The role of a translator is to communicate a message from one language into another – usually from the source language into their native language. As well as requiring knowledge of the source language, a translator must also be adept in their use of their native language to produce writing that sounds natural. In this post, we’re going to look at the road to becoming a translator.

How to become a translator – key steps in beginning your journey

Translators face a number of career decisions from the outset. Keeping in mind the changing political landscape due to Brexit, it’s worth asking yourself these questions when considering how to become a translator in the UK:

  • Do you want to be a freelancer or an employee?
  • What source language do you want to focus on?
  • Do you want to specialise in a particular industry?

Your answers to those questions will determine your lifestyle as a translator to a big extent. Now, let’s look at how to become a translator in order to make that lifestyle a reality!

Study the source language

Becoming an expert in your chosen source language in reading and comprehension is vital to being able to accurately translate a document. Your choice of language may well affect the availability of work. Common languages will almost always have work available, but competition can be fierce.

Regardless of your decision, seeking accreditation as a translator can provide you with both training and status. For those wondering how to become a translator in the UK, over a dozen universities offer postgraduate courses in translation.

Understand the culture of the source language

A key aspect of translation is being able to understand the context in which a text was written. Being mindful of the political, religious and social background of the text is important when translating into your native language.

Specialise in an industry

When looking at the options for becoming a translator, it is important to decide whether you wish to work in a creative field – translating novels, for example – or within an industry, or even if you wish to specialise at all. Some work requires an understanding of industry-specific terminology. Once you have decided how you want to work, building up your knowledge of keywords in both your source and native languages can support your expertise in that field.

Decide about the type of work you want to do

As we mentioned above, when you begin looking at how to become a translator in the UK, you can choose whether to work freelance or within a company. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Being a freelancer lets you work from home and set your own hours. Freelance translation also means needing to do your own marketing to find paying clients on a regular basis. Working within a company comes with a salary, as well as set hours. For some, the routine a 9-5 job offers can be seen as an advantage.

Build up a portfolio of work

In most industries that require proof of the quality of your work, building up a portfolio can help you find clients or an employer. This helps you determine how to become a translator full-time, as well as giving insight into whether freelance work might suit you – even in the short term.

A few short translation tasks can help you show off your skills as a translator and writer, and are worth accumulating as you begin your career.

Interested in pursuing a career in translation?

Have a look at our current openings and freelance opportunities.