A translator is one of the most specialist jobs in the UK job market. One of the great appeals of a translator is the fact that you do not necessarily need to have any formal translator qualifications before you start your job.
What is a Translator?
A translator is someone who translates one language into another. Translators are often called interpreters, however, there are some subtle differences between interpreters and translators.
While the role of a translator is generally to provide oral work, they tend to work more with written text. Interpreters, on the other hand, work orally and very rarely, if at all, work with written text, which means that a translator may often double as a copywriter.
Often, a translator will need to work audio pieces. It is common for a translator to be asked to provide subtitles for popular films or TV shows or other media. Those working for private companies may be asked to transcribe emails, relevant documents and presentations as well as help with translation services for foreign guests or trips abroad.
Some companies do offer translators training and development of their own, but as most translators tend to work on a freelance basis, it is usually carried out in your own time.
The responsibilities of a translator will depend on the company you work for. You will need to have an understanding of the various translation memory software and will also need to have a high proficiency in computer literacy.
The main responsibilities for a translator are:
- Reading through material, rewriting content and ensuring it speaks to the target audience.
- Using specific dictionaries and thesauruses for terminology and synonyms.
- Research the different phraseology required for translation.
- Liaise with clients.
- Proofread any work.
- Consult experts in specialist areas.
- Ensure that you are up-to-date with all industry-related jargon and software.
- Make sure you are familiar with all jargon and software for the industry you are working in.
- Follow quality standards.
The software you use is essential in this field. The most common industry-related software to use for translation are programmes such as: Across, Trados Studio, Transit NXT, Wordfast and memoQ. You will need to have proficiency in areas such as Microsoft Office as well.
Some translators have been known to work from home. Translators tend to write 2,000 to 3,000 words each day, with pressure and an intense workload near deadlines. While in-house roles are normally office-based, it will feature the same level of contact with clients. Most employees in this field are self-employed, and find it helpful to visit relevant countries in your repertoire every so often to keep your language skills relevant.
The translator salary depends on the company you work for. Generally, translators tend to work freelance and tend to have a rate that is dictated by them.
The rate you can charge people will depend on a myriad of factors. Your level of experience or qualifications will often be a very important factor for deciding the money you can realistically charge.
Translator pay in the UK varies, according to whether it is agency work or freelance work. Rates are often calculated based on the word count and are agreed by the client. Translators working with highly specialised texts, into or from unusual languages, will demand a higher rate than general translation. Translators make anything between £18,000 and £40,000.
Translators can take a job with or without a degree. A degree is generally preferred and is a better way of increasing your earning potential - some companies also require any translators they hire or outsource work to have one. Generally however, the most important thing you need to become a translator is to be able to speak two or more languages.
Whatever qualification you decide to go for is going to help in the long run. The most common qualifications for translators are:
- English Language
- English Literature
- Modern foreign languages
- Translation services
Students don’t necessarily need to have studied at a postgraduate level, however, they can be useful in the job market. A very common qualification to have is the DipTrans. This is an international qualification which is one of the oldest formal qualifications in this area.
The translation skills you have can be further honed through training and experience.
Training and development
Training and development will usually be yours to organise. Some companies do offer translators training and development of their own, but as most translators tend to work on a freelance basis, it is usually carried out in your own time.
The best way to begin your development is to become a member of a professional body. This means becoming a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) or the Institute of Translation and Interpreting (ITI), who run various development programmes for people looking to hone their skills.
Your training is also in your hands too. This means that you will need to keep your writing skills sharp. Many translators will often work as a copywriter or will take technical writing courses as a means of ensuring that their writing skills do not go to waste.
Software and programme training is essential as well. You can take online translator courses for any of the software that you will be asked to use for translation services. These services are being updated constantly and it is essential that you remain focused and up to date on any changes that may have been made to the programme.
A translator requires a number of skills. Before you can start looking for work, either as a freelancer or as someone looking for employment at a company, you need to make sure that you can cope with the demands of the job.
The most desired translator skills are:
- Ability to work to a deadline.
- Excellent attention to detail.
- Excellent grammar.
- Excellent writing skills.
- Fluency in two or more languages.
- Good knowledge of translation services and software.
- In-depth knowledge of different cultures.
- Proficiency with computer packages.
The translation skills you have can be further honed through training and experience. The more jobs you take on, the more skills will grow and the more you can improve on different aspects.
There may be other skills required depending on the industry you work in. If you work in a specific sector or area, you may be required to gain industry-specific skills as well as your general translation skills.
A translator is someone who translates one language into another.
It is possible to find internships or work experience placements through translation agencies. These are a way of testing yourself in the world of translation and seeing if you enjoy the job and is also a good way of forging industry contacts.
A lot of translators have previous work experience in other areas too. It is not uncommon to find work as a copywriter before you begin work as a translator, as this gives you more experience with writing, syntax and grammar.
Another good experience to have is to have lived in the countries whose language you speak. For instance, if you speak fluent English and German, then living in both England and Germany will prove very useful for you. It’s not essential and no translation service or company will ever demand it of their translators, but it is still a useful bit of translator experience to have, as it will give you an insight into the different cultures.
Your career development will be very varied. Translation careers can take you in many different directions. You will need to network at industry events in order to build new contacts. You will need to keep in touch with various professional bodies, not just to keep your skills up to date, but also to explore possibilities abroad.
Many translators go into the computer science realm of translation. As AI technology begins to evolve, translators are being relied upon more and more to help improve translation softwares and to help with machine translation. This does not require you to have coding or computer science experience prior.
It is also possible to go it alone. Many translators decide to set-up their own independent agencies for translation or work on a freelance basis. Freelance can be done at any time, however, setting up a company is generally best to start when you have a few years of industry experience.
Some translators have also been known to go into education. The ability to speak fluently in two languages means that you may be able to teach a modern foreign language to students or to potentially offer translation services for foreign students.