Are You Sure You Can Be a Translator?


The idea of writing this post appeared during one of my ordinary proofreading projects when I had to correct other translator’s mistakes.

Today translation market is overcrowded with translators and all of them claim to be professionals. At the same time every now and then we see awfully translated manuals, menus, brochures, let alone more serious specialized texts which can be really dangerous if translated erroneously. Sometimes I have to select a team of translators for a specific project and I look through many resumes and test translations. And every time I get very surprised why so many people with higher education in linguistics and translation do their job so bad!

I remember that starting from my school years I have been from the human sciences league. I loved languages, history, literature… But the Russian language was my favorite.

Not English or French, but my mother tongue. I love its melody, I love reading clever texts written in a good style with beautiful grammatical structures without any mistakes. That is why I adore my job — translation from foreign languages into Russian. It is a real pleasure to feel yourself a certain kind of co-author when you think over phrases and sentences in order to make them perfect. Due to the same reason I do not translate any projects into English or French apart from civil documents. I am honestly sure that I would have been able to feel these languages deeply only if I spent several years in any corresponding country and used foreign languages intensively every minute of my life in speaking, writing, reading — all the time.

All these ideas have induced me to tell a few words to future or beginning translators. Just two important things:

  1. Never ever think of going to the translation industry if you are not in love with your native language!

You may know a foreign language rather well and you may be even a narrow specialist in some interesting field, but if you are lazy about your mother tongue, you will never become a top echelon’s professional translator. If a proofreader or editor has to correct a bunch of elementary punctuation or spelling mistakes in your translation, then it is worth thinking about changing your job. Or you may try to master your knowledge: rarely but people may pull themselves up and reach unprecedented results.

2. f you are a translator already, don’t stop learning!

If you want to be competitive, get profitable projects, and gain respectable clients, you should never stop learning new things and mastering your skills. Have your finger on the pulse of the latest technologies in your professional sphere, deepen your knowledge in your fields of expertise, learn how to promote yourself and how to lead business ethically — and you will be respected by your colleagues and customers.

These two statements may seem obvious, but many newbies and sometimes even experienced translators forget about them. The result is that there are too many incompetent specialists on the global market.

Dear friends, dear future and present colleagues! If you see yourself only in translation business and nowhere else, please be professionals from start to finish. Together we can take on the world!

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