How To Become A Translator Without A Degree

Who doesn’t want to be a translator? It’s a cool job and you get to travel, right? But how do you become a translator without a degree? The answer is usually: Get a language degree! However, there are other ways starting with language immersion programs, community-based translations and pro-bono volunteer work.

We often think that to become a translator, you need years of classes and a college degree that will require thousands of dollars. IT’S A MYTH. I will show you exactly how to become a translator without spending any money on tuition – yes, it’s possible. I will reveal my technique in this article.

Are you seeking a career as a translator and are not sure how to go about it? Do you want to get fluent in a foreign language but don’t have time for classes? This e-book is for you, then. It will guide you step by step into the world of translating, without having to spend years on college courses. With this e-book, you can become a translator within just two months’ time.

The internet gives the possibility of becoming a translator without a degree, to bet a freelancer, working at home and setting one’s own schedules. The type of need for this service is so popular that there are many websites willing to help you become a translator without a degree by offering you online translator courses or even giving direct access to hiring companies. It is important to be aware that some websites are nothing but scams and ask for money for providing no services.

The demand for translators is growing at an astonishing rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and it’s easy to see why. A translator has the opportunity to work with people from all over the world, learning about different cultures, customs and languages. The pay is excellent for this type of work, often translating into six-figure salaries for top-level translators.

Are you looking for a freelancing career in translation? While working for translation agencies is certainly one option, if you don’t have an undergraduate degree in translation or language studies, there are other options that can help you get started. You might not believe it but by using your English (or even Spanish) skills in business, advertising, marketing and journalism you can break into the industry with relative ease.

Collegelearners is replete with up-to-date information on translation jobs without certification, how to become a Spanish translator, how to become a translator UK, how to become a translator in Canada, translation jobs without certification, and so much more. Be sure to visit our catalog for more information on related topics.

how to become a freelance translator without a degree

You may be surprised to learn that many of the world’s biggest and most prestigious translation companies take on translators with absolutely no prior experience. They have found that native fluency in a foreign language and knowledge of the target language make up for any academic shortcomings. Becoming a translator was on my mind when I was teaching English part time at a local university. Then one day I read an article online about some guy who became a high-earning translator without any training; I decided to find out how he did it, and then write a report on the processes others could use to replicate his success.

If you want to become a translator, the best and fastest way to do it is to learn a language and immediately start working as a freelancer. You don’t need to attend a language school or pay for expensive university translation courses.

Get a Qualification Outside University

A lot of people don’t know this, but there are other types of qualification outside the academic sphere that are specifically designed for translators.

While not necessarily cheap, these are substantially more affordable than an MA.

The best example is the DipTrans Level 7 diploma, offered by CIOL. This is probably the highest qualification a translator can get in the UK outside university.

Keep in mind that this sort of qualification, just like a university degree, is also not a compulsory step. It should make things easier for you down the line, but you may also decide you first want to try without it.

Start Getting Experience (Pro Bono)

If you want to become a translator without a degree, you have to be a translator. Simply put, you need to translate and gain experience at it.

The experience paradox is a problem every new starter has to face. After all, how are you supposed to get work experience when your lack of experience is precisely the main hurdle that prevents you from getting work?

Luckily, translation is an area with plenty of opportunities in that regard, largely thanks to the internet.

Building a Translation Portfolio

There are many ways you can start translating content online on a plurality of subject matters. And the best thing is, you can start doing that today.

However, you need to be prepared to put a great deal of work and effort upfront. It may take you 1 to 2 years to build a decent translation portfolio that will convince clients to trust you.

Note that a ‘translation portfolio‘ need not be an actual document or folder where you ‘pile up’ all the translations you’ve done. It’s more of a concept: it accounts for all the experience you’ve acquired as a translator.

Eventually, it will allow you to play your cards with an ace up your sleeve. You’ll be able to approach potential clients as someone who:

  • has been translating for X years
  • has translated X thousand words from language A to language B
  • has experience in translating content in subject matters X, Y and Z

It’s very unlikely you’ll manage to get any paid work at this early stage. Remember, your goal for now is to build experience as a translator, so you need to be prepared to work pro bono for a while.

How To Become A Translator Without A Degree

1. Study your source language extensively.

First, you must select a language and study it extensively.

There’s translation work available for nearly any living language, and there’s an argument to be made for learning virtually any language you can name. Naturally, there’s more translating work available for the most common languages.

However, since more people know these languages, there’s also more competition for work. While there may be fewer jobs for less common languages, knowing one could make you stand out from the crowd and give you access to jobs that fewer people can perform.

2. Get specialized training.

The fact is that even if you’re fluent in a language, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have the skills to translate.

Being able to provide clear, efficient translation often requires specialized training in addition to language study. Here are some options to consider:

  • American Translators Association (ATA) offers a list of approved schools that can help prepare you to work as a translator.
  • ALTA Language Services has a list of top translation schools in the United States.
  • Looking for a brief course that will give you a taste of the translation industry? Future Learn offers a translation course taught by experts from Cardiff University and the University of Namibia. You can take this course for $69 if you’d like to earn a certificate. However, you can also access course materials for up to six weeks at no charge, which is a great opportunity to see if you have enough interest in the field to continue pursuing it.

3. Get certified

A certification in translation is an easy way to show you have the skills necessary to do the work.

ATA offers a certification that gives you a special designation (“CT”) that you can use with your name on your resume, website, business cards and/or other promotional material.

Additionally, there are industry-specific certifications available, though these are often targeted at interpreters. For instance, the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters offers a “CMI” (Certified Medical Interpreter) credential.

4. Target a specific industry and learn industry-specific terms

Once you’re fluent in a language, you’ll also want to target industry-specific terms for whatever field you’re interested in working in.

Merely being fluent doesn’t always provide the relevant terminology you’ll need to translate, so you’ll need to put some additional focus into industry-specific terminology.

For instance, you might consider studying words that are particularly necessary in medicine, business, government or education. There are several ways to do this.

5. Hone your computer skills

A lot of translating requires using specific computer programs. This is meant to make the translation process quicker and more efficient. Common programs used by professional translators that you might want to familiarize yourself with include:

  • Memsource
  • Wordfast
  • memoQ
  • SDL Trados Studio

The linked websites can give you a brief introduction into the capabilities and interface of the programs. You might also consider subscribing to get more firsthand experience with the programs.

6. Get some experience

One of the cruel ironies of translating and most other career fields is that to get most jobs, you already need work experience in the field, leaving you with a conundrum—how do you get that experience in the first place?

The answer is simpler than you might think. Contract or freelance work is an easy way to get some experience to add to your resume. Your first few gigs might not pay as well as you’d like, but once you get more experience under your belt, you can usually get more and more compensation for your services.

7. To further grow your career, learn more languages

If you want to make yourself even more marketable, you might want to acquire more languages that you can translate between to expand your range of offerings.

For instance, let’s say you’re fully fluent in Chinese and can translate between Chinese and English. However, what if you also managed to add Spanish to your range of offerings? Now, you could translate from Spanish to English or Chinese to English.

Eventually, it’s possible that you might even be able to translate into Chinese and/or Spanish, thereby multiplying your potential translation options and making yourself more employable.

what degree do you need to be a translator?

Although interpreters and translators typically need at least a bachelor’s degree, the most important requirement is to have native-level proficiency in English and at least one other language.

how to become a spanish translator

Do you feel that you are a perfect fit for a Spanish translator job? Read on to see how you can make it happen.

1. Become Fluent (or Advanced) in Spanish

This is a very obvious requirement, but you will need to have an excellent grasp of the Spanish language if you want to become a translator.

Before you check off this step, you should test your Spanish. It is easy to misjudge your own level of fluency so it is crucial to get an honest opinion. To do so, you can take a proficiency test to find out where you stand.

You should be ranking at the highest level of proficiency if you intend to become a Spanish translator. If you are not there yet, then do not continue onto step two just yet. Instead, keep working on your Spanish skills until you are at a more advanced level.

A few good ways to improve your proficiency include strengthening your vocabulary skills, working on your understanding of Spanish grammar and just reading more in Spanish.

One of the best ways to learn Spanish fast is by using the authentic content on FluentU. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You also get access to flashcards, vocab lists, interactive subtitles and personalized quizzes that evolve as you learn. It is an entertaining method to immerse yourself in Spanish the way native speakers really use it, while actively building your vocabulary and language skills.

Most translators specialize in a specific area of translation, like health or business, so their knowledge of a single area of vocabulary is comprehensive. If you have a translator career in your sights, it is a good idea to choose your specialty early on and work toward improving your vocabulary and general knowledge of that particular area of interest.

Read Spanish blogs, news reports and anything else you can get your hands on regarding the area of expertise you want to have. You can even begin to train your mind to think like a translator by converting some of the Spanish content you find into your native language.

It may take time, but with a bit of work, you can reach the necessary level of Spanish proficiency to start working on the next step.

2. Get Certified

Some employers require at least a bachelor’s degree in Spanish or specifically in translation. However, many places will accept a certificate of proficiency, as well.

This is especially true if you are interested in translating in a field that you have experience with—for example, if you worked as a nurse for a few years, you might have better luck getting a job as a translator for a healthcare service even if you do not have the relevant degree.

To get certified, you will need to take a special program. These are offered in many places around the US (and worldwide) so check your area for opportunities. If you are located in the US, two good programs to look into are offered by the University of North Georgia and the University of Massachusetts Boston.

One of the most common certificates of Spanish competency is offered through the American Translators Association (ATA). This professional organization certifies translators through a test, which costs $525. The results are accepted by many employers as official proof of competency in the language.

But there is a catch: In order to qualify to take the exam, you must be a member of the ATA for at least four weeks. So if this is something you are considering, then get registered with the organization soon!

If you are not sure whether you are prepared for the exam, then you might want to take a practice test. Practice tests also come at a cost but you will receive your test back with the errors marked so you can use it as an opportunity to see what areas need improvement and adjust your studies accordingly.

3. Boost Your Resume

As you begin to explore translator jobs, you may realize that most require extensive experience. Luckily, this experience does not need to be paid work and there are many places that would welcome your translation services as a volunteer.

Check with a local nonprofit organization, a religious institution or even the nearby school—these are all places that could always use a translator and many would be happy to allow you to practice with them as they will also benefit from this. It is a win-win situation!

Another way to get practice and experience is by translating articles on Wikipedia! 

You can also try working or volunteering within the sector in which you are interested in doing translation work. Remember that this kind of experience is also useful.

4. Apply to Jobs

The last step is not as easy it as it sounds. As with any other industry, landing a job as a translator can be a difficult task, especially if you are a beginner.

Keep in mind that you will likely have to start with an entry-level job and work your way up to a better position over time. If you are working as a freelancer, you might have to take some lower-paying jobs first. Any experience is something you can add to your resume, which will lead to better and better offers—so stick with it!

how to become a translator online

Typically, a bachelor’s degree and at least three years of experience is required to become a translator. However, the most important requirement is to become fluent in at least two languages. Here are several steps you should take to become a professional translator:

  1. Become fluent in another language
  2. Get specialized training
  3. Become certified
  4. Target a specific industry and learn the terminology
  5. Gain work experience

1. Become fluent in another language

To become a translator, you must master a second language. You may have an advantage if you grew up in a bilingual household, though you can choose to study a language extensively through schooling. Starting in high school, choose a language to study and continue coursework throughout college. Earning a bachelor’s degree in your chosen language is ideal to become a translator.

You should have a strong understanding of the languages you work with, including grammar structure, specialized terminology and cultural awareness. It can also help to study your own language to explain how it works and understand how non-native speakers may approach it.

2. Get specialized training

Even if you are fluent in a language, you’ll still need to develop some translation skills. In addition to language study, being able to produce clear and accurate translations often requires specialized training. Many colleges and universities offer specialized programs that can help prepare you for a career in translation. The American Translators Association offers a list of these schools, programs and other helpful resources for pursuing this career path on their website.

3. Become certified

Translators are not required to obtain a certification to offer translation services, but obtaining a certification in translation demonstrates that you have the skills necessary to do the job and may help get you noticed by employers. The American Translators Association offers certification in 29 different language combinations that give you a special designation of Certified Translator, which you can use on your resume. It may also help to obtain certifications in a field you are interested in translating. For example, becoming a certified paralegal may help you get a job in the legal field as a translator.

4. Target a specific industry and learn the terminology

Once you become fluent in a language and have decided on a field you want to work in, you will need to familiarize yourself with industry-specific terminology. Having an understanding of the relevant terminology will be helpful when translating for the area you want to work in. For example, if you are interested in the medical field, you may want to study medical terminology in order to become a better translator.

5. Gain work experience

Like many other jobs, getting a job as a translator requires having related working experience. Offering contract or freelance translation services is one way to gain relevant experience for you to include in your resume. Another way to gain experience is by doing volunteer work. Many community organizations and hospitals offer volunteer opportunities for translators. Paid or unpaid internships are another option for gaining relevant work experience.

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