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How to Become a Professional Translator: The Definitive Guide

By: Admin Posted on Mon, 19-02-2024

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Professional translation specialists are in great demand, as they always have been. The need for effective and clear communication keeps growing as the borders between countries continue to shorten thanks to the advent of technology. Globalization of businesses from various industries makes translation services ever important. Moreover, by learning the right language sets you can also make a killer earning.

Table of Content

  1. What Does a Professional Translator Do?
  2. Real-World Example: The Turkish Dental Industry
  3. How To Become a Professional Translator?
    1. Learn a Language or Languages
    2. Translation Degree
    3. Gain Experience & Make a Portfolio
    4. Get Certified
    5. Specialization
    6. Keep Learning
    7. Market Yourself and Be Professional
  4. Types of Professional Translators
    1. Legal Translators
    2. Literary Translators
    3. Medical Translators
    4. Technical Translators
    5. Business Translators
    6. Interpreters
    7. Audio-Visual Translators
  5. Most In-Demand Translation Languages
    1. English
    2. Spanish
    3. Mandarin
    4. Arabic
    5. French
    6. German
    7. Japanese
    8. Russian
    9. Portuguese
    10. Korean
  6. Conclusion

What Does a Professional Translator Do?

An individual who analyzes, reads, and converts written text or spoken words from one language into another is a translator. This encompasses a wide range of content forms including marketing materials, company policies, legal verdicts, medical advice, and anything that includes communication.

The primary objective of a translator is to establish clear communication between an audience and those who want to cater to it. Additionally, a crucial aspect of a translator's role is to make sense of cultural differences and use them to their advantage. Furthermore, the intended meaning of what is said should remain the same. A translator should be able to grasp complications in both target and source language with fluency in order to be successful.

Today, we will explain:

  • How can you become a translator?
  • What types of translation services exist?
  • What industries require translators?

Real-World Example: The Turkish Dental Industry

Let’s take an example from the real world, shall we? Take Turkey’s dental practitioners for instance, who regularly promote medical tourism for cheap dental procedures to Westerners and Europeans. They do this by availing of professional translation services from professional companies. Thanks to good localization and translations the world knows about Turkey’s cheap dental implant services. A single tooth transplant in the US can cost you nearly $2500-$6000; in Turkey, it costs $500-$1500. More teeth means cheaper rates.

Given how poor Turkish people are in English or other foreign languages. They gain over 75% of business through online marketing from translated and localized content.

This is just one example from many, that define the importance of professional translation services. And why becoming a translator is a great idea.

How To Become a Professional Translator?

A career in the translation industry is a lucrative one, especially for those with a passion for culture, language, and history. A translator bridges the communication gap among people of different cultures of the world and their languages.

If you want a career in translation, consider the following steps:

Learn a Language or Languages

The first step on your journey to becoming a translator is dedication to learning foreign languages. There are many considerations to make when choosing which language to learn. For example, Spanish is easy to learn for native English speakers, and Mandarin is quite difficult. However, at the same time, the demand for Mandarin translators is higher and it pays better in most cases. Many professionals advise that you should master a language that you find interesting and can help you advance your career. It is noteworthy that learning a language is not just about establishing communication, but also includes being able to recognize cultural context and intent, and must be result-oriented.

Languages are learned through applications, courses, watching movies, reading, and especially by communicating with native speakers. The need for proper vocabulary, idiotic expressions, and grammar is vital. Another noteworthy thing is that learning multiple languages enhances your opportunities. Hence, you should consider learning multiple languages. Consult with a professional for what order should one choose when learning new languages. Because learning certain languages makes it easier to learn relatable languages. For example, Turkish and Urdu are very similar.

Translation Degree

While this is not a necessity for becoming a translator. However, having a degree in translation will significantly boost your chances of employment. Such translation degrees are not just language-focused. But also includes various aspects such as theory, practice, and insight into different aspects of translations. This includes ethics, terminologies, use of tools, and technology.

Currently, machine learning software is important in transitions. A tool that is well-taught in such courses. Moreover, most programs for translation offer hands-on experience by placing you in internship programs, projects, and real-world mimicked assignments. Another advantage is that with a degree, you can go towards specializations in various industries like technical translations, medical translations, etc. A degree will also increase the chances of gaining employment with a reputable professional translation company.

Gain Experience & Make a Portfolio

They say practice makes you perfect, and that is the case with becoming a successful translator. You need practical experience in order to build your translation skills. Consider volunteer work for NGOs, internships, or freelancing small projects to build your portfolio. Freelance platforms such as UpWork and Fiver are great places to find work to create your portfolio as a freelance translator. Remember that diversity in your work reflects better, so try to do a range of projects.

When creating your portfolio, be sure to categorize it through specialization. For instance, technical, legal, literature, etc. This will help show your diversity in different domains. Also, be sure to regularly update your portfolio. LinkedIn, for instance, is a great place to find more advanced projects and translator jobs.

Get Certified

However, this is not a necessity for becoming a translator. It does improve your credibility as a professional translator. Organizations such as the Institute of Translation and Interpretation (ITI), American Translators Association (ATA), and National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) provide certifications after you are able to prove your proficiency through various examinations.

Such certifications provide evidence of your language skills and your promise to adhere to strict standards of quality. This helps open up doors to better job opportunities in renowned translation companies. As a testament of attestation of your claim to being a professional translator, such certifications help in gaining client and employer trust. Moreover, certain industries, such as the medical, legal, or technical require you to have such certifications for employment.


Consider getting specialization in a specific type of translation or an industry. As a specialist, you stand a chance of making more money from projects and jobs. The most common specialization fields include:

  • Legal Translations
  • Medical Translations
  • Technical Translations
  • Website Translations
  • Marketing Translations
  • And More

Keep Learning

The translation industry, like any other, is constantly evolving with the introduction of new technologies, language trends, and industry practices. It is important that professional translators keep themselves aware of such changes. To advance your career as a translator, consider taking regular online courses, attending workshops, and gaining skills through advanced degrees. Moreover, it is vital that you learn new tools that help translators work more efficiently.

Market Yourself and Be Professional

Now that you are familiar with the technical aspects of becoming a translator. It is important that you market yourself properly. You can only get work if you are discoverable enough that people can find you easily. Consider all social media channels, create your own website, share contact details on listings, have portfolios online, and more. Make sure that people know about your qualifications, certifications, experiences, and more. LinkedIn is very important in this regard and so are freelance platforms for translators like Fiver.

Moreover, once you get work, remember to be a professional. You can be professional by delivering projects on time, establishing effective communication, adhering to the standards of privacy and data protection, etc. Building a professional freelance translator reputation is vital to your long-term success as a translator. Your clients are likely to rate your work online on forums, social media, and more. Positive reviews can help flood your inbox with queries, and negative reviews can leave your inbox in cobwebs.

Types of Professional Translators

There are various types of professional translators. This diversity can be attributed to the diverse needs of different industries that employ translation services. If you plan to become a translator, it is vital that you know about some of the important types of translators out there.

Legal Translators

Legal translation specialists work closely with lawyers, judges, and those availing legal services from firms. Most translation work revolves around contracts, court orders, patents, employee contracts, court transcriptions, and more. A legal translator does not only need to be a good translator at understanding legal terminologies but must also be fluent in target and source languages.

Literary Translators

Such translation specialists work closely with translating poems, short stories, novels, plays, and works of literature from one language to another. Take Harry Potter, for example, the famous book and movie series, both are translated by linguistic professionals. The main focus for such translators is being able to preserve the original tone, intent, and cultural references. It can be difficult to do with certain language pairs. But there is a reason such translators are paid so well.

Medical Translators

Translators in the medical industry first need to be aware of terminologies and often have to work with medical professionals to ensure accurate translations. Such translators translate medical records, research papers, patient records, medical device user guides, pharmaceutical information, and other health-related materials. The medical industry now has various industries within it like Medical tourism that merges two industries into one. Moreover, medical translations are often repeat clients, given that accuracy is paramount.

Technical Translators

You might have seen that your technological devices and other things you buy come with instruction manuals and how-to-use guides. Such documents and similar ones are translated by technical translators. As a technical translator, you will translate user manuals, product specifications, scientific research, and more. Such professionals need to be aware of technical terminologies and may require subject expertise.

Business Translators

Business translators handle a variety of documents, all related to finance and management. Such documents can include financial reports, marketing materials, contract agreements, business operations, and more.


While this might be a bit different from traditional translation, it is still a highly valued service. Interpreters only translate spoken words in real time. Though anyone can hire an interpreter for any reason. They are usually seen in courtrooms, business conferences, hospitals, and more. Interpreters help facilitate conversation between two parties.

Audio-Visual Translators

Such translators work with video and audio content, including subtitling, dubbing, transcriptions, voiceovers, and more. More than often, they also localize their translations to suit the audience's preferences.

Most In-Demand Translation Languages

The global demand for translation services can vary from time to time. It all depends on the geopolitical and economic conditions. However, certain languages rank well in almost all circumstances due to their importance in diplomacy, business, and the global community. Such languages include:


Well, it is no surprise to see English on the list, given how commonly it is spoken around the world.


A crucial language for Latin markets, US markets, and Spain.


Given China’s importance in business and technology, Mandarin translators are in high demand.


Oil-rich countries are now progressing to take over Europe. Arabic translations are becoming increasingly important.


A language for diplomacy, art, history, and fashion.


Being a powerhouse for technology in Europe, German is a vital business language


Japan plays a huge role in IT and business, hence Japanese translators are in high demand for business.


Given Russia’s importance in global affairs, and the vast number of people who speak the language. Russian is also a high-demand translation language.


A vital language for Brazil and Portugal markets.


Korean is an important language in the entertainment industry.

The languages mentioned above provide translators with many job opportunities, thanks to their widespread use in international commerce, professional development, cultural exchanges, and diplomacy.


As you can see, it takes planning, commitment, and a lot of hard work to become a successful professional translator. However, the efforts are worth it given the lucrative job opportunities. Mars Translation has over 30,000 translators on our team from around the world. We have nearly 20,0000 translation projects under our belt. As one of the leading translation specialist companies, our commitment to providing quality translations through qualified translators is paramount to our success. Our guide will help you navigate the world of translations helping make meaningful contributions to global communications.