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What does the job of a translator involve? Is it possible to work online?

Working as a translator is associated primarily with long hours spent at a translation agency, a pile of documents and many diplomas confirming the professional’s qualifications. Nevertheless, remote work for translators is becoming equally popular. What are the duties of a translator and what do you need to become one? Is work as a remote translator as effective and desirable as a full-time job?

Working as a translator: scope of duties

The job of a translator is mainly associated with translation of documents as well as interpreting. However, it is worth noting that the scope of possible obligations involved in this work is much wider. There are different translation specialisations, and each requires slightly different interests, competences and preparation.

Translations are divided into the following categories:

certified (sworn) translation – these names are used interchangeably. However, in both cases the point is the same: it is a written translation of official documents and interpretation for the needs of state authorities (e.g. during interrogations or court hearings);

interpreting – most often performed live. Interpreting can be divided into two categories: simultaneous (e.g. at conferences) and consecutive. In the first case, the interpreter is in a special booth and interprets the speakers’ statements in real time, while the participants of a meeting, conference etc., can hear everything in their own language through headphones. Consecutive interpreting also includes live interpreting, however, longer speech is involved therefore the translator usually takes notes;

audio-visual – a translator specialising in this field deals with the creation of translations for films, videos, TV shows and other productions of this type;

localisationcontent localisation is quite a demanding field of translation. The translator must not only know the language perfectly, but also adapt it to the target group, taking into account the industry to which the translation relates. Content localisation is a very important component of a marketing campaign conducted on a foreign market. Content that the translator works with in this area relates to the language of software, applications or websites;

specialised translation – a specialised translator must have a perfect command of the industry language, e.g. in the field of medicine, law or finance. Primarily documentation (contracts, company statutes) is translated, as well as operating manuals or technical specifications of devices and equipment, patient information leaflets or financial statements;

literary translation – in this case the translator deals with the translation of books and other literary works.

Who can become a translator?

As you can see, working as a translator therefore covers various professional duties. The requirements set before such an expert depend primarily on the type of translation. For simple translation, e.g. of short stories, it is sufficient to have a very good knowledge of the language and its good sense, however, for example in the case of certified or specialised translations, knowledge of the industry-specific language is absolutely required.

Working as a translator without a university degree

Generally speaking, it is not necessary to have any specific degree (language studies, linguistics) to become a translator. Performing simple translations, such as non-literary books or content for websites (translating sections “about the company” or entries on a corporate blog) does not require certification. The most important aspect here to have a very good knowledge of the language and commitment to your work.

When does a translator need a specific degree?

Not holding a diploma or a specific degree may, however, be an obstacle if you wish to work in the profession of a translator. A degree in a particular field is obtained at a university or college and a diploma in such a field opens another door to a career. In addition, a diploma or even a certificate confirming the knowledge of a language at a given level makes you more credible in the eyes of potential customers.

So if you want to do translations just as your additional work and you know the language very well, there is nothing to prevent you from it and there is no doubt that you will find projects to work on. However, if you wish to have a professional future in translation, it is worth considering professional education supported by diplomas.

Remote work for a translator – is it a good idea for a profession?

Can a translator work at home? Although it is not very popular yet, there is definitely a future for online translator jobs. In this case, written translation is involved.

Working as a translator via the Internet is neither more difficult nor easier than if it were done in an office. It differs in the form of finding projects to work on as well as contact with the customer. Everything is done online with rare face-to-face contact.

A translator who works remotely has basically three paths to choose from:

• working as a freelance translator who accepts projects offered to them by customers or translation agencies. Such cooperation is most often based on civil law contracts;

• working for a translation agency – in this case, translators may be employed under a contract of mandate or for a specific work, or cooperate with such an agency as part of their own business (B2B cooperation);

• running a business – self-employment (similar to a freelance translator).

All of the above solutions have their advantages and disadvantages. A freelance translator who seeks clients on their own, lives working from project to project. Usually, such a person performs tasks on the basis of a civil law contract, which does not give them the right to take paid days off or other benefits resulting from being employed on a full-time basis. Cooperation with a translation office or an agency that associates freelance translators (including those who manage their own business) provides greater stability. Also, running your own business does not guarantee the continuity of orders or expected earnings to be achieved.

Working as a translator: what else should you know?

If you are looking for a job as a translator and associate your professional future with it, the investment in your development will pay off quickly. Specialised studies as well as additional certificates will allow you to climb the next level of your career.

The job of a translator does not only involve freelancing, managing own business or full-time employment in a translation agency. Even more interesting activities await a highly qualified person with considerable experience, such as:

• working as a translator at a publishing house;

• working as a translator in the European parliament,

or working exclusively in a given company, e.g. a transport company, conducting international trade or providing other services requiring communication in different languages.

The most difficult aspect of the translator’s work is to start on your own – to source your first projects and form a good opinion among clients. If you want to try your hand at this profession, working as a translator on behalf of a translation agency that associates freelancers is a good option – not only at the beginning, but also on a daily basis.


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