Advice for Young Translators

Starting something new requires knowledge and bravery. If that something comes from personal desire and intrinsic motivation, it becomes a much easier task to accomplish. Regardless, blindly undertaking such responsibility can be troublesome without proper advice from others.

Today, we are going to be focusing on facilitating the starting process of any young translator. Of course, there is a lot for individuals to learn on their own, but we’ll do our best to provide some guidance for new translators, and it will hopefully make the entire starting process somewhat easier.


  1. Understand the business.

First things first, learning the business is an important aspect of starting anything. When it comes to translating, there are several options for you which you must explore before going any further. You need to be aware of the risk/reward ratio of anything you would do and compare it to your professional capabilities and personal desires. Translating literature is not the same as translating technical texts and it does not require the same amount of work for the same profit. For example, translating literature is often not that cost-effective. If you enjoy translating literature, be ready for the fact that it will not always be sunshine and rainbows, since it can take up a lot of time and additional research. But, ultimately, enjoying what you’re doing is what matters most.

Furthermore, figure out the differences between working for an employee and being a freelancer. This one is important. There are many differences between those two and you should see what works best for you.

All in all, learn about yourself and your intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, and act accordingly.


  1. Be prepared to work hard.

Despite what you have chosen as your business direction, it will not be easy. Sure, some days will be easier than others, but there will be harder days too. If you are freelancing, you might think that you can wake up whenever you want and still have a lot of free time because you don’t have a 9-5 job. On the contrary. Depending on the amount of work, there will be days when you’ll be working from early in the morning to late in the evening (including weekends) and you’ll still be cutting it close. On the other hand, when working for a company, you have your office hours and then you’re done. But, approximately the same amount of work will be crammed into your normal working hours, and you’ll end up exhausted for the rest of the day. So, whatever you choose, be ready to give it your best.


  1. Find a mentor.

When starting, don’t be too confident. Be aware that there are many things you can still learn and that you will learn every day when translating. Finding someone who can constructively criticize you is of the utmost importance. You also need to learn how to accept that criticism as something valuable to you, not as a personal blow. Translating means constant improvement and learning. It’s okay to make mistakes when you are a beginner, but it’s not okay not to learn from those mistakes.


  1. Check everything.

As we said, it’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s your job as a translator to give your best and minimize them as much as possible. It’s obligatory to check everything at least twice, if there is time. Distractions lead to mistakes, which is fine, as long as you detect and correct them before sending the translation. Our advice is, if possible, to sleep on it, and then come back with a fresh mind to reread it.

And, of course, always use a spell checker.


These are only some of the most important advice to get you started, but make sure to further look into what is needed to be a good translator. There are many books that might interest you, such as Translation in Practice: A Symposium by Gill Paul or How to Succeed as a Freelance Translator by Corinne McKay, among others. Make sure you network wisely, try out different translating tools to find the best one for you, set a realistic deadline when freelancing, and don’t shy away from a challenging project (within reason), because you will end up far more knowledgeable on the subject and you will be proud for doing it in the end.

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