There are various courses offered by numerous universities and...

Before pursuing a career in translation, it’s a good idea to think...

The process of transferring written text from one language into...


What are the skills required?

1. Professionalism: Ethics are very important in translation. You need to know when to preserve confidentiality, and when to refuse a job because you are not competent to do it, unlike this linguist.

2. Networking skills: People think translation is a solitary activity but in fact translators often work in virtual teams, revising each others' work or sharing big projects. Project managers have to manage big teams of translators. Freelancers have to meet and attract clients. People skills and playing well with others are a must! Marketing and advertising your work is also going to be very important when working as a free lanceer.

3. Attention to detail: There's a bit of the pedant in all translators. If you've ever ground your teeth when you see a wrongly used apostrophe this profession might be for you! Translators need great revising and proofreading skills. This blog will take you through the most common grammatical errors! For some hints and tips on proofreading, see here.

4. Flexibility/adaptability: Translation is a fast-changing profession and translators have to be prepared to pick up new skills and offer new services such as transcription, copywriting, post-editing.

5. Organisational skills: Translation is a very deadline-driven profession. You need to be able to meet deadlines and organise your time effectively. Initiative is important, too.

6. Writing skills: This is extremely important. Translators are professional writers. For this, you need to know your own language perfectly: grammar, vocabulary, style. Reading voraciously helps, and so will writing practice such as blogging, student journalism, creative writing. Even the little things like spelling are important. Spelling is really important for translators; bad spelling can give a really bad impression to clients. For those of you who think you know it all, try the ultimate fiendish Oxford dictionaries spelling test.

7. General knowledge: General knowledge is very important for translators. It can help you pick up mistakes in texts. This translator watches the news every morning because current affairs may come up in her work.

8. Analytical skills: Translators are the best readers that a text will ever have. They need advanced analytical skills to understand how the source text works, so that they can reproduce this in their translation.

9. Research skills: Translators may get very different texts to translate from one day to the next and may have to pick up specialised vocabulary quickly. You learn where to find out about cereal and cylinderheads, fish and foot and mouth disease. You may find yourself 'phoning a friend' too! Exemples of specialised glossaries like this one may be found online.

10. Subject knowledge: Any skills you have can be turned into specialised subject knowledge to help you. It might be law, medicine or mechanics, but it could also be a personal hobby, such as a sport. Think about subjects you know really well, and think about how you could get to know them in your other languages too.

11. Curiosity: Curiosity is one of the best attributes you can have as a translator. It will help you to learn new skills, research unfamiliar subjects, look up unfamiliar words you come across, spot potential problems with translation jobs and really get to the heart of what your clients want.

12. Excellent knowledge of the foreign language: You need to be able to read widely and easily in your foreign language and understand not only what it says, but what it really means – not always the same thing! Lots of practice reading, watching TV and films, listening to radio in your foreign language(s) will help.

13. IT skills: Translation is a very IT-driven profession these days; translators use email and a wide range of general and specialised software for word processing, file formatting and translation memory retrieval. Software develops fast, and translators need to be able to keep up.

14. Picking up new ideas quickly: When you're a freelance translator you can never tell what kind of text will drop into your inbox. What are the different topics that these translators find themselves translating on any given day? Look at this video if you want to know more about a career in translation.

15. Good cultural awareness: This is very important. Language isn't just about language but also culture. There's a big difference between the 'banlieue' [suburb] in France and 'suburbs' in the UK. In France the 'banlieue' are often associated with poverty, social housing and deprivation. Even though it's technically not the 'real' meaning, 'banlieue' might be better translated by 'inner city' in English.

16. Love of reading: Translators are professional writers who need to be able to write well. Wide reading is a must for developing really good writing style. Read good novels, good-quality journalism (great for your general knowledge too), history, popular science – the more, the merrier. Some translators even get paid for reading books for publishers and commenting on whether they would be worth translating.



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National Network for Translation

Routes into Languages,
University of Southampton,
Avenue Campus,
SO17 1BJ, UK

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