them to complete a new translation. Thus, they can ensure that they are able to complete the project on time or even early. It is no use being a good translator if the translation is submitted after the client's deadline.

Last but not least, a professional translator must be a decisive person with an entrepreneurial spirit. They must be able to respond to unexpected projects. Interpersonal skills such as good communication and teamwork are also very important.

Are you interested in joining our team of translators? Let us know! Register.🙂

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Written by ATLS

Translation and digital marketing agency
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