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Is translation a dream job? Requirements for future translators

If you wish to become a translator, you should not only be interested in  languages but also enjoy the intermediation of a translator. You must also be able to work carefully.

Good school grades in foreign languages such as French or German are definitely helpful, but your grades for your native language are more important. If you have difficulties in English or are only at a satisfactory level, you may want to rethink your professional aspirations.

Many translators do not just use Microsoft Word or Excel to process their translations, but also so-called CAT tools (computer-assisted translation) such as Trados or Wordfast. These aids support the translator by recognising words and clauses which have already been translated, thus enabling the translator to work more efficiently.

Internet research is also now a part of a translator's job. Unlike in the past, it is easy to find references in the internet or to obtain background information on customers and competitors.

Since translators only actually work into their native language, the most important skill for a prospective translator is an excellent mastery of his/her mother tongue. Nonetheless, excellent foreign language skills in working languages and extensive knowledge of the cultures and histories of the countries in question are indispensible. Translation skills - often underestimated by the average person - are crucial to being a good translator. It is also not enough to have a perfect mastery of a language; you must also know the point of a translation. For exampe, an important criterion for a good translation is that the reader does not realise that it is a translation, i.e. the text must appear to have been orginally written in that language.

Depending on the type of text you wish to translate, you can specialise during your studies on a subject area, such as law, finance or medicine. In such a field you must build up a solid basic knowledge, because it is often impossible to provide a good translation without being able to understand the text and having knowledge of the relevant technical terminology.

A translator is expected to have good communication skills with clients. The translator is permitted to ask clients for clarification if parts of the text are unclear and cannot otherwise be understood. Otherwise, translators often work either alone or in small groups. As a translator, don't expect to have a lot of contact with colleagues.