Anyone who is fluent in a second language might be tempted to think translation is a good career choice. However, this is not necessarily the case. Just because you can speak a language doesn’t mean you will make a great translator. There is more to it than that. To help you decide whether translation is the right career path for you, here is a quick guide to the skills you will need if you are considering becoming a translator.
Attention to Detail
Translation work is very meticulous. This is not a career where you can afford to skip over the details or dip in and out of a piece of text. Translators have to have a high attention to detail. If you get a few key bits of text wrong, it could be disastrous, particularly if this is an important document or web page.
Being a translator means sitting at a desk or computer and concentrating for long stretches of time. This is not a social job, so you won’t be wandering in and out of meetings, chatting on the phone, or meeting customers. For the most part, you will be working alone, just you and a piece of text. You have to be comfortable working like this, or translation work is not going to suit you one bit.
How Deep Is Your Knowledge?
There is a big difference between spoken and written language. You can be fluent in Japanese, French, or any language without necessarily having a good understanding of grammar. To be a good translator, you need to be proficient in spoken and written language. All languages have their idiosyncrasies and unless you have a good understanding of the many subtle nuances you will come across, you might misinterpret things.
You also need to have a deep understanding of the language you are translating into. Otherwise you will make the wrong choices for sentences and the original meaning will be lost in translation.
How to Develop Your Skills
It takes time and effort to develop a good working knowledge of a second language. Living and working in the country is easily the best way to become fluent in a language. The more time you spend there, the deeper your understanding of the language will become. It will help you enormously if you read books, newspapers and any other content in both languages, as this will develop your vocabulary. Being able to speak the language is not enough if you want to be a great translator.
Have regular conversations with native speakers and learn the nuances and slang words you might not come across in books. Experience of the language in all areas is very important.
Choose Your Specialist Area
There are many different areas of translation services. Decide which area of translation you want to work in and do your research. For example, if you decide you want to translate business documents, you may need a good technical vocabulary in both of your target languages.
If you do decide to become a translator, consider studying linguistics, as this will give you a good grounding in the skills you need.