The Qualities And Skills You Must Have to Become a Translator

Oct 09, 2017

Content the qualities and skills you must have to become a translator

There are more skills to become a translator than simply speaking and writing  more than one language. The field of translation is growing, and there’s opportunity to make quite a bit of  money. That doesn’t mean this is a job for everyone. Keep reading for a list of skills you need to become a good translator.

Cultural Knowledge

Good translations skills require cultural understanding. Remember that you aren’t simply taking words in one language and writing them in another. You have to retain the meaning and sentiment behind them.

Sometimes that can mean going in a different direction altogether. Let’s say you’re translating a landing page for an investment company from English into German. The content on the English page is very very effusive and enthusiastic. It also uses lots of baseball lingo; ‘We can take your capital and earn a homerun!’, our investment advisors ‘Hit it out of the park!’.

Without knowledge of German culture you might simply provide your client with the word for word translation. However, you might approach it differently if you did have that knowledge. For example, you might suggest that such enthusiastic phrasing may not be a hit with a more reserved, German audience.  You might also be able to suggest words and phrases that the new audience would find more relatable than baseball references.

The Ability to be Flexible

One of the primary skills you need to become a good translator is flexibility. Keep in mind that you will be working with clients from all over the world. Oftentimes, that means dealing with them on their terms and their schedule. That’s not a task for the weak, when you consider that’s multiple time zones.

In addition to that, you need to be able to pivot from one job to the next, and switch gears quickly. You may wake up one morning prepared to work on an ongoing project translating travel documents, only to be pulled from that project to deal with some urgency relating to a business contract that a client realizes they needed done yesterday.

Good Financial Management Skills

While some large, international firms may hire translators full time, the majority of work is done by freelancing. If you have experience freelancing, you know that you have to manage your finances carefully. You may not be paid at the same time each week or month, that depends on the translation agency. You may not be paid the same amount.

This is why one of the skills required to be a translator is financial management, and budgeting. The better you are at saving money and being prepared for leaner months, the more likely you’ll be able to sustain a long term career.

Industry Knowledge And Specialization

If you know how to speak and write multiple languages, that’s a great start. There are a lot of jobs out there for those who want to learn how to be a translator at home. These are often very general assignments.

While the pay for these can be quite n ice, the significant money comes into play if you can specialize, or if you can work in specific industries. You can start by becoming a certified translator. Next, develop skills in particular industries and specializations. If you can translate business contracts, engineering specifications, software manuals, etc there’s a lot of work waiting for you.

Self Motivation

This is independent work. Once you know how to become a translator online, your next step is staying motivated. You won’t have a boss or coworkers to keep you on track. You have to be able to get up, stay focused, and get the work done.


Do you have what it takes to be a translator? If so, you are preparing to enter an exciting and lucrative field!