Minimum requirement: Professional Translating Qualification or MA in Translation
While fulency, in-depth knowledge and an understanding of at least one other language and the associated culture are the prerequisites underpinning all translations, they alone are not enough to become a professional translator. In the UK, the designation “translator” is not protected and you do not have to have a formal qualification to call yourself a translator. In reality, however, no company will employ you and no translating agency will give you work, if you do not have a professional translating qualification such as a post-graduate level Dip Trans or an MA in translation.
Some aspiring translators may have moved to a country and mastered the new language to a level comparable with that of a native speaker. They may have been brought up bilingually – the danger there is that the parent(s) teaching the child over time will lose touch with the living language, thus teaching the child an outdated version. For this reason it is important for a translator’s language skills to be verified through a formal process and for translators to join a professional translators’ association. There are plenty of low paying agencies who will take on unqualified translators, but no reputable agency will do so.
Ideally a translator will have lived in a country where their second language is the first language. They will have met local people and experienced their thought processes and reactions. If translating commercial documents it would be advantageous to also have experience of the foreign work environment and a country’s individual culture. And remember, although German is spoken in Germany, Austria and parts of Switzerland the cultural differences in these three countries are vast!