What should you study if you wish to become a professional translator?
What degrees do universities and colleges offer?
Universities and colleges all over the world offer a wide range of translation relevant studies. Some of them will lead to a foreign language degree with a translation element, e.g. a BA (Hons) or equivalent in Modern Languages (Translating), others will completely concentrate on Translation. In the UK, for example, you have a choice of a BA (Hons) in Translating and Interpreting or a BSc (Hons) in Translation Studies or even a PhD in Translation (Swansea University). There are also postgraduate MA opportunities. Please visit our university guide for direct links to translation-related courses offered by UK universities.
What does a translation degree cover?
Translation degrees seem to concentrate on the following:
- Additional language acquisition to (near) mother tongue standard
- Translation theory
- Specific translation skills/techniques, e.g. literature, legal, scientific translation, software/website localisation etc.
- Cultural/historical background about relevant countries
What qualifications do you actually need as a translator, especially if working freelance?
I believe that the majority of translators work from home as freelance translators.
So where is the training in business skills that you will depend on when you become self-employed?
If you are planning to embark on a career in translation, make sure you enroll in classes on business management. So far Iolante has only found one university (Swansea) which offers a course teaching business skills for translators.
Iolante also believes that it is more beneficial for a future career in translation to combine your language/translating degree with studies in a specialist subject, be it in engineering, economics or one of the sciences. It will give you a vast advantage over graduates who have language qualifications “only”.
Other translation qualifications
If you don’t have a full language based degree, you can obtain the Chartered Institute of Linguists’ Level 7 qualification Diploma in Translation. The Institute is based in the UK but this qualification has an excellent international standing and can be sat in a number of European countries.
The Chartered Institute of Linguists also offers other language-related qualifications, e.g. the Certificate in Bilingual Skills and the Certificate in Languages for Business. What is more, it offers a series of workshops leading to a Business Skills Certificate. The course includes information on how to get started in the translation industry, deals with selling and marketing your translation services, covers aspects of financial management and makes you consider your continuous professional development. The workshops are an extension of the Working Successfully as a Freelance Translator series of workshops.
The best and most highly paid translators also have additional qualifications or degrees: in law, medicine, engineering, chemistry, and are true experts in their fields. If you don’t have a full degree, you will nevertheless need to develop specialist subjects you understand in depth. A variety of courses or home-study can help with this.