5 Steps to Becoming a Professional Translator

Step 1: Get Certified

The first thing I tell people who want to know how to become a translator is to get some sort of accreditation or certification. Having credentials provides documentation that you have the skills required to translate or interpret professionally.

Step 2: Get Tested

Another resume builder is to take language proficiency tests such as the Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT) or other language proficiency tests to show potential clients that you are indeed fluent in your specific language.

Step 3: Gain Experience

The next step is to gain experience. All of us have had to start out doing internships or working entry-level jobs in order to climb the ladder, and the language industry is no exception. If you’re enrolled at or live near a college, take classes in translation / interpreting and look for opportunities to perform translation or interpreting work on campus for various departments. It is crucial to get experience where you can show samples of your work to potential clients and get recommendations.

Step 4: Market Yourself

After getting credentials and some experience, it’s time to market yourself to law firms, police stations, hospitals, government agencies, and language agencies that may need translators or interpreters in your area. Most translators / interpreters work for clients on a contract basis, not as full time employees. A great way to market your services is to start a website or blog and join the active community of online language professionals. Also, make sure you have your resume and rates ready! The best indicator that an aspiring translator or interpreter is not a professional is when they have no idea what their rates should be! If you don’t know what rates to charge, call other interpreters and translators and find out what theirs are.

Step 5: Keep Learning!

As you progress as a translator / interpreter, there are other areas to consider as well. What specialized industry or industries can you translate or interpret for? Do you keep up with industry terms and trends? Are you computer savvy and knowledgeable regarding translation memory software?

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How much does localization cost? Getting an estimate

Once you have located potential vendors, you must communicate your
needs to them (typically to their client account manager). As you
begin your discussions, the vendor representative should pose many
questions to you before trying to send you an estimate of the project.
Preparing your information in concise, easy to follow units makes this
transfer of requirements easier. Once each potential vendor has the
information they need, an estimate can be generated for you so that
you can pick the lucky winner.
So now, armed with a bunch of estimates—how do you make heads or
tails out of them? Comparing one bid to another is not an easy task. It
is tempting to accept the offer of a few bids from different vendors and
then to simply go with the lowest bid. Resist that temptation! Take the
time to investigate each vendor’s services thoroughly. Here is a list of
questions you can use to interview a potential vendor:
• What is your company’s area of specialization?
• How do you qualify your linguists?
• How will you manage my project?
• Will I receive status reports on my project?
• Who will be my primary contact during the project?
• Do you have the necessary hardware and software to
efficiently handle my work?
• Have you managed projects like mine before?
• How do you assure quality?
• Will you develop and maintain a terminology list specific to
my project?
• How are changes handled during the course of a project?
• What is your record for delivering on time?
• How accurate are your estimates?
• Can you provide me with references and examples of similar
completed projects?

How much to localize

How many components of your project really need to be localized? The
answer could be anything from “not much” to “all content over all
product components.” In many cases, timeline or budget
considerations may dictate the amount of content to be localized.
However, you must weigh the impact of not localizing content. In
choosing NOT to localize certain products you could run the risk of
offending consumers in a foreign market by not providing information
in their language or, perhaps even worse, you could be restricted by
customs and other regulatory agencies from distributing products that
are not localized for the target market. In fact, given the current trend
towards globalization of our world economy, it is prudent to consult
with the appropriate authorities regarding the legal implications of not
localizing some or all content.

Differences between “Globalization, “Internationalization”, “Localization” and Translation

Differences between “Globalization, “Internationalization”, “Localization” and Translation
There is much confusion as to how the terms “globalization,”
“internationalization,” “localization,” and “translation” should be
used. These terms are thrown about in the press, by product
developers, by marketing departments, by product management and
by the localization vendors themselves in myriad ways. Yet
understanding these terms and their corresponding processes is a
critical first step in product development. You may run into people
using these terms in different ways, but here is how we define them:

• Globalization:
The process of conceptualizing your product
line for the global marketplace so that it can be sold anywhere
in the world with only minor revision. It is most easily thought
of as your global marketing strategy and is associated with all
marketing concepts (branding, establishing market share and
the like). Globalization is particularly important in consumer
industries such as clothing and food. Anyone can drink Coca
Cola or wear Levi Strauss jeans, for example.

• Internationalization:
The process of engineering a product so
that it can be easily and efficiently localized. Engineering can
take the form of something as basic as document layout, for
example, to the more complex enabling of software to handle
double-byte character sets. See the sections on Writing for
Localization and Engineering for more details on how to
internationalize your products.

• Localization:
The process of customizing a product for
consumers in a target market so that when they use it, they
form the impression that it was designed by a native of their
own country.

• Translation:
The process of actually converting the written
word of a source language into the written word of a target
language. Translation is a crucial component of localization.
These four terms fit together as a “bull’s eye” diagram. Globalization
envelopes the entire concept of taking your product line global.
Internationalization is performed so that the product can then be
localized. Finally, translation is the “base” component of the entire
process as it represents the language transformation.