6 Tips to up your game as a Freelance Translator

by Ruth Brown

Becoming a translator is more involved than simply being able to speak two languages. Whilst being bilingual is an advantage, further training and accreditation are required if you want to become a qualified interpreter.

To start your career:

1. Get Professionally Certified in your region

Depending on where you live, you should obtain certification from the relevant authority. In the US, the American Translation Association (ATA) looks after interpreters, from accrediting to maintaining a register of qualified translators.

Other agencies include:

2. Decide on area of specialisation

It is difficult to be good at lots of things. Choosing an area to specialise in will mean a honing in of your skills.

The area you choose to specialise in should relate to your professional knowledge, a degree you have, another related experience or an area of interest to you.

3. Continually improve your skills

To provide the best translation service, you need to continuously work on not only maintaining your language skills, but improving them.

There are two types of languages in translation: the source language, and the target language. The source language is the original language of a document and the target language is the final language the document is to be written in.

Usually, a translator will need to ensure they are up to date and improving their source language, assuming they live in the country of their target language.

You should:

4. Pick up more languages

Deciding to learn a further language is a personal choice.

Remember you don’t want to take on too much. Think carefully before you throw yourself at the mercy of more study, leaving less time for work.

It can be difficult to decide which other language to learn, particularly if your aim is to pick up more work.

If you do decide to learn another language, make sure you choose one you want to learn, as we all learn better if the subject area is interesting.

5. Triple check your work thoroughly before delivery

Before submitting your final work, double and triple check it for quality assurance. To get repeat work, you will want to submit your very best work and not poor quality.

On your first check, look for obvious spelling mistakes. On your second check, look for grammatical errors. Read each sentence carefully to be sure it is grammatically correct.

On your final check, be sure to read each sentence for accuracy. Does the sentence say what the source sentence was meant to convey? Only submit work after you have thoroughly checked it over.

6. Avoid being blacklisted

Getting a bad name as an interpreter can have the effect of becoming blacklisted and not getting more work.

To avoid this, make sure you:

Being a qualified interpreter is more than just translating. It can be a rewarding career with much variety and interesting work coming your way if you take the time to become accredited and maintain a high standard of work.

About the writer

Ruth Brown is a Canadian by birth, and has been working Hong Kong for the last 12 years. At this moment she is working as a freelance translator and editor at Translation Service Hong Kong. Last but not least she is an adventure seeker who loves diving.


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