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You’re Bilingual, and Want to Work in the Language Industry - Part 2: Written Translation Services
January 30, 2018
Para-Plus Translation DelawareIn our first article in the "You're Bilingual and Want to Work in the Language Industry" series, we focused on tips for people who were looking to develop oral interpretation skills. While some of the information mentioned in the first article, such as language assessment, background checks, professional organizations and certifications, are applicable to all areas in language services, we will be shifting our focus here to specific traits needed for written translation services.

Translation work is one of the oldest professions in the world. Written translation has been a key in connecting continents and cultures for thousands of years. For example, the Bible has been translated into thousands of languages and dialects, from the Middle Ages all the way into present day. Written translation work not only can be a lucrative profession, but it can also be rewarding in terms of being a conduit to the understanding of information that was once believed to be inaccessible.

Back to Basics

Before you can become a good translator, you must first be a good writer in your own native language. It's a very simple premise but one that often gets overlooked. There is a reason why machine translation has yet to take over the entire industry. A might equal B, but it could also equal C, D or F. For as simple as a translation may seem to be, a good translator can often lament over word choice, flow, syntax, etc.  There is a skill and an art to being a good translator. Honing your native writing skills will allow you to be more effective and efficient in the selection of your translation choice.

Find Your niche

A lot of linguists are confident in their ability and think they can work in a wide range of subject matters. Part of the issue is that a lot of your competition is thinking the same thing. Specialization in a specific subject matter not only enhances your knowledge and accuracy of your translation, but can also help differentiate you from other linguists. For example, having a legal background will give you a distinct advantage regarding terminology and procedures of legal pleadings.

You may initially think you are limiting yourself by focusing on a particular subject matter but a resume that states a specific area of expertise catches the eye more often than a generic one that states they can translate anything. A language company may not have a daily need for a linguist like that, but will be sure to hold onto that resume for future projects. When it comes to providing linguistic work in a particular area you want to establish yourself as "that person." If you can create that niche for yourself, you can become more proficient in your work, while developing yourself as an expert in that field, thus increasing the worth of your services.

Tools of the Trade

The most basic but essential translation tool in the modern era is a word processor. While there are many platforms available to use, the most prevalent is Microsoft Word. Many people can open Word relatively easy and compose a simple document, but learning about its full functionality can be a valuable skill set in your translation repertoire. Understanding and utilizing all of Word's available features can increase your translation efficiency and make you stand out above your competition.

While two documents may look the same when printed on paper, how it is constructed can greatly improve or hinder the translation process as a whole. A translator who has mastered proper formatting techniques is easily noticed by a translation company and will be taken into account when being selected for future translation assignments. The less a translation company has to clean up a returned translation, the happier they will be. Proficiency of such features can include but are not limited to:

  • Leading and kerning
  • Line spacing
  • Margin
  • Styles
  • Line, section and page breaks
  • Font selection
  • Search and replace

Translation Memory (TM) software is also becoming more of a necessary tool for those looking to enter the industry. Translation memory is essentially a database that will store translation pairs or units to be recalled when it finds similar pairings in future documents. Translation companies use TM software to improve consistency, increase speed and reduce errors in translation projects.

While the topic of TM software can be covered in its own article, the basic learning premise is just like in our previous example. While having a basic understanding of TM software can get you by, fully understanding the software's capabilities can greatly improve your desirability to translation companies.

  • When researching translation companies, find out what TM software they use. If you utilize a different program, figure out ways to complete work in a compatible format.
  • Understand how your software effectively manages different file types (e.g. MS Word, Excel, HTML, XML, etc.)
  • Learn how to set up, organize and manage your TM software to increase your proficiency and effectiveness with it.
  • Take classes to learn new or more advance features of your software.

These are just a few tips for linguists who are looking to get into the translation area of the language service industry.

Stay tuned for the last article of our series, where we will look at ideas that incorporate aspects from both interpretation and translation: transcription.