What Skills are Needed to Work in Translation Services in 2021

** This article is updated regularly. It was last updated in April 2021 **

In 2021, translation services are among the easiest ways to begin working as a remote language provider online. If you were fortunate enough to grow up in a bilingual or multilingual home, the ability to work as a professional translator will be easier, but still not guaranteed.

In order to be able to be a provider of translation services, you will need a keen understanding of every language being translated, including linguistics. The translation should be largely literal, whereas the localizing process of language translation guarantees that the full context of the conversation is retained in the translation, no matter the actual lexicon in use.

In this article, we will focus on all of the requisite skills for engaging in translation services, which utilizes a network of professional translators for every industry, and show you what each skill is and why it is necessary. Afterwards, you should be well on your way to being able to enter the world of translation professionals and certified interpretation services.

Skill #1: General Language Understanding

It should be understood that more than just a casual knowledge of any language is going to be necessary in order to provide translation services at a professional level. Even growing up in a bilingual or multilingual home is not going to provide everyone with the necessary skills to serve in the capacity of anything more than a friendly casual interpreter.

Ironically perhaps, one of the most challenging aspects, especially in terms of live interpretation services, is the inability to provide anything more than an exact, literal translation of the content. This is in fact, the very same limitation and problem with most machine translators at present.

The very heart of translation involves translating not just the content of a conversation, but ensuring that the actual meaning is accurately conveyed at the same time. Thus, it becomes imperative that the professional translations provide the full and complete meaning of the conversation at the same time. The process by which this is accomplished for translation is the process of localizing.

Skill #2: The Ability to Localize with Translation Services

There is a reason that the marketing effort is different for large cities than it is for smaller urban locations. Each geographic area will have its own lexical variations in the form of expressions or other vernacular.

In one area a pop is the father of someone where in other areas it is a refreshing cold drink. Go to different areas of the world where English is still considered to be a largely native language, and it may refer to the successful conclusion of more adult-oriented activities. It is not only wise, but necessary to understand the full context of the conversation for the translation to be correct and complete.

Think back to when you were a small child even, or if you are old enough, about your children or grandchildren. Virtually all generations, even in the same areas will have their own expressions in addition to the geographical locale of language and speech.

In order to become a professional translation service provider or a certified interpreter of any kind, it is imperative to know and understand all of these linguistic idiosyncrasies.

As was previously noted, this is a major concern for live interpreters and services as it is for machine translations. There may be some relief in site, at least for document translation service providers, given relatively recent advancements from Google.

There was an open release of a major new development in natural language processing by Google in 2018. The development of Google BERT looks like it may very well revolutionize natural language processing and greatly enhance the capabilities of machine translations.

Ongoing research and development with the natural language processing work of BERT continues at a frenzied pace. This work is being conducted by academic and educational institutions around the world and does show some promising results.

However, the reality at present is that BERT will probably not be very well suited for anything other than an exceptionally good computer assisted translation tool. There is a very prominent role for computer assisted translation tools in providing large-scale translation services, but at least for the foreseeable future, they have not proven to be a viable replacement for live interpreting.

Skill #3: Familiarity with Locations, Demographics and Culture

There are many times in the life of an interpreter or even for someone providing translation, that more than knowing location is necessary in order to avoid giving offense to any of the parties involved in the translation.

Someone who grows up in a bilingual or multilingual household will likely have a less than complete understanding of the many different characteristics of the parent languages. Moreover, they will also likely be unaware of the many different social and cultural sensitivities that may become an issue in translation.

In some areas of the world, or at least for people from certain areas of the world, this can prove especially challenging for more industry specific and certified interpreters and translators. Take a medical interpreter for instance, is a male interpreter going to create issues of cultural concern for the female patient?

Do the cultures and traditions of the person needing a certified medical interpreter prevent even the utterance of certain words that reference particular areas of the body? Will visual aids be necessary in order to provide an accurate interpreting between the doctor and the patient?

In some areas these concerns are based on cultural restrictions and in others, based on more stringent religious constraints that will directly impact the ability of the certified medical interpreter to perform their job completely.

It is equally important for any professional translator or interpreter to have a complete and accurate understanding of all of the potential areas for conflict no matter what the source of that may be in terms of these services.

Skill #4: Knowing The Difference Between Language, Dialects and Even Accents

How does a professional interpreter determine what to say when someone proclaims that they are a “god” or they try to describe something over “heya”? There are locations in the Northeastern United States where these would be common responses for somebody who works as a “guard” or is talking about something over “here”.

The Cajun or Creole English common in Louisiana is also very distinct and in these cases, refer to actual dialects in addition to the heavily accented speech. This can be made all the more confusing for interpreters and translators who do not know or understand the very subtle but meaningful differences between language, dialects and accents.

Language: Language is a means of communication that is verbal or written in nature, including rules for grammar and verse and specific meaning for words.

Accent: Accent refers to the geographical or other differences in the pronunciation of language, though with consistency in terms of grammar and construct.

Dialect: Dialect includes variations in pronunciation in addition to variation in terms of grammar and construct within a language.

Skill #5: Knowing the Various Industries Required of the Job

There are many industries with very specific terminology. For the professional translation service provider or the certified interpreter, the most common fields will be in legal or medical.

In these cases, there is going to be an added workload for the translators and interpreters. Now in addition to the linguistic idiosyncrasies, the locale of the language and the cultural issues, all in addition to the accents and dialects, you must also be ready to add industry specific language to your skill sets.

What is the plural form of person? If you said “people” you are incorrect. The plural form of the word person is persons. People are citizens of a particular area and the body politic. This is why many cases are filed as “THE PEOPLE VS” but reports may include comments like “unknown persons”.

Both people and persons are very distinct and separate concepts with very different legal meanings. The same holds true in medical terminology and even a minor translation error can be very costly, often resulting in the loss of freedom or some disease being allowed to be transmitted among largely innocent people because of a single word not being held to its specific meaning in the translation.

Money management skills may also be important for more specialized translators and interpreters. While the jobs providing certified medical interpreting or translating services may tend to pay better, they do not always provide a consistent level of work.

Many of these translation and interpretation jobs will require the professionals to remain on call for extended periods of time, with or without actually having work. Many of these people will ultimately end up supplementing their translation and interpretation work by freelancing.

Skill #6: Freelancing Skills for Translation Services

Freelance job sites are a great means to get started as a translator or as a certified interpreter providing remote or simultaneous interpretation. The freelance job boards are a good place to get started providing translation services, but care should be taken so as not to fall into any comfortable ruts.

Depending solely on the freelance translation sites can easily lead to someone spending more time looking for work than actually working. It is better to scour the freelance sites looking for the good jobs, but also remember to focus on seeking out long-term clients who will have a continual need for translation services online.

In this way, you should be able to build up a steady stream of clients who will ensure that your freelance income working as a translator is enough to pay for your basic needs. Once you have a sufficient number of long-term translation clients you can begin slowly increasing your rates as new clients seek out your services.

Once the original client base has been built up to a sufficient level, and you are working full time providing translation services, you need to continue seeking out new clients. Now, instead of settling for whatever is offered, you can begin charging more for new clients.

When the new client says yes, you have a new client paying you more for the same services. At the same time you can offer your lowest paying translation clients the opportunity to retain your translation and interpretation services at the new rates.

If they say yes, you now have two higher paying clients and move on to the next. If they say no, you still have a regular supply of clients for your services, with one of them paying you slightly higher rates.

In this way, not only can you use your newfound translation and interpretation skills to find work, you can build it into a career. If you are really ambitious and willing to put in the added work, you can use your skills providing these services into an international digital empire.

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