Which skills do you need to be a professional translator?

January 7, 2016
Which skills do you need to be a professional translator?

Professional translation has a distinctive skillset. Obviously an aptitude for languages is a prerequisite, but there are a number of other skills that will determine how well suited you might be for a successful career as a professional translator. Here we explore some of the key skills required. 

Excellent language skills

It’s not enough to love languages – you also need to have a flair for them. To succeed as a professional translator you need to have excellent grammar, be proficient at spelling and have a feel for the way that different languages flow. These are all skills that can be learned, but certain people undoubtedly find them easier than others and it is those individuals who seem to be naturally geared towards careers in translation. 

Attention to detail

There’s no denying that translation is a detailed task. It requires the ability to focus and excellent attention to detail. If your friends describe you as picky or pernickety, you may well have a flair for translation! 

Translators need to not just recall perfectly the languages that they translate, but also to maintain continuity throughout the document that they are working on, even if that work is spread across several weeks. This isn’t something that everyone can do. 

Skills for freelancers

There are some additional skills that freelancers need if they are to succeed as translators, over an above those of office-based works. The ability to motivate yourself is essential, as freelancers don’t have anyone else there to make sure they get the work done accurately and on time. 

Freelancers also need to be able to manage their time carefully, as the faster they can translate, the more they can earn. 

An affinity for marketing or sales is also helpful for freelance translator, as it will help them to market their services and build up their client base. 

Final thoughts

Which other skills do you consider to be essential for translators? Which aptitude has most enabled you to excel? Let us know via the comments. 

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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