This article is a collaboration with Day Translations. Is there such a thing as an “ideal translator”? When recruiters are looking for an “ideal candidate” with translation qualifications and experience, they envision someone who is dependable and hard-working, and who is specialised in a chosen field. To put it simply: recruiters want “the best of the best” and “the cream of the cream”.
Who Is an Ideal Translator?
Probably the best way to describe an ideal translator is someone who is truly passionate about languages and learning. This, of course, is just a starting point, because experience and qualifications are the most essential factors for consideration.
An ideal translator is expected to:
- have attention to detail with excellent proofreading skills,
- great time management,
- good communication skills,
- familiarity with Computer Aided Translations (CAT) tools such as Trados, Transit and memoQ,
- be highly organised and
- be able to work under pressure.
Translators should also demonstrate they are flexible and productive to ensure they meet deadlines even when there are changes in a translation project. The translations profession is constantly changing and it’s important to follow the latest trends in the industry. Resilience is therefore essential for translators because their job is highly pressurised and demanding.
Here are some requirements from recruiters collated by searching several adverts for available vacancies; being able to meet these requirements gives translators a competitive edge.
Requirements for Translators
Job adverts that aim to attract applications from the best translators read like an intimidatingly long list of requirements and must-haves. Alongside more technical skills, translators are expected to demonstrate they possess the qualities and competencies that will guarantee they can deliver quality work consistently.
These qualities and competencies can include:
- having initiative
- adapting to feedback
- computational linguistics
- specialisation in a specific field.
Being a self-starter and having a sense of initiative are sought-after traits in a translator. This is can really make a difference because sometimes projects may present challenges such as an unclear source text that is open to more than one interpretation, so a translator will need to do further research to put it in the right context. See for example this related article on skills learned working as a translator. Problem-solving is an essential skill when dealing with complex translations.
Localisation, or adapting the translation of a concept or product to a specific country or region, demands an advanced understanding of cultural contexts. An in-depth knowledge of local culture from first hand experience gives a translator the essential tools to be able to navigate text that could potentially lead to misinterpretation. This can include assessing what is culturally appropriate and check how to convey sensitive content from one language to another correctly.
Open to Feedback
A desirable trait in translators is being open to feedback without getting defensive and update a project accordingly. It can be challenging to accept feedback when the suggested edits may not be suitable or entirely correct, so it takes a bit of diplomacy to gently negotiate any changes that respect the original intention of the source text, as long as there is enough evidence to support one’s point.
Applied linguistics can be an asset, such as experience of computational linguistics (computer science applied to the analysis of language), which typically comprises speech recognition, interactive voice response and instant machine translation. For example, speech recognition can improve a translator’s workflow by transcribing text at high speed, which can reduce the time spent on creating drafts, annotations and revisions.
The key to success for a translator is to be specialised (see related article). The ideal candidate has developed knowledge in an area such as the legal, medical, technical, engineering, marketing or financial field. Possessing an advanced understanding of terminology related to a specific industry is extremely valuable, allowing high levels of accuracy. A specialisation is the best way to attract a higher salary.
What Makes an Ideal Translator Stand out?
One of the best assets an ideal translator can have is to check the news in both the source and target languages on a regular basis. It takes a lot of mental effort to not only stay up-to-date with what is going on in the translations marketplace but also with current affairs. Good journalism can expose translators to subtle changes in a language, such as expressions coined on social media sites that found their way into day-to-day conversations or other types of neologisms that combine elements of two languages. A good translator knows when to use such expressions and when to opt for more formal tones according to each project.
Having good general knowledge allows translators to build connections with others, which is essential when dealing with clients as well as when collaborating with other translators on large scale projects. Ultimately, it’s about being easy to work with and being consistently good at your job.