5 things translation students might not realise about the industry

Being a professional translator is a very specific career. It takes much more than just the linguistic knowledge, no matter how advanced, in order to be successful in this industry. Although each year a large number of students graduate from language related courses and hope to take the industry by storm, they are, too often, hit with the harsh reality of working as a translator.

Although a school/university can prepare the young linguists to a certain point and give them a good insight into the industry, in reality, it is only through actually working as a translator that a person will be able to realise and determine whether this is something that they wish to (and are able to) do professionally. Indeed, it is a well-known fact among linguists that only people who truly love the job will be able to keep up with it.

Keeping the recently graduated linguists in mind, as well as those who are thinking about becoming a professional translator in the future, we have created a short list of aspects which your degree or course might not prepare you for.

1. Competitiveness

Although the fact that the translation industry is competitive isn’t a secret, many newly qualified or registered linguists do not fully realise just how competitive. This can be especially true for linguists covering document translations of some of the more popular languages such as French, German, Italian, Polish or Spanish.

Linguists working in these common languages compete based on a number of factors, not only price and accuracy, but also their in-depth knowledge of a given subject/sector or turnaround times. Due to such competitiveness, it is essential that translators create a good working relationship with clients or agencies as in many cases this will allow them to receive continuous work in the long term.


2. Difficult to start

One of the biggest challenges for newly qualified linguists is establishing their name within the industry and finding reliable and trustworthy customers, whether working independently or directly with a translation agency. Before a customer/agency puts their trust in your expertise, you’ll have to prove to be an expert translator within both; linguistic and sector knowledge.

There are many ways in which you can do just that. A good place to start is this blog where you can learn in-depth strategies and ways to create your personal brand, which will ultimately allow you to become a successful translator.


3. Responsiveness matters

Translation industry is an extremely dynamic place. Here, turnaround times and responsiveness really matter and can make a big difference to the amount of work a linguist receives. Making sure that you are able to respond to your clients swiftly is essential as in such competitive and highly qualified environment clients often work on ‘first come, first served’ basis.


4. Extremely busy

Translators who manage to establish their name within the industry and find reliable clients are often flooded with work. Although this is what many aims for when starting their translation career, more experienced linguists will be able to tell you that oftentimes this can be a real problem. With tight deadlines and work piling up, being able to successfully manage workflow can be a great virtue for any translator.


5. Good idea to specialise

When choosing a translator for a particular project, often, linguistic capabilities are one of two key aspects considered by clients or translation agencies. Expertise within a particular sector, whether legal, marketing or medical, is the other. Translators who specialise in a particular area and can demonstrate their in-depth knowledge are greatly appreciated.


6. You must truly love what you do

As you can see, being a professional translator can be challenging, especially for the newly qualified linguists who are only just starting their professional journey. Although rewards for the most talented and reliable translators can be fantastic, the challenges of the job can take a toll and make you question your career path. This is the reason why only people who truly love what they do will be able to work as a qualified linguist in the long-run and progress through this career.