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Training Translators: Some Frequently Asked Questions about the Training Process

Tutorials » Training Translators: Some Frequently Asked Questions about the Training Process

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training translators

One of the fastest growing industries is that of Translation. As Common Sense Advisory calculates that the market for outsourced language services is worth US$33.523 billion in 2012, and that the language services market is growing at an annual rate of 12.17%. So for someone considering going into the business of providing translation services, now seems like as good a time as any to start.

But as a new translator, undoubtedly certain questions probably come to mind: Don’t I need training? And what does training consist of? How do I get training, and how long would it take? Of course all of these are great questions, but the answers may be different than what you might expect.

So let’s look at some frequently asked questions about translator training.

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  1. Does training have to be at a university?

Traditionally speaking, many translators get their training at the university level. There are many degree programs and academic classes geared towards professional translation. Even though it is a rapidly expanding field, competition to make a living as a translator can sometimes be tough, and having a degree under your belt can certainly help get your foot in the door.

However, many translators are still trained on the job or simply learn from experience. There are also many short-term courses you could take to learn the basics and go from there. In the end, it’s up to you what level you feel you need to be the best you can be at your chosen profession.

  1. What does the training have to cover?

In order to translate, you must have many various skills. Just some of them include, reading skills, writing skills, computer literacy, terminology management, DTP, accountancy, various translation programs, translation theory, area studies, and various subject areas in order to be familiar with the subjects you will be translating.

That being said, as a translator, you do not need to use all of these all of the time. Depending on the type of translation services you want to provide, you can pick and choose what you want to develop. You may find that there is a particular subject you want to focus on and become an expert in. In that case, there will be no need to learn, say, legal translation if you want to make your living translating medical text. Regarding the different programs, you can always learn as you go, picking up training as the need presents itself.

  1. Is there one job market for translators?

You may think that once you receive your training, you are ready to start looking for that full-time job at a company somewhere. However, that is usually not the case. The job market for full-time translators is actually pretty small. Usually translation needs come about at random times, and most companies and individuals will not want to keep someone on staff full-time if they only require their expertise some of the time.

Therefore, the best method to make a living as a translator is by offering freelance services. That way, you can have many different clients and many different projects to keep you busy. One of the perks of this is to also be able to pick which projects you want to take on.

  1. Is translation training the same as language learning?

While fluency and language skills are certainly needed to be a good translator, they are more mutually exclusive than you may think. Translation involves more than just literal translation. It involves interpreting as well. Meaning is derived from more than just the words on a page. It involves context, shared experience, previous knowledge, and inference. A good translator must understand the meaning of the original text, and convey it in the same way in the target language.

In the end, language learning must be a part of the training process, but it isn’t even close to being all of it.

  1. How has technology helped the translation process?

Like every other sector, technology has certainly changed the way translators work. Many translation management tools have been developed over the years, including translation memory software, terminology and content management, DTP programs, and certainly now more than ever, an increasing need for website translation.

While it is certainly useful to learn how to use these tools (as they can make your job much easier), they do not replace the basic translation process. Oftentimes you will receive documents that aren’t compatible with these programs and you will still need to be able to translate them the old fashioned way. More than this, most programs tend to limit the interpretation factor of translation that was mentioned in the previous section, returning the translation practice to word-for-word translation. So think of these tools as being there to help you when they can, but they should not be used as a crutch.

In the end it is up to you to decide what you want to learn, and moreover, what you need to learn for yourself. Experience always trumps direct instruction, so stick with the basics until you decide for yourself where you want to excel.


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Tutorials » Training Translators: Some Frequently Asked Questions about the Training Process