Steps on how to be a good translator

Steps on how to be a good translator

Being a translator, while it may seem easy at first glance, is actually not as simple as it may seem. The reality is, there are lots of things that you will have to keep in mind and put utmost consideration, should you decide on actually pursuing this kind of job.

To ensure that effective communication among people with different spoken languages would greatly depend on you. The quality of communication could actually either make or break ventures, and be the key to success in just about every discipline.

Being a translator means that you play a vital role, especially when it comes to work places that have people coming from different parts of the globe. If you want to be one of the best translators that could be hired wherever needed, here are some steps on how to be a good one:

Be Proficient in at least 2 Languages

This is one obvious requirement if you want to be a translator. For people who are studying language, this is not a difficult matter, given that language or linguistics majors would study multiple languages and drawing out comparisons with each one and making use of similar trends in morphologies, and other lexical categories in order to facilitate the learning process.

In the United States, apart from English, it’s ideal to learn Spanish and Chinese, both of which are the next most widely-spoken languages. You are at an advantage if you belong to a family of immigrants coming from Chinese or Spanish-speaking countries, given that parents and the immediate family tend to switch between these languages at home. Other widely-spoken languages which may be worth studying include Filipino, Korean, German, and French.

Enrol Yourself in a Quality School

Education would most definitely open your mind to a lot of things. The school you would be enrolling in would most definitely have a huge impact on how well you’d turn out as a translator. Enrolling yourself in a physical, or actual school is best rather than solely relying on online tutorials to help you learn a language.

Some of the schools which offer language learning programs include Middlebury College, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of California, Stanford University, Yale University, among others.

Some of these schools are home to more than 40 programs for various languages, and allow you not just to learn the fundamentals of the languages, but give you insights on the cultural background of it as well.  And since we know that language is closely tied with culture, this would help you obtain the most “exact” definition of the words as possible.

Practice on a Regular Basis

In every field you enter, constant practice would most definitely result to more learnings, and in turn, more proficiency. There are several means in order for you to practice, and while there really would be time allocated in the academe for you to do so, nothing beats practicing the use of the language you learn in the outside world.

Practicing on a regular basis would allow you to sound as close to the “native” speakers of the language you’re learning as possible, given that there are certain phonemes that are not used in the English Language that are commonplace in others.

This is important, given that in some languages, the pronunciation, as well as the intonation and where you would be putting the stressed syllable or sound could drastically alter the meaning of the entire word or sentence. In these instances, you have to be careful, and it is only through constant practice that you are reminded to do away with the usual errors committed by non-native speakers. 

Immerse yourself in the Country’s Culture

Cross-cultural immersion is key to being fully proficient in any language, either through spoken or written means. While there may be synonyms of words, the reality is, some of these words are more appropriate for specific purposes, and some people may not be able to understand these words, even if they might mean the same thing. When it comes to using words for specific purposes, it’s best to know the culture and customs of a particular country, as these tend to heavily dictate the meaning of things.

Learn some more on a Specialized Field

Translators are usually employed in law firms, but would also come in handy in several other fields, such as medicine, and also in business and trade. While language may be your forte, it’s definitely worth studying other disciplines relating to your job as a translator.

This would most definitely help you to make more sense out of the translation work that you do, and would make your job easier, given that the terms would come across as less “alien” to you. While pursuing a second degree would give you an edge, a crash-course and a few seminars on the field would suffice, nevertheless. 

Be Friendly and Accommodating

In order for you to attract potential clients, and for people to hire you, this is most definitely a must. People would not want to work with translators who are not friendly nor accommodating. Schools that offer cross-cultural immersion in their language programs allow you to understand cultures and be more sensitive and ethical with your translation job in the process.


Translation is a job which, as with all other jobs, would take patience and determination for you to be successful, and be the best in your field. There are some further reinforcements you could make use of, such as Translation 101: Starting Out As A Translator, which offers you tips and tricks on how to be the best in your field, with lessons and advice sorted according to how proficient you actually are in the translating field, collected from 17 years’ worth of experiences in the said industry, to effectively cover all levels of skills.

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