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Translation - an Ageless Profession

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Katia Spanakaki photoIt can be said that everyone smiles in the same language but we still need translators to make communication effective.

Translation is a creative profession, which requires an academic level of knowledge and critical thinking skills. It is about moving the soul of a text into a different body.

A good translator has a lot of experience and a huge passion and, like good wine, gets better with age.

The luxury of choice: Some translators work for organizations, others work for themselves. The working life of each is quite different, but they should be willing to work hard for their clients. At the same time, as independent contractors, they like to protect their personal lives and discourage clients from thinking of them as always available. A career is like a marathon; only by pacing yourself will you be able to retire with grace and poise.

Being your own boss: If you don’t have any work, make an effort to find work. Freelance translators, like most self-employed people, generally describe their work flow as “feast or famine.” You are either drowning in work, translating from dawn until late at night, trying to meet your impossible deadlines and fretting over carpal tunnel syndrome as you do so, or you are waiting for the phone to ring, praying to the patron saint of translators, St. Jerome, or perhaps the patron saint of lost causes.

Rules to live by: There are two rules in the translation profession that most, although not all, successful translators seem to follow. Rule number one: Work in the country of your B language. Rule number two: Marry a native speaker of your B language. These rules are not meant to be humorous. Translators in the U.S. typically make ten to twenty per cent more working into a foreign language as compared to translating into English.

How to succeed : First, hard work is very important to success. If you are not succeeding, you are not working hard enough. To be a successful freelance translator, you have to be good at both business and translation. Spend time marketing yourself—no matter how long you’ve been a translator, you’ll have to market yourself incessantly. Second: what’s the secret? In a word: Timing. Timing is everything in translation. Never submit anything late!

A passion for languages: Translators love languages and are already proficient in at least two of them. They enjoy the task of analyzing language for meaning and then transferring that meaning from language B into language A. They keep polishing their writing skills with great enthusiasm, and they are knowledgeable in a subject area that is in demand.

Working from home: Freelance translators are among those fortunate few who do not have to dress up for work. Conversely, translators have to sound professional at all times, regardless of the situation. In many businesses, a visual impression is the most important. A good suit, a proper haircut, a clean shave and the other professional accoutrements are essential to success. Translators don’t have to do this unless they work outside their homes or meet with their clients in person. Instead, we have to rely much more on what we say, how we say it in our oral and written communications, in order to create and maintain business relations. So, having good language skills is vital, along with a confident, polished manner and a strong sense of professionalism in what you say.

Money: Ultimately, business is about money, specifically profit. Business without profit is like dinner without food; it just doesn’t work. There are, therefore, only two rules in business: a) Get money as soon as possible, b) Keep money for as long as possible.

Timeless value: A professional translator is something of a package, combining a strong linguistic background with an interest in writing, as well as refined business skills. It’s an ageless profession with increasing importance in our global business environment.

Published - August 2013

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