Becoming a Translator

Becoming a Translator: What Should I Study to Become a Translator?

The other day I received a question from a reader named April (from Trinidad and Tobago) wondering about what she should study in becoming a translator.

This was her question:

I have a passion for languages and I would like to become a translator and interpreter.

However, there is only one problem. I don’t know how and I’m not sure what I need to study.

Currently i’m pursuing a Spanish certificate at the Venezuelan embassy along with a diploma in Industrial Management. I’m really confused, though, because last week I went a college fair and the lady suggested that since I’m studying industrial management I should do a business management course and then use my language from there. I’m still lost, though.

Essentially, she wanted to know how to best structure her studies that would make the most sense in becoming a translator.

Here’s how I answered her question.

Best Course of Study for Becoming a Translator

Thanks for the question, April.

It’s not often that we get questions from language professionals in Trinidad and Tobago. I’m glad that you took some time out to write us a few comments. Hopefully, I  can help you as well as others by answering your question on becoming a translator.

So you want to be a translator or interpreter, huh?

Well, it’s a good thing that you’re starting with the most important part, which is the passion.

If you want to be a language professional, you really need to have a love of languages.

That is what will push you to learn more and improve your translation and interpretation skills.

Now, about your question on becoming a translator.

First things first, do you want to be an interpreter or a translator?

While there are some people that can excel at both translation and interpretation, you’ll probably want to choose one discipline and become an expert at that discipline.

Choosing one will allow you to focus on the skills necessary to become a professional, without sacrificing anything while trying to learn the other discipline.

Second, personally I think that it is a good idea that you are pursuing a diploma in Industrial Management.

The most successful translators are those that are specialized in a specific area.

By focusing on industrial management, you will better able to market your translation abilities to potential clients in the industrial management field.

You’ll be able to talk the talk of industrial management and have educational and real experience in the field. That is a huge advantage over a translator that doesn’t know the first thing about industrial management.

In terms of your visit with the lady from the college fair, she had a good idea as well.

A course in business management is always a good idea for freelance translators. In becoming a translator, you’ll need to know how to run your own business.

Anything you can learn about the following subjects will help you succeed as a freelance translator:

  • marketing
  • accounting
  • client management
  • sub-contracting
  • time management

Now, it could be that this is what she was suggesting. That you augment your plan for a degree in industrial management with a class on running your own business.

However, it also could be that she wasn’t thinking about you doing a career in freelance translation. She could have been suggesting instead that you use your bilingual language skills to compliment a career in business.

Obviously, that’s a different path than becoming a translator.

I can’t pretend to know what path she was suggesting. However, I will leave you with this thought. Take people’s advice with a grain of salt.

Not many people know or understand the career path of a freelance translator.

And even with that, no two paths are the same that lead someone to a successful career as a freelance translator.

Take the one that suits you.


P.S. Want more tips on becoming a translator? Read my book on Amazon.

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